Modesty in a Modern World

by Joanna Pierce on July 18, 2019

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (I Timothy 2:8–10, KJV).

Scriptures on Modesty

Modesty is a much bigger issue than what you put on your body; it starts in your spirit. However, this doesn’t negate what we wear on the outside. God does ask for modesty from His church. As Christians, we’re called to be counter-cultural (I John 2:15). Our culture is obsessed with body image and our clothing makes a statement: it verbalizes who we are and what’s in our heart. As humans we may feel that instruction on personal behavior or dress is an attack on our personal sovereignty. But, if we don’t release this “sovereignty” to God, and be obedient to our call to modesty, it’s will be the biggest roadblock to our spiritual development.

Definition of Modesty

The definition of modesty has changed over the years, even in the church. However, we don’t need to “wonder” about how God defines modesty because we can go to His Word. Modesty is defined as being humble and decent (proper). We are called to dress and adorn ourselves correctly. Our key Scripture setting in I Timothy describes the proper way to adorn ourselves modestly. One word used to describe modesty is shamefacedness, which means shy or decent. Paul also uses sobriety to describe our adornment, which means in moderation.

What Does God Call Covered

Modesty is not relative. Adam and Eve were first clothed in innocence. They became aware of their nakedness because of their sin (Genesis 2:25). When they realized they were unclothed, they made themselves aprons to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). They opted for something that likened unto a girdle or a belt. This was man’s idea of modesty or a covering. However, God soon provided a proper covering for them (Genesis 3:21). God created a coat (tunic), which had sleeves, and came down to the knees (or ankles).  Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, His principles of modesty have not changed. What He clothed Adam and Eve in is how we should be clothing ourselves today.

Principles of Modesty

The goal of modesty is to honor God with our bodies, not because they are dirty or shameful, but because they are glorious and holy. Modesty is an outward manifestation of an inward purity. As believers, we belong to God—we are not our own. Scripture tells us that we have been bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:17). We must ask ourselves: How are we handling God’s stuff? Our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost! Let’s handle it properly!

We care about what we wear because because our clothing separates us as Christians from the damaging culture and behavior around us. Additionally, our dress identifies God’s values and behaviors to the world around us (I Samuel 16:7). What do people see when they see us? They look at our outside, so we shouldn’t appear “cheap” to the world. We shouldn’t take what God made holy and make it common (Proverbs 11:22).

Guidelines of Modesty

We do not buy into the values and norms of our culture. Isaiah 47 tells us uncovering the thigh is a shame. There are elements and guidelines we should consider when selecting our clothing and adorning/covering ourselves. Clothing should have the right span (long enough and covers enough). It should also have the right substance (cover and conceal). Lastly, clothing should have the right slack (not tight and form-fitting).

True Modesty Comes From a Truly Modest Spirit

If we keep our inward man right (and maintain the Holy Ghost) it will tell our outward man how to dress (I Peter 3:3–5). Remember, modesty is in attitude, speech, and actions. If we want modesty to manifest on the outside, we must keep our spirit in check and cultivate it with proper activities. Here’s how: Our modest spirit can be cultivated when we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16–18). This means to do spiritual things over and over again. Additionally, our modest spirit can be cultivated when we avoid the things of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21). Lastly, our modest spirit is cultivated when we bear the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–24).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on July 17, 2019 with Pastor Nave