Ponderings on the Issue of Modesty: Looking for a Balance Between Short Shorts and Long Skirts
By Sandi Luce
Have you ever noticed how certain issues seem to “cycle” in the Christian community? I don’t know, but maybe we beat it to death for a while and then we’re so sick of it we let it drop, or we realize we have some of our own issues that we need to deal with first.
Recently, the issue that seems to keep surfacing is the issue of modesty. Being a mother of eight, one in every age group from preschool to young adult, this is certainly something I pondered, am pondering, and will be pondering a lot for years to come. How short is too short? Ankle length? Knee length? One inch above the knee? Four inches above? Ugh! I don’t have all the answers, but I believe there are some important principles on this issue in Scripture that are being sorely overlooked today.
Allow me to draw your attention to a few verses…
I Tim. 2: 9 “Likewise I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair, gold, pearls, costly clothing but with good works.”
I Peter 3:3-4 “And let not your adornment be external-braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
These verses demand that we ask ourselves, “What is our primary focus? Is it our outward appearance or the attitude of our heart?” This attitude should include a genuine concern for others, and it is important for us to consider if the way we dress, act, or talk is causing someone else to stumble or lust.
Romans 12:1-2 ” I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Are we being transformed by God’s Word or conformed to this world? Our desire to please God should be greater than our desire to “fit in”. We often rationalize by saying that we’re comfortable with the way we dress; we’re OK with it. However, it really isn’t about our freedom or us.
Phil. 2:3-4 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Matt. 5:28 “…but I say to you that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Luke 17:1-2 “And He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.'”
Ouch! I don’t think these are issues we want to take a chance or push the limits on!
Romans 14:21-23 “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything, by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
If we have any doubt about some piece of clothing, behavior, or talk, then we should avoid it. Certainly there are items of clothing which cover all the skin but are so tight or see-through that they leave nothing to the imagination. A little caution used in choosing shirts with writing across the chest would be wise as well, regardless of what they say.
Do we really want to draw men’s eyes to the bust line? Shirts with words like “Hottie” across the front or shirts exposing lace that looks like we’re wearing lingerie only fuels the overactive imaginations of males – both young and old.
Modesty isn’t only about “too short” or how much skin is showing. The way we act and the words that come out of our mouths should be examined as well. Are we flirting and teasing? Although most information on modesty seems to be aimed at girls, it is definitely applicable to males, and it would be a mistake to leave our sons out of these discussions. This is not only so they can examine themselves, but also, so they can know what to look for in a young lady, when the time is appropriate.
Now, lest you think I’ve decided to purchase gunny sacks for myself and my daughters, I must add that I found nothing in scripture that says we are forbidden, as women, to dress pertinent to the times. On the contrary, we read where Esther, a beautiful woman, spent a year being prepared with, I’m sure, the latest treatments so she could impress the king and make an impact for her people. And what an impact she made! However her character showed clearly that her adornment wasn’t only external.
The “Proverbs 31 Woman” makes coverings for herself of fine linen and purple which was, I’m sure, very pertinent to the times. Nowhere do I find that scripture instructs us to dress like we are from a previous era. As ambassadors of Christ, how are we to represent Him? Christ is pertinent to all times, and God did not make a mistake by putting us in this century. I would suggest that we, as moms, go shopping with our daughters for clothes.
Not only can we help choose some fashionable clothes that are modest, but also it will give many opportunities for talking about modesty.
Another thing I haven’t come across is Scripture that says it is wrong for us to make an effort to look nice. In Song of Solomon we see in Solomon’s romance with a Shulammite woman that physical beauty in marriage is not something we should avoid. What a wonderful way to teach our daughters about loving our husbands when we say to them, “I like to wear this because your dad likes it”, or, “I want to look good for Dad”.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”