Modesty: Does it Matter Anymore? (Newsletter 4-10)

by Eugene Wilson

Modesty: Does It Matter Anymore?

I was inspired to write on the subject of modesty. My inspiration came while reading a blog post by Michael Hyatt, titled “Whatever Happened to Modesty?” Hyatt, the father of five daughters, states in his article that while watching MTV’s video music awards presentation, he was “shocked at the complete absence of modesty, the ridicule of virginity, and the latent misogyny displayed by many of the artists.” Hyatt asks, “Where are these girls’ fathers? Has anyone ever taught them the concept of modesty? Or have all the men in their lives simply exploited them as sex objects?”

As a father of a fifteen-year-old daughter and an eighteen-year-old son, I am concerned about the impact our culture might have on their lives. While I do not have all the answers, my concern matters. Paul wrote in Titus 2:12 that we are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. We must be mindful of the effect our culture might be having on our young people, and this includes our views and concepts regarding modesty.

While modesty matters, and should be maintained, it is difficult to regulate, to determine precise directives, and to establish what is modest and immodest. But this does not stop some from trying to do so. Some, in an attempt to practice modesty, prescribe all sorts of rules, laws, and regulations. And usually the focus is on keeping others, predominantly men, from falling into sin.

Causing others to sin is serious business. (See Matthew 18:6, NKJV.) However, regulating modesty as a way of keeping men from sinning may be passing the buck. It is imperative that men assume responsibility for what they allow their mind to dwell on. Ultimately, men are responsible for their own behavior. Jayson D. Bradley, in his article “‘Christian Cleavage’ Probably Isn’t the Problem,” suggests if the importance of modesty is about keeping men from sinning, the end result is that it offers a way out for men who act inappropriately. Like Adam, who blamed Eve, men might claim, “Hey, I can’t control myself. I am a victim of my drives. ‘”

But this is not to say that modesty does not matter. Stephen Altrogge, in “What I’ll Tell My Daughters About Modesty,” writes, “Our culture is becoming increasingly comfortable with a highly sexualized version of womanhood. The pornification of society is showing up everywhere, from Miley Cyrus performing in front of a national audience to the magazines that show up in grocery stores. As my daughters grow older, they will be increasingly encouraged to use their bodies in ways which do not please the Lord.”

I like what Altrogge emphasizes. He advocates modesty as something that pleases the Lord. While no one should intentionally set out to cause another to stumble, the importance of modesty should not be that women are responsible for what goes on inside the mind of men. Modesty matters, and should be practiced, first, and particularly so, because it pleases the Lord.

Rather than focus on rules, Hyatt says he sought to present to his girls some basic guidelines that would transcend current fashion while they were growing up. Hyatt’s four guidelines are:
1. If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
2. If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
3. If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
4. If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.

A woman with a modest heart is first and foremost concerned about serving the Lord. She will certainly make particular wardrobe choices, but those choices will flow out of a heart attitude rather than a set of arbitrary rules.”

The reality is that all sorts of rules and regulations regarding modesty could be followed, and yet, a young lady, as Altrogge states, “could still behave in a way that is both sexually alluring and sexually immoral.” Perhaps this is why the apostle Peter wrote, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (l Peter 3:3-4, NKJV). Peter’s focus was on the conditions of the heart.

Modesty is, above all else, something that is internal rather than external. It flows from the heart. Thus, modesty matters and matters a great deal. If my instructions concerning modesty center primarily on the outward, then I have failed as a dad. I want my daughter to understand modesty matters, and matters most, because it is about her and God. Likewise, I want my son to assume responsibility for the matters in his own heart. Being godly in this “present age” requires both to do as such.