Modesty matters because God, in His Word, commanded His women to be modest. The reason it doesn’t matter to many of us–and, at one time in the past, it didn’t matter nearly so much to me–is because, as a whole, the church isn’t very well versed theologically. In a church culture saturated with man-centered teachings, those who call themselves Christians have grown accustomed to marshmallowy theological fluff with mixed in tasty bits of culturally centered comfortableness that’s had any real hard stuff (aka God’s Word) filtered out. It’s all then watered down and sweetened with so-called Christian liberty so as to not make anyone uncomfortable or cause anyone to gag as they swallow the poisonous offering. Anything even approaching biblically sound teaching, especially in the oh-so sore spots of not-so-biblical-womanhood and all the mush that surrounds it, gives many so-called Christians the heebie-jeebies, theologically speaking.
I wasn’t raised with much of a focus on modesty. My mother raised me in church and there were, of course, standards but the standards were more or less a line in the sand. That line was erased time and time again as new fashions pushed the limits of the previous generation’s comfort zone. My mother would have never worn short-shorts or halter tops (Can you say scandalous?) but she had no problem whatsoever in dressing me in them. Thus, my standards in what I would and wouldn’t wear were more or less a matter of personal comfort than God-focused conviction. I don’t want that for my daughters. I don’t want it for the church, either.
Our line in the sand isn’t a line in the sand at all–it’s the rock solid foundation of the Word of God. Saying “But I think…” or “I know it says that, but…” concerning modesty or anything else only reveals our ignorance of the Bible. It doesn’t matter what we think, what we want, or how cute an outfit is, it only matters that God has spoken. When He speaks, we must obey. Sadly the culturally inclined church in the USA isn’t so good at discovering that God has spoken to us once and for all through His Word, that Word is unchanging, and that He, being God, meant what He said.
Modesty also matters because God Himself defined nakedness for us. In Scripture covering your nakedness meant keeping the area from the loins to the thigh covered. Not some of it–all of it. In Genesis 3: 20-21, God made Adam and Eve skin coats to cover their nakedness. They had made themselves coverings that covered the intimate areas of their bodies; God fully covered them. In Exodus 28: 42 God gave instructions for making breeches for the priests in order to cover their nakedness. These breeches covered ” from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:”. Leviticus 6:10 says “And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh”–this was to ensure that, when the priest went up the steps to the brazen altar, no one could see up his garment and expose his nakedness. These verses help us to see God’s standard for modesty–that is, that the thigh, the closest part of the body to the sexual organs, remains covered.
“But you’re talking about not dressing in fig leaves and standards for men, priests even, and anyway this is the Old Testament so none of this is really applicable…is it?”
Yes, but the point is this: God went out of His way, not just in these verses but in others, to define the why and how of not to expose one’s nakedness. If it was so important in the Old Testament, can it be any less important in the New?
“But what about grace? Or Christian liberty? After all, the New Testament reveals a God of love rather than the God of wrath we hear so much about in the Old Testament.”
Good questions. Grace is given to us so we might grow in godliness and be more pleasing to God–and not so that we might get away with sinning or have God grin knowingly at us when we demean His Word and deny His Son by throwing our sin in His holy face. And concerning that oft misdefined Christian liberty concept, Paul said in Galatians 5: 13, For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
And that loving God sent His Son to the Cross because that was the only way to save lost souls. If the fact that our salvation was so difficult to achieve that God paid the ultimate price to achieve it doesn’t shake us down to our core, nothing will.
And yet we throw our sin and our vastly misunderstood Christian liberty back in His loving face.
We ought to hang our heads in shame.
If we love God, we will want to do every single thing that we can to please Him, to honor Him. To obey Him.
“But that outfit is just so cute, and anyway if a guy looks at me to lust after me, it’s his fault for not being able to control himself.”
How can we claim we love God if we don’t care that our choices in clothing are causing our brothers in Christ to stumble–the same brothers in Christ that Jesus loved enough to die for? How are we showing love to our brethren if we are more concerned about looking cute or clinging to our so-called rights while we are willingly causing them to struggle?
I’ve heard so many women say that if men looked at them in lust, the man was the one sinning. Well, they are right in one way. If a man refuses to practice self-control, he is sinning. But if a woman intentionally throws a match on the straw to set it on fire and he gets caught by the flames, she is to blame.
As Richard Baxter put it,
“And though it be their sin and vanity that is the cause [of lust], it is nevertheless your sin to be the unnecessary occasion…You must not lay a stumbling-block in their way, nor blow up the fire of their lust…You must walk among sinful persons as you would do with a candle among straw or gunpowder; or else you may see the flame which you did not foresee, when it is too late to quench it.”
Biblical modesty doesn’t mean we are legalistic, it doesn’t mean that we’re embracing Old Testament standards. It means that we recognize that, since we are bought with a price–the death of the Son of God–we owe it to our Lord to obey Him as perfectly as we can. Modesty is therefore a reflection of who we are in Christ.
Our love for Christ should drive us to develop a desire to be modest in obedience to Him. If we are serious about serving Him, our modesty will show up, not just in the way we dress, but in the way we comport ourselves around others.
I re-posted an article on here a few days ago about the five marks of a spiritually fruitful church. The author pointed to our having a deep devotion to the Word of God, a spirit of repentance, a growing esteem for Christ, interest in theology and doctrine, and a love for our neighbor. Nobody can embrace these guidelines and say, “Yes, that’s the kind of church that I want and the kind of Christian I want to be” without also realizing that, by embracing these things, we cannot cry “Christian liberty” and continue to live to please ourselves rather than living to please Christ, nor can we continue to dress and act with only ourselves in mind.
Satan doesn’t care what we believe as long as that belief doesn’t actually lead us to obey Christ. Isn’t it about time we prove to him we love our Savior more than we love having our own way?