All throughout history and especially in today’s culture, godliness is laughed at. We’ve been taught that Christians should be separate from the world – in what we say, where we go, what we wear, who we’re friends with, etc. If most Christian young people were to ask themselves if they were living a separate-from-the-world kind of life, they’d say ‘yes.’ That is, if their parents stay on them and make sure they’re wearing the right clothes and not hanging out with the bad kids.
If you’re a child of God with the Holy Spirit living inside you, there is some understanding of the importance of living different from the world. You may not totally understand the whys but you should at least have the desire to follow the Lord no matter what. Teens love to ask ‘why.’ (This is a good thing and shows maturity!) There is a necessary balance to this, however. You are in the “in-between stage” of childhood and adulthood and although it’s good to ask some questions to figure things out, it’s more important to submit to the authorities God has placed in your life. Following the standards set forth by your pastor/church (even when you don’t know the whys) is very important. God will honor your obedience and reveal His standards to you (He’s not out to confuse you!).
Most Christian kids understand the importance of having godly friends and know not cuss or listen to rock music. However, there’s a major separation issue that most young people ignore – biblical modestly. The prevailing attitude is “Why all the fuss?” Many don’t even care to know what the Bible says about it (perhaps because they may actually find answers) or they’ve made the decision that once they turn 18 they’ll dress how they want (certainly not a godly attitude).
Ignorance may be bliss but that does fly with God. So let’s see what the Bible says.
*Note: Now would be a good time to pray and ask the Lord to give you a good attitude and to submit your will to what the Holy Spirit teaches you.
The Shame of Nakedness
There are no hard-and-fast rules in the Scripture as to exactly what men and women should and should not wear. I won’t go all Hebrew and Greek on you but if we were to see the translated words for “dress” and “modesty” in the Bible, they would essentially describe a “long, flowing garment” for the purpose of covering nakedness. The Bible talks about nakedness and it should be clear in the mind of a Christian as to the difference between being clothed and being naked!
I found this definition to be interesting: “Modest clothing should actually cover one’s self, and should be designed to avoid indecency and sin, whether in thought or deed.” That being said, it is obvious that when someone is showing too much skin, they are immodest. (How much is too much? The Bible talks about people being naked while exposing any of the thighs on up to the neck).
The Problem of Pride
Immodesty is the outward demonstration of inward pride. Pride is one of the most basic, underestimated, and damaging sin. It was the cause of Lucifer’s (Satan) rebellion and Adam’s fall in the garden. Pride begins in the mind and is shown outwardly in different ways. Someone may be known to be proud by the way they speak or the way they act and immodesty is one of the indicators of inward pride (vanity). Immodesty is defined as “a rejection of humility and the flaunting or boasting of a certain attribute of one’s self.”
Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it?” The world encourages this boastful attitude to the extreme! This proud, flaunting spirit is all over TV, billboards, magazines, books, food products…you name it! It’s so hard for a teenager not to give into this pressure! The teen years crave acceptance. And any adherence to biblical standards will bring criticism from the world and at times even from other believers (what a shame).
The Spirit of Rebellion
Another aspect to consider is which parts of the body your clothing draws attention to. A girl may have fully ‘covered’ her flesh, but if the clothing is tight-fitting and draws attention to her figure, she can hardly be said to be dressed in a modest fashion. It seems like modern clothes do one of two things: They expose lots of flesh, or they cover the flesh but are super tight. Both draw attention to the body and WILL cause others (especially guys) to sin.
Take a little test. Here are two very cute, stylist outfits that would be considered ‘modest.’ Look at both pictures and take note where your eyes look FIRST (be honest):
The lady in the dress drew first attention to her face and pretty hair. The lady in the jeans drew first attention to her figure – bottom, hips, and thighs. This area, as well as the bust, are extremely attractive to guys and should always be loosely covered up! Trust me…maybe one day you’ll understand that a little better.
Note: My purpose here is not to talk about pants on women, but rather to illustrate biblical modesty. But in case you’re wondering, women didn’t start wearing pants until the late 1800’s when America’s view on women started to change. Women were becoming dissatisfied with their roles as house wives and mothers and wanted a voice. Pants put them on par with men – they started working jobs and voting, etc. When women wear pants they demonstrate their independence from authority (father or husband) – something the Bible calls ‘rebellion.’
We need to be concerned about having a spirit of rebellion in the way we dress. 1 Timothy 2:9 characterized godly women as those who ‘adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness (shy or bashful) and sobriety (serious or self-control).’ When sin entered into the world, God said that women’s ‘desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’ (Genesis 3:16) Girls must remain subject to their dad during the single years and then their husband. The way you dress will send a message about how you feel about the God-given authorities in your life.
The Timeless Excuse
Often when talking about the issue of modesty many girls will jump up and shout, “Hang on a sec, it isn’t my fault if someone looks at me with lust – that’s the guy’s problem, not mine.” Part of that is true – we cannot control the minds of others. However, although we cannot stop guys from looking lustfully, we can choose what he sees. If a man sees a woman that has taken care to be modest, it will be much harder for him to think with lust.
The problem with lots of teen girls is that they DO want to be noticed by the guys. And they think the way to be noticed is by dressing to impress. We must consider the words of Jesus when He restated His Commandments in Matthew 5:28 “…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” This goes both ways – if you cause a guy to lust, you are guilty of breaking God’s command to not commit adultery. Be ever so careful not to be the object of sin and therefore be complicit in that same sin.
The Root of Immodesty
Along with the thought of “being the object of sin” is the issue of low self-esteem. Our culture’s view of young women produces a low self-esteem, or low self-worth, in the minds of many Christian teen girls. This is especially sad since Christians in particular should know the value the Lord has placed on each one of us. The world doesn’t understand or see that value – so they attempt to earn it themselves. Sadly their attempts do not gain self-worth but rather produce an even lower self-esteem because they have made themselves an ‘object,’ particularly in the eyes of men.
Whether the reason for immodest dress, make-up and hair style, etc., is due to self-esteem or not, we must carefully examine our clothing so as to not make ourselves an ‘object’ but rather to show how we are a beautiful and unique Creature designed by God (Psalm 139:14). When you get dressed in the morning, check your motives – are you trying to dress to impress someone, show off your assets, or dress in such a way that others will know you value yourself the way God does.
The Bad Girl of the Bible
Jezebel was the pagan queen who killed the prophets of the Lord, and threatened to kill Elijah after he had put to death the 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19-22). Jezebel was a manipulator and “stirred” Ahab into idolatry and other evil things. She was referred to as a “whore” in the Book of Revelation (chapter 2), where it is written she “calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
The name of Jezebel is associated with sexual immorality, and is used with reference to women that seduce men into evil. You may never have heard this said but it used to be that if a woman wore excessive make-up or dressed provocatively she was called a ‘Jezebel’. I would venture to say that if she “painted her face” in order to seduce men, she probably dressed the part, too. Certainly Jezebel had a heart full of pride and rebellion which flowed out into her appearance. Beware! The sins of the heart will eventually rear its ugly head and soon everyone will see.
The Conclusion of the Matter
Modesty has a sense of quietness, rather than flaunting. Your body does not belong to everyone. It should be tightly guarded for your husband. A good checklist would be 1. It should be feminine, 2. It should cover the flesh (chest, midriff, thighs), and 3. It should not draw attention to my figure but rather to my face.
A key reason for Christian separation is to demonstrate to the world what has happened in our lives (salvation) and what is happening inwardly (becoming more like Christ each day). Wearing modest clothing reveals a clean heart, which is not given over to pride, vanity, or worldliness (which God hates), but rather shows a humble, chaste spirit (which is the mark of the genuine Christian). We could conclude that the issue of modesty/immodesty originates in the heart.
Time and time again I’ve seen young ladies conform to this standard ONLY when enforced by certain authorities. Most never take the time to see what the Bible says and make it a personal standard in their life. Modesty seems to be presented as a “personal preference” rather than a definitive biblical principle. It’s always a touchy subject among Christian women and will cause division.
I know I am not perfect in this area of modest dress – however, I am learning and submitted to the Lord teaching me what I should and shouldn’t wear. That heart attitude is key. Fashions change and even our friend’s standards may change. But only you will account for what you choose to wear and with what attitude you choose to wear it. I encourage you to listen and heed to the warnings found in Scripture. I encourage you to evaluate your clothes on a regular basis (our bodies change and sometimes our clothes shrink!). I encourage you to refuse to look to the world for answers in this area – they will only diminish your self-worth and create discontentment.
“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”-1 Samuel 16:7
Great article and well said……gives us all lots to think about in order not to defraud the males around us
Very good, and so true!
This is excellently written! Consice, clear, and to the point. I also wrote a series of blog posts on the subject of modesty (Six parts altogether). If you’d care to read them, here is the link to Part 1 of “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”
Excellent thoughts, Jackie. I appreciate you tackling a subject many avoid and still many more need–whether it’s the young girls, or us older gals who need reminding and encouraging. This is a keeper.
Keep up the good work and your sweet testimony. Love you!
Very well said Jacqueline! I wish I had this full understanding when I was a teenage girl. God wants to bless us, but to get the blessing we have to follow his plan – he truly knows what is best for us women!
Great article, Jackie! You articulated your thoughts on this issue so well. I appreciate this and will be thinking about it a lot. Great springboard for conversations with our young ladies! Thanks for talking about this delicate and vital topic!!
I don’t agree with what you said about how women should always listen to a male authority figure. Do you not believe in equal opportunities for all, weather gay, black, white, atheist, Jew, or Muslim? Isn’t that was God wanted, equality for all, no matter what? Women are just as capable as men, and can dress however they like. I do agree that women should respect their bodies, but they shouldn’t always look to a male authority figure as their guide. Also, if our bodies are just for our husbands to see, men should also dress modestly for only their wives to see.
– Concerned Teen
Thank you for your comment, Ash.
When addressing topics such as Christian standards (i.e. dress, speech, entertainment, etc) it’s important to always look at the heart of an individual. God has set up authorities in each one of our lives and talks about those authorities in respect to the church, the home, and the government, all of which you can read about in Romans 13 and Ephesians 5. Someone who refuses to obey the authorities in their life (parents, pastors, teachers, government, etc) is called a rebel by God. Do a word search for “rebel” in your Bible and you will see it’s very destructive to a person.
God certainly does believe in equality! He has created each one of us uniquely but also equally, no matter the race, religion, or color of skin. However, sin always separates us from God – whether that be the sin of pride or homosexuality. Every person must be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
I encourage you not to look at the Bible as a rule Book (Christ abolished the law and offers us grace) but rather ask yourself whether or not you are willing to do whatever the Lord asks of you out of love for Him (John 14:15).
Whenever I write an article on any topic of holy living it is for the purpose of self examination – Are you living your life in submission to God or are you living your life in submission to yourself?
Thank you again for you concerned questions. I pray my reply can be of some help and encouragement to you as you strive to find God’s perfect will in your life.
Thank you for posting this. I will turn 14 rather soon, so I feel that this really applies to me. Since I was very little, I would love to draw beautiful dresses, and women’s clothing in general. When I was 11 (I think), my mom said that she found some things I had drawn and submitted them to Vera Wang. I was so happy! But they were just drawings, and could be altered in any way, since I wouldn’t be credited. Now I think back to that and wonder why it was so important. If my ideas go to someone else with a completely different view, it could end up too sexy or something like that. I’ve been searching online for modest clothing, ripping through my dresser drawers to find something I could wear because now I know that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. So again, thank you for posting this!