By Elizabeth Prata
In our area of the world the Spring Equinox begins this Thursday, March 19. It’s already warm outside. The trees and flowers are blooming. The sun is strong. With the warm weather, especially in the south, comes lighter clothing…and with that, the usual essays from Christian women about female modesty.
The Merriam Webster simple definition of modesty is-
1: freedom from conceit or vanity
2: propriety in dress, speech, or conduct
1 Timothy 2:9 says women are to adorn themselves with “respectable apparel” and with “good deeds.” Of course, the former is literal and the latter is figurative. Here’s the full verse-
likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
1 Peter 3:3 also speaks to modesty-
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—
The Greek word adorns in the 1 Timothy verse is kosméō, from which we get cosmetics, or, to adorn the face. It’s defined: means make compellingly attractive, very appealing (inviting, awesomely gorgeous).
In the context, Paul is speaking specifically about women’s comportment in public assemblies of worship, but the principles can and should be applied. Matthew Henry wrote:
They must be very modest in their apparel, not affecting gaudiness, gaiety, or costliness (you may read the vanity of a person’s mind in the gaiety and gaudiness of his habit), because they have better ornaments with which they should adorn themselves, with good works.
That’s an important thought, that one can read the vanity in a person’s mind in reading the ‘gaity’ of their dress. Let’s explain it a bit further. God intends modesty to be an attitude of humility. The two are linked.
When Jesus said ‘what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person’ (Matthew 15:18), it is the same with 1 Timothy 2:9. What manner of apparel we choose to put on the body reflects an attitude of mind and heart.
When we dress ourselves, what is it we want to put on display?
Normally when we think of ‘modesty’ we think of showing skin, like in two-piece skimpy bathing suits, too-short dresses or shorts, midriff shirts, and the like. Older Christian women like me urge the younger to cover the skin. Too much skin on display isn’t modest. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are not our own, but belong first to Christ and then if we’re married, to our husbands. (as they belong to us, in a one-flesh union).
We’re not to put our bodies on display, but as in the second part of the 1 Timothy 2 exhortation in verse 10, adorn ourselves with good works.
Modesty isn’t only about whether we’re showing too much skin though. There are other aspects of being modest. I want to speak briefly about too-tight clothing, and of age-appropriate clothing.
I remember when I was about 50 years old. At my job another lady who was also about 50 gave away some of her clothes and asked me if I wanted any. Always looking for an excuse NOT to go shopping, I said “sure, thanks!”
When I got home and opened the bag I was briefly disappointed. It was filled with velour track suits and the like. “These are old lady fashions” I thought to myself.
But wait, I was now an ‘old lady’! It was time for me to re-orient my thinking about how my style should match my age. Just so, if you see a 60 year old woman wearing a baby doll dress, it looks strange, and that’s because it isn’t age-appropriate.
Above are two photos of Beth Moore preaching a Bible lesson to the audience at this year’s IF:Gathering. Though technically her skin is covered, the outfit is still immodest. We see the attitude of Moore’s heart isn’t modest, and it isn’t age-appropriate. Her inner attitude is reflected in her choice of clothing. The attitude here is one of shameless body display and total lack of respect for the purpose of her invitation, which was to talk about Jesus. Instead, we see high heel ankle boots, black jeans so tight one can see every hill or valley, and a see-thru sheer blouse. It is immodest. It isn’t age-appropriate.
Moore is a 62 year old grandmother, wearing goth-like apparel more akin to what an unsaved 13 year old would choose.
Her apparel is a choice to display her body to one and all and is of course competing with attention from the One whom she is supposed to value higher than one’s self.
Ladies, in Genesis 3:21 God provided clothing for Adam and Eve. Apparently the fig leaves weren’t enough to cover the body, over which they now felt shame since they had become aware of their nakedness. Clothing is important.
The outward adornment of clothing was used by the biblical writers to signal the inner spiritual nature of God’s people. Once elegantly adorned (Ezek. 16:10–14), Israel sinned and became dressed in filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; Zech. 3:3–4; cp. Rev. 3:4). Those who become righteous are clothed in fine white robes (Zech. 3:4–5; Rev. 3:4–5; 7:9, 13). Source: Wright, P. H. (2003). Fashion, IN Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 560). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
When you put on clothes during this warm-weather time, or any time, what statement are you making?
Ladies, don’t wear fig leaves. Minimal covering isn’t enough. Men’s brains work overtime to process and enhance what they see visually. Don’t help them along. Be demure, be modest, and keep your body for Christ and for your husband (to be).