Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A call to modesty - Part 1

When you hear the word 'modest' what immediately comes to mind? I imagine most people (certainly not everyone) think of women and clothing. You probably think of clothing that doesn't show too much of this or that. Most people probably wouldn't go much further in their thinking.

God has been really dealing with me in this area lately. If you know me personally, you might be thinking there's nothing wrong with the way I dress and you are correct, in a sense, from a worldy standard, at least.

Let us examine the basic definition of the word modest from dictionary.com:
1. having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance,
etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
2. free from ostentation or showy extravagance: a modest house.
3. having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: a modest neckline on a dress.
4. limited or moderate in amount, extent, etc.: a modest increase in salary.

So, am I to take from this worldy definition that there are more areas to modesty, other than just our outward 'clothing' appearance?


Today, however, I am going to focus only on the physical appearance factor.

The Bible teaches us the following about our appearance:
A woman must not wear men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothing. The Lord your God detests people who do this. Deuteronomy 22:5 NLT

9- And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. 10- For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 NLT

These are just a couple of the many references to how we should be concerned about our outward appearance. God gives us more confirmation of these standards when teaching us that we are to be covered or modest in our appearance because of the man's wandering eye.
The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:4 NLT

This to me means that there is NO ONE else intended to see certain parts of my body. There are many references in the body to what are acceptable parts to be shown, etc. Here is just one of my findings:
2- Take the millstones, and grind meal; uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. 3-Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. Isaiah 47:2-3 KJV

This happens during the fall of Babylon. The verses following that passage describe that God is sending judgment for the culture being pagan, self-centered and proud and for living in sensual pleasure and not trusting in God's wisdom. He is telling the daughter of Babylon to expose herself in the manner described and she will be naked. I take from this and other research I've read that God doesn't want us exposing our thigh. But, in Genesis 3:21 after Adam and Eve sinned and realized their nakedness, God made them "coats" of skins to cover themselves. Notice it doesn't say that he just covered the chest of the woman (bra) and genetalia of both (underwear), he gave them a coat to wear, meaning it covered from shoulder to probably past the knee (since in Isaiah it says even the thigh is considered unmodest and I personally believe the thigh to go all the way to the knee).

What are we doing (other than disobeying God and shaming ourselves) when we dress inappropriately? Are we allowing others to look at us in an unGodly way?
But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 NLT

Are we helping men to sin? And what is the sacrifice on our part for encouraging men to look at us in this way? Are we shaming our husbands by drawing this attention to ourselves? What husband do you know who wants someone lusting after his wife in that way? Isn't wearing a short skirt, tight or lowcut shirt just inviting a man to look at you in the wrong way?
But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God. 1 Corinthians 11:3 NLT

Is that to say it is dishonoring and disrespectful to my husband for me to expose something private to any other person? Absolutely.

Have you ever noticed that when there is a reference to a prostitute in the Bible, it usually comes along with a description of what she was wearing? Let me give you a few examples:
10- The woman approached him, dressed seductively and sly of heart. 11- She was the brash, rebellious type who never stays at home. 12- She is often seen in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner. Proverbs 7:10-12 NLT

16- Next the Lord will judge the women of Jerusalem, who walk around with their noses in the air, with tinkling ornaments on their ankles. Their eyes rove among the crowds, flirting with the men. 17- The Lord will send a plague of scabs to ornament their heads. Yes, the Lord will make them bald for all to see. 18- The Lord will strip away their artful beauty, their ornaments, headbands, and crescent necklaces; 19-
their earrings, bracelets and veils of shimmering gauze. 20- Gone will be their scarves, ankle chains, sashes, perfumes, and charms; 21- their rings, jewels, 22- party clothes, gowns, capes and purses; 23- their mirrors, linen garments, head ornaments and shawls. 24- Instead of smelling of sweet perfume, they will stink. They will wear ropes for sashes, and their well-set hair will fall out. They will wear rough sackcloth instead of rich robes. Their beauty will be gone. Only shame will be left to them. Isaiah 3:16-24 NLT

The Great Prostitute
The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. She held in her hand a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immoraility. Revelation 17:4 NLT

For me it is very easy to say that I definitely do not want to come close to being viewed by God (or the world) as a prostitute or someone desiring lustful things. Instead, I want to be pleasing to God in my appearance (and in the rest of my life).

Is it not true that God's followers should be set apart from the world and not blend in to the culture, society, etc. of what the world holds?

The word commands us:
1- And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is it too much to ask? 2- Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is. Romans 12:1-2 NLT

So, I leave you with those thoughts for today....
Future installments will cover the following:
* What we should wear (according to my own personal convictions and research I've done)
* Having a spirit/mind/attitude that is modest
* Modesty in our marriage relationship (leadership/headship issues)


Harmony said...

Very interesting post and very timely in our society where even christians are giving into society's version of "modesty". It is common place to see tank tops and short skirts or shorts in the summer and sometimes even in church. You brought up some great points and verses. I can't wait to read the next installment!

michelleh said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the Scriptures. It is amazing how currently there is a trend moving towards modesty which of course, seems to be up to the individual. It is a challenge to teach and train modesty but it is the right thing to do. It is a heart issue but our fruit is also the way we appear. It can also be challenging because most women are not taught what is proper and what is modest yet attractive.

Kate said...

I just found this post when I did a google search for "a call to modesty." I love what you have to say on the subject, and I have a question for you. My (non-believing) husband really likes me to "dress up" when we go out on dates together, and for him, that means a tight-fitting blouse and a short skirt. Is it ok to do this, since God calls wives to obey their husbands? I kind of feel like I'm being pulled in two different directions!