There is a lot of buzz on the internet right now about modesty. I’m not exactly sure how this buzz got started, and I’m really not sure that it’s a good thing that it did. Christian guys and girls are both diving into this argument heart-first, and I’m not sure I like what they are coming up with.
Let me clarify what the different camps in the discussion believe (at least the ones that I have seen. I’m sure there are more.)
On the one hand, you have the camp that says that modesty is really important and that girls should watch what they wear. This camp says that it is God-honoring to dress modestly and that it helps guys to keep their thoughts in the right place.
The second camp says that this is unfair. This camp says first that we, as a society, are shaming girls into thinking their bodies are something to be hidden when God designed those bodies beautifully. Second, it argues that the idea that modesty is to help Christian guys keep their thoughts pure is putting the blame on women rather than on the men who have the problem.
Unfortunately, these diametrically opposed views both have arguments that make sense. So what do we do with them?
To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out. I have always dressed modestly and thought it was a good thing, but was I missing something? WHY exactly have I dressed like this? As always here on the Wicket Gate, we know that the best source for finding answers is God’s Word. So I dug in.
And here’s what I know:
1. There is nothing in the Bible that specifically tells how long a skirt can be or how high a shirt should be.
There isn’t. As much as that would be very nice and very convenient, it just isn’t there. Even in the time when the Israelites were under the Law, as far as I know, skirt length requirements weren’t on the list. As I kept digging, I found out that that means modesty is more than a specific list of rules.
2. We are supposed to have an attitude that doesn’t focus on beauty or on getting attention from others.
If we look at the verses that directly address modesty, this is usually what they’re talking about. 2 Timothy 2:9 says it should be that, “the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” and that they should instead be focusing on good works and on what they were doing with their lives. This was in a culture in which party apparel was made up of every fine piece of anything that you could possibly wear to show up your neighbors. I’m sure this was kind of a shock to its first time hearers.
In other words, these women were told that life was not about beauty and that if their focus was on getting attention from their clothes, they were being immodest and sinful.
3. The Bible does put the responsibility for lust on men. (Mostly)
This one I felt like was especially important to look up, considering that this is the crux of some of the arguments against a focus on modesty. Should men be blamed when they lust?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Those are some pretty harsh words, and there are no conditions in them. Jesus didn’t say, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her, unless her skin showed too much. Then you just couldn’t help it.”
All through Proverbs we also see Solomon warning men to flee temptations for lust and Job said that he made “a covenant with his eyes” that he would not lust.
So, that’s it then? Men definitely are held responsible for their lust, so the blame isn’t put on women at all, right? Not quite…
4. The Bible also puts some responsibility on women.
There are some scary descriptions in Proverbs of women that try their hardest to grab a man’s attention (see Proverbs 5). She is called a seductress and it is said that her “feet go down to death.” While the young man in question is urged to stay away from women like that, it is made very clear that the woman played her part and held her share of the blame.
5. The Bible tells us to never be a stumbling block for another person.
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Romans 14:13).
So where do these facts leave us? The Bible isn’t specific about what we should and shouldn’t wear, but it doesn’t want us to focus too much on our own looks. Men are held responsible for their own lusts, but women are also given blame, and we should never be a stumbling block for others.
Is the question answered?
Yes, it is, actually. And the answer is summed up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
I dress modestly because I am not my own. My life isn’t about myself, about attracting attention to my body, or even about the freedom to do or wear what I want. My life is about bringing glory to God. Every day that I wake up and get dressed is a chance to worship Him with my clothing choices. I want my clothes to tell others that I don’t care if I’m different from other people, I will honor God. I want them to say that I don’t want to even accidentally attract the wrong kind of attention, I want to honor God. I want my clothes to say that I would do anything to help my brothers in Christ stay on the right path, even if it’s not as comfortable for me. And I want them to say that I have confidence knowing that God designed me exactly the way I am, and that His design is perfect, even if no one else sees enough of me to tell me so.
I don’t dress modestly because I am ashamed of my body, because I would feel blamed for guys’ sin, or because there is a legalistic set of standards to follow. I dress modestly because I want even my clothing choices to honor the God who deserves all the glory and attention.