Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Qualities of a Godly Woman: Modesty

Summer can be hard on the Christian woman, and as we have been navigating through qualities of a godly woman, our discussion would be incomplete without mentioning modesty. We have all heard the rhetoric before, right? The “Hallelujah Test” states that if you can’t praise Jesus because your shirt is too short than it’s time to get a new shirt. And the list could go on.

These are all important principles to follow, but we must remember that all of our outward actions are really pointing to what is happening inward. Our lack of discretion when it comes to our attire is speaking volumes about what we believe about the Bible. When we dress immodestly there is one of two things happening. Either we know that our clothing is inappropriate and like it that way, or we are ignorant of the effects and message of our appearance. Both are sin.

One is promoting and encouraging fornication even if the act is never committed. Jesus says “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Choosing to dress immodestly for the exploitation of our own body is promoting and aiding adultery, because it is asking for lustful thoughts simply by the lack of clothing.

The other is a sin of ignorance. Many of us do this unknowingly simply because we don’t think outside of our own existence. We think we are autonomous beings whose actions only affect our lives. But our actions do affect other people. There is no clause in the Bible for women who didn’t know their clothing was inappropriate. Modesty requires thought, accountability, and a counter-cultural mentality that desires holiness more than trendiness.

Part of being a godly woman means knowing how our brothers in Christ think. A dear friend of mine told me recently that modesty is not a “weaker brother” issue, and she is right. What she was saying is that the weaker brother argument implies that the person who is weaker is the one with the problem. Both people have the problem. Immodesty is not a license to look, but it also is revealing a rebellious heart on the part of the young woman. Often time’s modesty requires forgoing the outfit of the season in order to obey Christ and to protect our brother’s eyes.

If we look at the Scriptures, we will see that modesty is a characteristic of a godly woman (1 Peter 3:3, Titus 2:5, 1 Timothy 2:9). The Fall left us with the need to cover up (Genesis 3:21), and immodesty does not exhibit an enlightened mind, like the world would like to tell us. But actually it shows the depravity and moral decay of a mind that has been corrupted by sin and made to think that nakedness outside the contexts of marriage really is a good thing.

Modesty is a Gospel issue. I heard a great sermon on biblical manhood and womanhood a month ago, and in preaching on gender in the church, the speaker took us through the entire book of 1 Timothy to show us the cohesiveness of the argument. At the end of the book, Paul tells Timothy “teach and urge these things” (1 Timothy 6:2), and the man asked the question “What are these things?” All of the things Paul had previously been talking about, which for the benefit of this topic, includes modesty (2:9). Modesty and purity must be talked about in the church because they are Gospel issues. They reveal what we think about the Gospel—whether or not we think the Gospel changes hearts.

As you think about these things, I recognize that practical examples are really helpful for discerning modest dress. So, here are some tips for dressing modestly:

  1. Recognize that your sinful heart will want to buck the system. The most important thing to remember is that our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). We need changed hearts in order to desire modesty.
  2. Ask your dad. He knows. I have learned more about modest dressing from my dad and three brothers. They have helped me tremendously in understanding the way guys think—even though there have been times when I haven’t believed them like I should.
  3. Ask your mom. She knows. Moms are very helpful because they have been there before us. Titus 2:5 tells the older women to teach the younger women purity. Moms are there to teach us modesty, among other things.
  4. Ask the Lord to convict you when you are in your closet. Every year I find that there is one more outfit that the Lord is purging from my closet. Ask Him to make you desire modesty and then show you areas where you need growth.
  5. Know your Bible. Yes, the heart is desperately sick, and the only cure is Jesus, and the only way to know Him is through the Word.
  6. If you don’t live at home, ask your roommates to hold you accountable. In college, my roommates and I would do this. If no one was home in our room, we would go to the girls down the hall and ask them. If something was questionable, we did not leave the dorm without asking someone else first.

May God burn into your heart a desire to dress in a way that makes the Gospel of our Christ attractive.

Here are some more links:

Mrs. Mary Mohler wrote a booklet called “Modeling Modesty”:

The Girl Talk blog is a wealth of sound, biblical information. Here is a link to their posts about modesty:


Whitney said...

Thanks Courtney! Great reminder to be so careful about what we wear and the message it gives.

Hannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hannah said...

Thanks Courtney! It helps to know where the root of immodesty comes from and that it is just as much of a sin to not be aware of it. Also, I loved how you pointed out that we need to not think that what we wear affect only ourselves but we need to examine what we are wearing to protect our brothers. I found this very helpful=)Love you lots!

Molly said...

preach it, girl! my good friend dana cordell (her husband is one of our BBC church planters in Raleigh, NC) speaks about this a lot. We have had lots of good discussions around this issue. One of the slogans we've adopted is "Modest is Hottest!" Not meaning only that you look hot, but that your heart is in the right place in modesty-- a heart on fire for God.

cdt said...

Whitney and Hannah,

Thank you for your comments. It took me long enough to get it up here didnt' it? Thank you for being patient. I love you both dearly.

Thanks, too, Molly for your kind comments. I love that slogan. So often we focus our Christian life on externals, without ever dealing with the matter of the heart. You are so right that a heart on fire for God will desire to dress modestly.

Steven said...

Ignorance to another's perception is a sin? Do you have a verse to support this proposition? I agree that we should be other-minded in all things, and especially when we might tempt another. But it is possible to be concerned about others and also ignorant of how you are perceived.
Otherwise, I agree. It is my responsibility first to not sin. But it is also very helpful to have the temptation weakened by the thoughtfulness of those around me.

Rosie said...

Good post Courtney.
But I want to say that one can be immodest even when wearing high-collared shirts and not letting skin above the knee show. Not to say that we shouldn't dress modestly, but rather, if one dresses modestly to still get the attention of the opposite sex, (by being godly and modest) it's missing the point.

cdt said...

There are references in the Bible to unintentional sins (Leviticus 4:2, 4:13, 4:22, 4:27, 5:15, Numebers 15:22, etc...). I was speaking of ignorance in the sense of not realizing that your attire is immodest and not pleasing to the Lord. We are held accountable for all of our actions, even if we don't necessarily see them as sinful right away, or are ignorant of them. If we believe that our hearts "are evil above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9), then we must also believe that many times we sin out of ignorance. Immodesty does not become a sin when we recognize it as such. Does that make sense? I think you would agree with that, I just think that I didn't clarify enough. Also, all the more reason for the Body of Christ to truly live like God intended and teach our women what is appropriate. Thank you for your comment!

Amen, sister! I totally agree and appreciate your comment. It is fundamentally a heart issue, and we must start there. Thank you for your comment!

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