Sorry everyone, long post!
As a Christian, modesty has always been a hot topic. I used to be on the modesty standards bandwagon until I realized my views on modesty was more personal opinion than biblical! I wanted to do workshops on how to dress and teach the preteen/teen girls I mentored what I grew up hearing… and you know what? I’m glad my workshops never happened. It was God’s way of sparing them from bad information from me!
I started thinking and wondered…
1. Why do we use a sexualized term to promote modesty?
2. Why do we define modesty with rules based on visual opinion?
3. Why do we focus on women more than men?
4. Why do we judge people as prude or “holier than thou” when they define things differently?
5. Why does men’s opinion mean more than God’s opinion?
I posted an article a few years ago that called out the phrase “Modest is hottest.” In fact, it was titled, “Modest is Not Hottest” and that title alone was enough for someone to attack my character. I had someone reply on my facebook post with just a verse reference: “matthew 23:25.” They didn’t bother to ask me to explain…they didn’t question anything. They just went straight to accusing. That’s when I realized that a lot of modesty issues are just ways people unjustly judge others.
This is what Matt 23:25 says:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
Ouch, right? What are we telling the world when a fellow Christian is that quick to judge? I’ll admit I was hurt.
So, here’s what I think about modesty:
1. “Hottest” is a sexual term and I don’t like the association.
Using it to teach children/youth about modesty is counterproductive. It also associates a term a person uses while checking someone out. It’s catching someone’s attention in a sexual manner. It tells them indirectly that guys will find you more sexually attractive if you’re modest. But is that really true modesty?
2. Modesty is as simple as Romans 12:1-3.
Romans 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Modesty is something personal, between you and God. It is Him whom one should please, NOT OTHERS. This was my wake up call. Who was I to please? Who was I accountable to for my actions, how I dress, and what I do with my body? God!
3. Modesty is a personal decision to please God, not your parents, not your friends, not your pastor.
I believe modesty is a personal choice – not a social obligation. Be careful whom you are pleasing! This also applies for parents raising up boys and girls. I loved gaining my parents praise and approval growing up. If I am told that I cannot do x, y, z growing up because it is a rule, that does not mean as an adult I’ll feel the same when I’m outside of my parents’ instruction. Modesty is not about rules, really. And I honor that each family has different standards for dress, and do not judge, but I personally don’t think they should enforce it as a modesty issue. I think it’s better to enforce it as a family rule. For example: “The Smith family rules is no shirtless boys and no mid-drifts for girls.” I think when teaching modesty, it should be taught as PERSONAL obedience from the start. I would like to be open with children in their dress and attitudes and have them decide what they find is personally immodest and what is pleasing to God. I want to nurture an outlook that will last them a lifetime, not a rule that only lasts in my household.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Modesty is a heart issue rooted in obedience.
This is why I don’t like rules and regulations regarding modesty. Suggestions and tips are great, but the real matter is their heart. Why should I judge a fellow Christian in a 2 piece bathing suit when she is in charge of her modesty and that is between her and God? Her accountability is not to me. Is barking at that teen girl for showing 2 more inches of thigh really going to pay off? Shouldn’t I be more concerned about her walk in general and focus on more important issues, like how her week went and what I can pray for in her life? I think we nitpick and focus on little things rather than the bigger picture at times. What message am I truly conveying if I feel I can tell someone to cover up but have never gotten to know them? Surely, if I am to disciple them, there are more important things I could spend my time with them about. How about that Christian gym trainer guy who keeps winking at ladies and gets really flirtatious? Can I rule him off as a “bad Christian” just to find out this is an area he struggles with and is personally working on? I also have no idea if that random person is a new growing believer and if my words would hurt them more than grow them. I am also certain that in the lifetime process of sanctification, God will reveal to them if their dress or attitude need work. They may not be quite there yet. That’s okay.
5. Head coverings, skirts, covered collarbones etc. does not mean people live under a rock or oppression.
Guys, I am so guilty here. I have judged in the past the ladies and gentlemen who have personally decided that modesty for them includes a few more personal standards. I’ve mocked head coverings. Shaken my head at guys who only wear slacks and suits. I’ve complained that it’s ridiculous that collarbones need to be covered and that some ladies never wear pants.
You know what? That’s just as bad as judging those short shorts on a gal or shirtless guys. I have no right to call one outdated, prude, or extreme for having a view that does not look like mine. I have no right to say they have gone overboard. It is between them and God. I also need to see them as people and understand that there are more important things than dress in their sake too. Am I prejudging them based on what they wear? If so, I’m at fault.
6. But wait, there’s more!
I’m not going to neglect that there is more to modesty than what I’ve addressed. While modesty is personal, there are ways it affects more than me. The Bible does instruct certain things to consider as one outlines what obedience is with God in regards to modesty. 1 Corinthians 8 talks about being mindful in consideration to prevent causing others to stumble and using our freedoms wisely. 1 Timothy chapter 2 goes into some details based on Paul’s feelings but again, I want people to read this and draw from it what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, not my opinion. 1 Cor 6:19-20. Matt 6:28-30. Titus 2:11-12. So yes, if someone’s thinking, but wait, there’s more! There is! But that is between you and God, as my modesty is between me and God. My only advice would be to pray for discernment for the details.
In a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that modesty is an inward heartfelt decision of obedience to God and that it translates differently outwardly for each believer. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be!