Being Modest in an Immodest World

Modest apparel

Many years ago I stood, looking into my closet, trying to determine what I should wear. I seemed double-minded in my thoughts.  The world and my own desire to be attractive pulled me in one direction.  The truth of the Word of God and the Spirit within me pulled me in another. It was then that I began to study the Scriptures looking for truth to guide my daily choices.  Yes, daily I had to choose what I would wear.  Some days I chose well.  Other days I leaned to the world and to my own desires.  Which way would I ultimately go?  Following are lessons that I learned along the way which helped to establish:

A Chaste Appearance

Did you know that the Word of God teaches that everything that we say and everything that we do comes from the heart (Luke 6:45, Mark 7:21­-23)?  You can learn much about someone’s heart by listening to the words that she speaks.  You can tell much about someone’s heart by watching the deeds that she does.  And you can tell much about someone’s heart by observing the way that she dresses.

As a Christian woman, your testimony about the Lord can be enhanced by the way that you dress or it can actually be destroyed.  Outward dress alone is not the essence of your spiritual life, but your spiritual life will directly affect your outward dress.  That which is in the heart will surface in the way that you dress.

The fallen human heart is, in truth, always and only about itself.  It seeks its way – that  which pleases itself and brings attention to itself.  The Bible teaches that the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).  It is so easy to fall into each of these areas of sin regarding our outward appearance.

The first area of sin from which we must flee deals with the lust of the flesh.  When we fail to safeguard this area of our lives, we cause many men and brothers in Christ to stumble because of our actions.  If we dress in a sensual way, we not only provoke them to sin, but we are actually a participant of that very sin with them.  May God help us understand.  A woman usually desires to be attractive, but if the attraction she seeks is a sensual one, she falls far short of God’s desire for her.  Even if this woman says with words that she is not desiring to have a sensual appearance, if she is revealing her body and shape in any way, she does in fact have a sensual appearance – that which appeals to the senses. Modesty always seeks to cover, not to reveal.

The second area of sin from which we must flee is the lust of the eyes.  Within the fallen human heart is the sin of covetousness.  The fallen heart lusts after that which it sees and after that which another may possess.  In our manner of dress, we can cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble if we dress in an extravagant or showy way.  We may be the catalyst that causes covetousness to arise within the heart and the lust of the eyes to predominate.  Again, we need the Lord to open our understanding to these truths.  If the desire of our heart is to love one another, to strengthen one another, to build and encourage one another, we will willingly place limitations upon ourselves for the good of others.

And finally, we must flee from the pride of life within our heart.  This pride may be associated with our position, our possessions, or our physical attributes.  We may dress in a way that draws the attention of others to those things.

May we learn to consistently flee those things. But there is also another subtle sin that can creep into the heart of the Christian woman.  A prideful heart that says, “Look at how godly I am,” is perhaps the most wicked heart of all.  Jesus pronounced woes upon the Pharisees that made clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within were full of extortion and excess.  He condemned the manner in which they were like whited sepulchers, which indeed appeared beautiful outwardly, but within were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  They were rebuked because outwardly they appeared righteous unto men, but within they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  His word to them was not that they disregard the outside, but that they cleanse that which was within, that the outside might be clean also (Matthew 23:25-28).  You see, it is so easy to attempt to get the outside right so that people may look at us and admire our “godly appearance” without us ever having a concern for our hearts.  However, our Lord says that if the heart is right, the outside will be right also.  When the motive of the heart is to love our God and to love others, right dress will follow.

We have looked at some of the negative aspects of dress – those things which we should not do, but how uplifting it will be to look at the positive aspects of dress – those things which the Word of God instructs.

Without an excessive amount of attention given to ourselves, the Scripture instructs women to maintain a certain appearance.  We will examine certain words and thoughts, directly from the Bible, to discover the deep underlying truths about a woman’s appearance.  Simple practical suggestions will also be included.  It is our prayer that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened as we examine these six truths.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.  

1 Timothy 2:9-10

Orderly – In 1 Timothy 2: 9-10, the word translated as modest is kosmios and means:  orderly, well-arranged, decent. This would indicate that there should be a certain order to our appearance.  We should display neither a disorderly nor an unkempt appearance.  Our God is a God of order, and all things about our lives should reflect His order.  It is interesting to note the lovely appearance of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household:

for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Proverbs 31:21-22

Modesty – The next word at which we will look is shamefacedness.  The word means:  modesty.  Perhaps the most literal translation is:  not known.  Though we are to be fully known to our husbands, we should seek to be not known to all others.  Practically, this would affect many choices in apparel.  Our clothing should be loose fitting, seeking to conceal our shapes, rather than seeking to reveal them.  Necklines, dress lengths, and the fit of the bodice of clothing should all conform to this guideline, seeking that our shapes be not known.  A jacket, sweater, or blazer worn over a dress will also add to a modest appearance.  And finally, should any of your long dresses have slits, they should be altered so that the slit does not reveal much of the leg.  The eye is drawn to a slit in a dress, especially as you walk or sit.  That simple slit may be suggestive of sinful thoughts to another.  Remember, modesty seeks to cover, not to reveal.

Soberly – The word sobriety means: with a sound mind.  It entails right thinking to the point that it affects behavior.  We should think so rightly about proper dress that it will affect choices that we make, and hence, clothing that we wear.  Remember that all of our life should have two main goals:  To love the Lord God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40).  Our dress, therefore, should be pleasing to the Lord and should not cause others to stumble.  Out of a love for the brethren, we should seek to wear things that would neither cause a brother to lust, nor a sister to envy.  Right thinking is of the utmost importance in the things that we choose to wear.

Simplicity Not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.  Each of these things, in extravagance, has a showiness about them – a showiness that would cause attention to be drawn to our self, rather than to our Lord.  We should never dress in an extravagant way.  If we seek to dress with simplicity, it will affect each those things referred to in this verse – our hairstyle, our jewelry, and the clothing that we wear.  Modesty and simplicity – what wonderful companions!

Femininity – Deuteronomy 22:5 states:  The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment:  for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.  Therefore, we should seek to have a distinctly feminine appearance.  Choose clothing, hairstyles, etc. that are distinctly feminine.  For a woman to possess a feminine appearance is pleasing to the Lord.  He designed her to be distinctly feminine.  Choose your clothing in light of this truth.

Purity – In Titus 2:5 young women are instructed to be chaste.  This word has the meaning of:  purity.  Seek to have a pure appearance in all ways.  Remember it is the Lord that you represent, and He is holy and pure.  We will see Him one day and will be like Him in that day.  The Scripture says:  Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Study these words – study these truths!  Write these words down, and bring them with you as you shop.  Ask yourself questions to see if that which you purchase is pleasing to the Lord.  Spend a few hours in your closet, before the Lord, in an honest evaluation of your wardrobe.  You will probably find that you need to eliminate some things.  Recalling these words will also help you decide what to wear on a daily basis.  Take time to evaluate all facets of your appearance:  your clothing, your hairstyle, your make-up, and your jewelry.  An honest evaluation will produce a godly appearance.  Ask yourself:

  1. Is it orderly?
  2. Is it modest?
  3. Am I demonstrating right thinking by wearing this?
  4. Does it exhibit simplicity?
  5. Is it feminine?
  6. Does it enhance a pure appearance?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, your outward appearance should be scriptural.

There are, however, two additional factors of far greater importance than outward dress in the life of a godly woman.  Take time to look up the following verses and to meditate upon them.  They will be a blessing to your heart.

A godly woman must possess the right heart attitude (see 1 Peter 3:3-5).  Always remember that God looks upon the heart. Spend much time allowing Him to adorn your heart.  It will be pleasing to Him – and interestingly, it will be a blessing to those around you.

A godly woman must be adorned with good  works (see 1 Timothy 2:9-10).  The most important matter of our life is not about our self.  It is about others.  Rather than all of our time and attention being given to our outward appearance, it should be given to ministering to others – to our husbands, to our children, to those in need, and to those whom the Lord would have us serve.

In conclusion, your appearance should reflect your Lord.  It will also reflect your husband and make a statement about what kind of wife he has.  Your appearance should reveal humility, submission, modesty, and godliness without being unkempt and disorderly.  The motive of the heart is the key.  Are you seeking to reflect your Lord in your appearance, or are you seeking to draw attention to yourself?  Are you pursuing godliness, or are you pursuing the things of the world?

… whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

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