The Need for Christian Families to Address the Issue of Modesty
My husband and I are glad that the church is finally talking about the problem of pornography and purity in the Body of Christ, and helping men address this issue. But why do we never hear about purity for women in the way they dress? I’m talking about women who profess to be Christ-followers. They become a stumbling block to their brothers when they dress seductively or dress to be sexy as the world has deemed fashionable. Please address the issue of modesty.
That is a great question, and it’s very problematic. When I was a youth pastor, many years ago, we had a problem with swimsuits — a problem that is much worse today for church youth groups because of the change in fashions. The way girls wore their two-piece swimsuits, and even many one-pieces, showed so much. You have young men on a church retreat who are looking at these girls—their sisters in Christ—and thinking what young men think and being led into temptation.
I’m not justifying the way men think. It is a problem, but it is also true—as the person indicates who asks this question—that there’s a responsibility here for girls, and certainly for their dads and moms, to seriously consider this.
As for the part of the question asking why this is not being addressed like it should be in churches, I believe the answer is fear.
I think there are many pastors and church leaders, who, like many husbands and fathers, are afraid to speak up for fear of offending women who are fashion-conscious. Some women think that to be fashionable, they have to wear outfits that are sexy—including the split skirts, the very tight skirts and pants, and low-cut tops.
It’s a difficult topic, but it’s an issue which I believe male leaders of the home and church need to courageously and directly address.
We also need godly women (especially godly women who can be fashionable and attractive in the right sense of attractive—not sexually attractive) who will lovingly challenge other women and let them know they are sending a wrong message. We need open, clear discussions so women can become aware and understand the issue.
As I share in my book The Purity Principle, parents need to screen their children’s clothing. Men are responsible to help their wives and daughters understand why this is so important. Women, please believe us—when we say a prom dress, shorts, top or swimsuit is inappropriate, we know exactly what we’re talking about.
When my daughter Karina addressed this topic several years ago, she wrote:
Modesty is not… just an issue for young women, although that is a time when women often develop their habits and lifestyles. Unfortunately, there are so many moms and even grandmas who don’t seem to have a grasp on the issue. The sad thing is that according to Titus 2:3-5, one of the things the older women are to teach the younger women is how to be pure (or chaste) so that the word of God will not be blasphemed. And 1 Peter 3:3-5 reminds us that as women our beauty should not come from outward adornment, but rather of character that is honoring to God. This doesn’t mean that we should be sloppy and not take care of our appearance, but that our appearance should not be our primary attractive quality.
The Bible says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. That compels us to honor God in all we do and say. I do believe modesty is something which families need to take a very close, careful, prayerful look at. We need to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
For parents looking for resources, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has excellent material on modesty and purity. She has a wonderful booklet titled The Look: Does God Really Care What I Wear? as well as several resources about the freedom of modesty at her ministry’s website. Also check out this article from Mary Kassian.
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries
Great article! Heres a great modest swimsuit designer…. http://www.reyswimwear.com
And if you haven’t seen this, it’s definitely worth the viewing on the history of swimsuits! http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WJVHRJbgLz8
Thanks for writing about this Randy, especially from a male perspective!
This is a great article. Modesty should always be taught in the home first and modeled by dad and mom. It should next be taught in the local church. We are desperate for these important issues to be spoken of.
I don’t understand why people only talk about girls dressing modestly. How about the guys dressing modestly also? Guys, keep your shirts on, keep your pants up, and stop wearing tight jeans. It is a two way street. Attraction, lust, desire–all of these are things that happen for both males and females!
I agree with you, but, when you go to a formal dance, it isn’t the guys who skimp on their clothing. They are dressed head to toe, while the women are not. My boys as well as my daughters have been taught that they need to be modest.
Phyllis, For the most part, guys are not the issue….you are correct that lust happens both ways as to gender. God’s Word tells us in Titus that women are to be modest and not to adorn themselves in any fashion that is not Holy. In that particular passage (and I was paraphrasing) God doesn’t address men. I’m not saying He doesn’t expect men to be modest, but I am suggesting that He speaks to immodesty about women, more than men in His Word.
I think God expects us ALL to be modest. My middle son is my pastor, & he HAS addressed this issue more than once. His wife, my granddaughter, & I, all try to be modest in our dress. No shirts cut down to your belly button, & DEFINITELY no short shorts. Or Daisy Dukes as they call them these days. Two of my granddaughters have a real problem with modesty. The younger one has a child now, so she dresses more decently. And, the way I see it, the prom is a WORLDLY program, & even if Christian girls are modest, the other girls are not, so I don’t think they need to even BE at the prom. IF we want to be a child of God, then we don’t need to take part in worldly entertainment.
How about instead of teaching girls to dress a certain way, we teach them to honor God by loving and respecting themselves? I hope that my daughters never get up in the morning and base their clothing choices on what a boy is going to think, good or bad, because the truth is, a girl could dress in a guinea sack and some boy is going to have an impure thought about what is underneath. But if I teach my daughters to dress in a way that will allow her to have some self-esteem and self-respect, she will be free to make choices based on her values, not the values of the one ogling her.
SG, I normally don’t get involved with discussions like this, but I’d like to respond to what you’ve written because I see this argument a lot during this discussion. Now I totally agree that we should be teaching our daughters to have self-esteem, self-respect, and love & respect for themselves. But first and foremost, as followers of Jesus, we should be teaching them holiness. We should be teaching them that love and respect of God is more important that love and respect of ones self. We should be teaching them that God’s desires and His commands for us completely outweigh the opinions or viewpoints of anyone else, and they even outweigh our own opinions and views!
So applying that to the issue of modesty, I totally agree that a girl should not base her clothing choice on what any other person thinks, but I also believe that she should not base her clothing choices simply on what makes her feel good, or gives her self-respect, or what gives her self-esteem. Instead, her clothing choices should be based on what is holy and good from God’s perspective. And Scripture is clear that women (of all ages) are to dress with modesty. Scripture is clear that when guys look at a girl lustfully, it’s adultery, and that all of us are to be careful not be be a “stumbling block” to others. So in the same way that guys are to watch out not to tempt a girl, so also girls are to watch out not to tempt a guy with the way they dress!
Does this mean it will never happen, even if they always dress modestly? Absolutely not! (As you said so well, “A girl could dress in a guinea sack and some boy is going to have an impure thought about what is underneath.”) But that does not mean that girls (and guys) should not do everything they can to protect those around them, and to dress in a way that’s honoring to GOD first and foremost.
With all that said, I’m definitely no expert. I’m just a simple follower who is trying his best to understand how to pursue, love, and obey Jesus. So I definitely don’t have all the answers!
Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough in my previous post… I completely agree that honoring God has to come first. I believe that loving ourselves and having self-respect is one big way that we can show honor to God and to our faith. (“How about instead of teaching girls to dress a certain way, we teach them to honor God by loving and respecting themselves?”).
My point was (supposed to be) this: If getting our daughters to honor God in their dress is the objective, then we can go about it two ways: 1) We can teach them that they need to dress modestly because boys might look at them and have impure thoughts and then that may become a stumbling block to their salvation. or 2) We teach them to honor God by loving and respecting themselves enough to dress modestly because it would please God to see them honoring their own bodies in that way. This is why I believe the 2nd option is the best option: 1) Because if our girls have self-respect and self-esteem, those qualities will be seen in other areas of their lives too (not just in their dress). If they learn to love themselves then they can then better love others. In my experience, heart knowledge goes a lot further than head knowledge. And I pray every day that my children listen to that still, small voice that speaks to their hearts. 2) Because by telling our girls to dress modestly for a boys sake is sending the wrong message long term. What else should they do or not do for another? And to be clear, I am not talking about salvation here, I am talking about teaching my girls to make their decisions based on the feelings or thoughts of others. I would much rather my daughters make decisions to honor God than to honor the roaming eye of a boy. And 3) The stumbling block thing: Those stumbling block verses are about keeping someone from becoming a follower of Jesus. If the length of my daughter’s skirt ever does that, I would be the very first one in line to call her out on it. However, I don’t think that given the access to short skirts (or lack thereof) that our teens have today, that that will be the case any time soon.
I realize that not everyone will agree with me on this, but I felt that it was important to point out that there is another way to achieve modesty in our daughters.
I should also note that I not trying to leave out boys in my statements, same thing applies to them too. But I am the mother of three beautiful daughters and this just hits home for me. By the way, all of my girls dress modestly and respectfully, and yes, fashionably. I even chuckle sometimes as they walk out the door for school… If they have a skirt on, rest assured, there are shorts under it. If they have a top that is cut lower than they are comfortable with, I guarantee they have a cami underneath. I never asked them to do that. They do it all on their own. I taught them when they were young that they could be fashionable while still showing honor to God and to themselves. And they listened. Go figure!
I most definitely agree that modesty should not be a legalistic thing, and that it should be more about honoring and pleasing God rather than not causing a guy to stumble. So I think we are in agreeance there. I probably read too much into your comment, and if so, I apologize.
Thanks so much for teaching your daughters modesty! I too have three daughters, although the are still young (5 & under), and I hope that they will grow up to view modesty as being about pleasing Jesus and not just because daddy says so! Thanks for your comments!
” most definitely agree that modesty should not be a legalistic thing, and that it should be more about honoring and pleasing God rather than not causing a guy to stumble”
RevK, All due respect, legalism is teaching that salvation is by our works….it is not wrong to adhere to God’s commandments as His Word succinctly speaks to.
God tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.
Relene, I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t teach strict obedience to God’s commands. In fact we should, because that’s the standard that God holds us to. BUT, I’m sure most of us have seen the rebellion that takes place in a person’s life when they don’t rightly understand and grasp the “Why” behind obedience. I’ve seen time and time again Pastor’s kids who who have been raised up in church and in God’s Word, but still rebel against that at some point because they view following God in a “legalistic” way. I think it would be the same thing for my daughters if I told them they had to dress modestly simply because “that’s what we’re supposed to do.” But if I can teach them the “Why” behind dressing modestly, and teach and model for them the love that I have for Jesus that is the driving force behind my obedience (and will hopefully be the driving force behind their obedience, even in modesty), then I feel like that will be the better alternative versus teacing them modesty because “that’s what we are supposed to do.” That’s why I said, “modesty should not be a legalistic thing, and that is should be more about honoring and pleasing God”.
Thanks for your comments!
Sir, once again…let’s define “legalism/legalistic” because it is easy to define someone by being legalistic in error. Someone who is legalistic is someone who believes “works saves us”. So, IMHO, the terminology isn’t relevant to a conversation on modesty unless we are thinking that “an act/work” saves us from hell. Does the law point us to rebellion? Or does the law, which was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, point us to Calvary?
You and I both know that for every young person who was raised in a Pastor’s home and went “astray”, there are thousands who don’t. It wasn’t the “law” that sent them into rebellion or that same “law” that we are free FROM doing, would send other pastor’s kids into rebellion. We can’t blame “the law” it suffices only as I said in an earlier post to point us to our utter helplessness to save ourselves, hence our focus on Christ, our redeemer. The law is not bad, and the NT speaks to it. We have more rebellious kids today than ever, and I would suggest to you that we have more lenient parenting today than ever before, including among Christian circles.
SG, just an additional comment is Jesus words in Matthew 22:39 ‘to love your neighbor as you love yourself (past tense). He knew/knows that we already do that in naturally preferring ourselves first. The self respect and self esteem part comes from psychology ‘man centered wisdom’.
SG, ” self-respect ” the Bible cautions us that we are not to think more of ourselves than we ought to and that we are to let others sing our praises, not ourselves.
Relene, you assume that someone who is taught “self-esteem” or “self-respect” are self-centered and self-absorbed. And that is just not true. I also believe in teaching my children to be proud of their accomplishments, it doesn’t mean they are prideful. It simply means that when they do something well, they are praised for it. It doesn’t mean that they are worshipped or placed in a position above God, just that we are happy that they have done a good job.
SG, you are still referencing honor to God, by them honoring themselves which is Biblical error. Our entire culture is about me, myself and I. If I don’t feel good about myself, how can I honor God? And, if I teach my child to honor God by respecting their self, what exactly would you teach, Biblically?
Yes, I do teach my daughters self-respect as ONE way of honoring God. They are a temple of the most high (2 Corinthians 6), and as such, those temples should be respected (i.e. self-respect). If they didn’t have self-respect then they would be more susceptible to abuse and manipulation. I teach all of my children to love themselves, to respect themselves and to honor themselves. That statement does not mean that I don’t teach them to love, respect and honor God. It certainly doean’t mean that they are taught to place themselves in a higher position than God. Those things are not exclusive of each other, rather, they work together to produce strong Christians who can go out into the world and be a light to others.
If my thinking is in Biblical error, then please give me Scriptual references.
SG, you keep going back to honoring one’s self first. There is nothing in the Bible that teaches “self” in any capacity. God sending His one and only Son was a selfless act, He is our example, we can’t be our example. I don’t think God teaches self love, self honor and then honor God anywhere. We differ greatly on this. I taught my son to die to self, as I believe the Bible teaches. He is a wonderful, giving and loving husband and father, all of 24 years old. He holds down a job, plus he is full time pastoring a small church. One of the things God has blessed him with is a “humble spirit.” I prayed for him daily that God would keep him humble. He will be the first to tell you, including his wife that they both dress to bring honor to Christ, first. God then honors them, it is never to be the other way around. Our lives are only to be a reflection of Him. I did not say, nor would I that respecting one’s self is being self centered or self absorbed. But, all praise, all glory and all honor go to Him, not only first but only. He will raise a person up in due time, should He desire to. The stumbling block thing? Keeping someone from coming to Christ? How do you think that happens – the world – we look, act no different as witnesses. It has more to do with keeping someone from coming to Christ. You keep referencing that your girls should not be held in account (essentially) for how young men think. Each person is responsible, and I shared those thoughts in an earlier post. Do you think King David was the sole responsible party with the act of adultery with Bathsheba? Women are called to be Holy. That doesn’t mean “cutting edge” or pushing the boundaries, it means, holy. Men are also called to be holy. But, women are increasingly bolder in attire than men and frankly, the excuses that the fashion industry doesn’t provide choice, is getting old. As the mother of a son, I got weary of men always getting the bad rap, when women need to cover up and hush up….they are way too naked and way too mouthy. I have a granddaughter and I thank God my daughter in law is a godly young woman who is dressing her appropriately, always and always as a female. She is only 16 months old and she is wearing dresses to the floor, along with cover-up and still looks adorable…go figure.
SG is obviously only referring to loving ourselves as God DOES tell us to, as He does (as we are to love our neighbors AS ourselves, etc.). She has clearly stated that honoring Him is most important, and I completely agree with her that the issue of modesty goes WAY beyond the issue of being a stumbling block for men. That is one issue, but modesty is important for the relationship between herself & God, which enables her to hear Him, do His will, and bring honor & glory to Him in every area of her life. Men seem to make this an issue (and so many others) all about men, when He has just as much to say to women about serving Him for more than just a man’s benefit. You, as Christian men, who make modesty an issue of men’s protection, are devaluing God’s role for women, and forcing them into the role of eye candy. When you make modesty about the men, you also excuse & dismiss a man’s strength & calling, as there will always be immodesty out there,though it should not be from women of God.
God speaks about loving ourselves in the sense that He, who created us, understands that humans “naturally” love themselves and as such, He wants us to see others in the same light/love as we do ourselves. We need to guard about the issue of loving ourselves. That entire concept is a premise for humanism. I am guarded not to take one verse out of context in respect to God’s Word. I love God, not because I first loved, but because He first loved us. Modesty does indeed entail more than dress. That is a starting point. For example, two women in MacDonald’s lines. One is dressed completely modest and without worldly appearance. The other woman is dressed in today’s body forming, low cut, clingy clothes, with matching dressing to bring attention to her outfit/self. Two of them approach a table and begin to witness. Now, let’s suppose the people being witnessed to become attentive to what is being said? Which one of the women do you believe will impact their testimony for the Lord, most affectively? I’ll let you think on whether or not, dressing for the Lord has an impact on our testimony. All reading this will know, those who hear the voice of the Holy Spirit…..you know the truth. Demeanor, accompanies this story. If the woman who is trying to witness is dressed appropriately, but her mouth is a gutter mouth, her demeanor has ruined the testimony despite what she has on. Both affect God’s witness. I don’t know how other feel about this issue of it’s a man’s responsibility to keep his eyes from lusting. Individually, both genders share equal sin or not before God if dress is inappropriate. Women, for years have tried to make themselves victims, but dress like they the opposite. You can’t have it both ways, ladies. If you don’t want a man gawking, then dress so as not to draw attention, at least not the wrong kind. Likewise, men….if you look at a woman with lust, in God’s eyes, you have already committed adultery. As my mother used to say, we carry our own hide to market…..
” You, as Christian men & women, who make modesty an issue of men’s protection, are devaluing God’s role for women, and forcing them into the role of eye candy.”
I would like to comment of this…..one, we are to care about our brethren (which does include protection and two, we are to set no evil thing before our eyes (notice the Lord tells us, individually not to “set” …….He doesn’t tell us not to look…in this particular verse. Wanting to not entice a man, is not devaluing a woman, rather it is putting the woman in respectful position to value herself. Women are not victims and God has given all of us the ability to come to Him to supply wisdom for situations.
Matt:22:39….love your neighbor as your “self”……Yes, the bible does teach “self” in this capacity…for if we have not love for ourselves, we cannot possibly love our neighbor.
SG, we are not to love ourselves, period. We should have self respect (not esteem). The Apostle Paul spoke about dying to self, as did Christ when He even challenged people to leave things behind and follow Him. He is first and the only person who matters. When we love Him first, we will show Him first in our lives and that is not reflected by loving ourselves. Nothing in God’s Word teaches us to teach our children to love themselves.
Great reply…you have hit the nail on the head with your thoughtful response…
“How about instead of teaching girls to dress a certain way, we teach them to honor God by loving and respecting themselves?” The two are not exclusive and should reflect each other.
“But if I teach my daughters to dress in a way that will allow her to have some self-esteem and self-respect, she will be free to make choices based on her values, not the values of the one ogling her.”
Self esteem? Die to self….self respect? In one sentence, and I say this lovingly, self is expressed. We are to base our standards on God’s Word, not self. You are correct in saying that if a young man is so minded, he will lust regardless of the attire. I would suggest to you that if you know that, why add fuel to the fire? God will hold us accountable individually, not corporately.
You seem to be focusing on the fact that I used words like self-respect and self-esteem rather than the fact that I am agreeing that girls should be dressing modestly. My point was only to say that I believe that when we teach our girls to dress modestly, that it be from a perspective of self-respect, rather than the idea that it should be about the boy and his propensity to sin over the length of her skirt. Should she use that as an excuse to wear a short skirt or a low cut top? Absolutely not! But I fear that if we are ONLY teaching girls to dress modestly because it makes boys more likely to sin, and we are not teaching the boys that they have ANY responsibility for that sin, then we are also sending the message that IF she wears a short skirt, she can get attention from a boy, or IF she wears a low cut top, that makes her a bad person. That is just not the message I choose to teach to my girls. I would much rather them choose to dress modestly because it is the right thing to do, because they should love and respect themselves too much to comprimise thier values for the sake of getting attention from boys.
SG, I do understand what you are saying and because I am an older person, I get red flagged over the “self” issue when indeed our Savior left the ivory palaces to die for us, not self. It was self that got s a t a n kicked out of heaven and it is self that is a destructive force. Now, to teach it because our “self” is a direct reflection of Christ, then that is wise teaching. No, we shouldn’t teach our girls to dress a certain way so that men won’t sin. On the other hand, what is that saying? You mentioned in your psot that IF she wears a short skirt and IF she wears a low cut top…..my question to you would be…why? We are not to love ourselves. As someone pointed out in another post, if we loved the brethren, we would not want to be a stumbling block in any manner. God’s second commandment is to love one another, not love ourselves.
“You mentioned in your psot that IF she wears a short skirt and IF she wears a low cut top…..my question to you would be…why?” ….. You have taken my words completely out of context. You should read what I said again. But to answer your question anyway, IF one of my girls wears a skirt too short or a top too low, that does not make her a bad person. It makes her human, fallen, one that has made a mistake. And IF that desicion causes another to sin, then I say Thank you to Jesus who has come to make all things new and cover our sin with his blood. They are going to make mistakes, just as we all do. I will not be the one to throw stones because of their mistakes, but I will be there to pick them up and dust them off, hug them, and admonish them IN LOVE to make a better choice next time.
Actually, what I believe you are referring to is when Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and He replies “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. That is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It doesn’t say Love your neighbor. It says love your neighbor as yourself. As I said earlier, if we teach our children to love themselves, they will better be able to love others. You can’t teach others what you don’t know….
Matt22:39…we are to love our selves….we are made in the image of God! We are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves…if we do not have love in our hearts for what God created, then how can we extend that love to our neighbor…we must be very careful not to at our religious preferences and interpretations to the Word of God….humility is not self deprecation, but a grateful heart filled with the love of the Father.
“You seem to be focusing on the fact that I used words like self-respect and self-esteem rather than the fact that I am agreeing that girls should be dressing modestly.”
If you agree that women should dress modestly, than by today’s fashions, that will require much dying to self…
That is all I hear is about how girls need to be responsible for men’s thoughts and dress more appropriately. While men go around with no shirt on because it is so HOT, a girl get chatised because she is wearing a halter top AND there is an international debate over whether or not women should breast feed in public. Seriously? Wow. A shame. Too bad some cultures have so sexualized the female body that we tell girls their whole lives that if they dont want to be raped then they should watch what they wear, where they walk, how they compose themselves and so on. I am surprised that people on here suggest girls dont hear enough of it. Our culture shows boys that it is ok to judhe a girl based upon her sexuality. Let us focus more on that.
The #1 reason Christian women should dress modestly is…(drum roll), because it is worship to God! 1 tim 2:8-15. immodesty “can” be a stumbling block to men, (and usually is), however that is “not” the primary reason given in scripture…the reason given in scripture is for the Glory of, and worship to, God. Either way, both reasons are legitimate. However, often times, women will directly respond (WHAT ABOUT MEN DRESSING IMMODESTLY!?). This, though sincere, takes the spotlight off of the topic at hand “women” and modesty. Men and modesty is a whole different topic. Bringing up worship to God bypasses this retorting argument and gets strait to the heart of the issue…I hope this blesses someone..God bless. (P.S. CHRISTIAN MEN NEED TO DRESS MODESTLY TOO!)
I’m a 61 year old woman. David Cloud has an excellent book entitled, “Dressing For The Lord”. It deeply and succinctly addresses modesty. Of course, as Christians we desperately need this subject discussed among the Body of Christ. We have compromised dress attire for decades and it is a burden on my heart. I’ve actually asked my Pastor to consider letting me do a Bible Study on Cloud’s book, along with Biblical application. And, there is much in the Bible about modesty, little being taught from the pulpits. This family has an excellent web site greatly needed. If God says something was wrong years ago, it is wrong today. We need to ditch the moral relativism. We needn’t call women who desire Godly standards, legalists. We need to have a heart for God an die to self!
Great article. I do agree that guys should dress modestly also. But like someone else has commented on here. Women dressing modestly and men dressing modestly are two different subjects. I am a teenage guy and it’s sad when a lot of the girls in churches are not dressing modestly. When you are at a youth conference trying to get something out of the message and the girl at the other end of the pew has such a short skirt on, that when she sits down you can see her knees and sometimes even more. When you have those temptation out there, it makes it much harder to get anything out of the message. I know that a girl could be dressed very modestly and still guys could have temptations. But don’t dress to where it’s easy for any guy looking at you to be tempted. As christians, what we wear not only represent ourselves, but it the represents our Lord. It something that I have to constantly remind myself when I look in the mirror. So please, please, please dress modestly. If men start tucking their shirts in and pulling their pants up. Please be willing as women to start wearing skirts that don’t show everything and raise those necklines on your shirts. But don’t wait for the men to start dressing modestly before you start dressing modestly. Go ahead and start and maybe the Lord will start touching the heart men to start dressing modest. And yes you can dress modestly and still look fashionable.
God bless you! It’s really horrible when young ladies get up in the choir, & when they sit down, you can see their underwear. Very distracting for the congregation that are sitting in the pews. And, I DETEST leggings, especially on old fat ladies, & they’re stretched so tight the material is thin, & you can see moles & freckles through the material. It doesn’t turn anybody on, but makes me sick to my stomach. God bless you! And, keep doing what you’re doing. If nothing else, ask your pastor if he would address the problem from the pulpit. Or have an extra blanket or two on the pews, & if a girl’s dress is too short, hand her the cover up. And if she asks why, tell her the truth!
One of the issues with this topic is that different people see different things as modest/immodest. Where is the line? At Focus on the Family girls can’t can’t wear open-toed shoes (I don’t know if this is still in place). Some don’t think sleeveless shirts are immodest, while some do. Mennonites have a different standard of modesty than many of us might have. It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? I asked my mentor’s daughter how her mom handled the modesty discussion. She said that her mom didn’t make it about showing skin, “so much as about how we presented ourselves. She would be just as concerned if we wore all black than if we wore a low-cut shirt. It was about beauty.” I like that approach. I also think we need to be very careful in these discussions because what boys here is, “yea, we can’t help ourselves, so you need to dress modestly” instead of, “It is our responsibility to see a girl/woman as beautiful because God made them that way, but I need to be aware of my lust and my thoughts and take them captive to Christ.” And for girls, newsflash, they fantasize about men as well! They also need to learn, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, to take their thoughts captive, and look away when necessary. Beauty is not bad! Lust is the problem. We have been fed a lie that girls don’t fantasize/lust, and our issues are only with “romance porn.” We have got to stop this. Modesty is about the heart, and how we present ourselves and love others, and we each must go before the Lord and discern this. Do I wish women would never wear bikini’s? Yes, I do, because I know that my husband and my son will struggle more if we’re around a friend in a bikini. Do I like that the pool we attend that has a dress code (no bikini’s)? Yes I do. Again, I think it’s about personal conviction, our heart before the Lord, love, and being very careful with our words when it comes to how women should dress. For another perspective, read this: http://laurennicolelove.com/blog/sex-love/modesty-lust-and-emotional-rape/ (I’m paying attention to this woman’s point of view because I want to be wise with how I communicate to my daughters, or any woman for that matter.)
I’m a 44 year old man I thought it was a excellent article, and I’ve read many excellent responses. I agree with much that has been said! I have never been one to think of how girls or women may view a man in tight jeans or without a shirt and I thank those of you who brought it up. I’m still of the persuasion that it is not only our responsibility to look away as much as it is to dress modestly for both sexes. How else are we to honor the Lord’s Name. You see those who see us are not only those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ but also our neighbors who are without HIM. IF then Christians dress the same as our unbelieving neighbors how can they tell us apart, but more importantly, How is the LORD”S Name honored if we dress the same as those around us? Will the LORD’s NAME not be blasphemed if we do not conduct ourselves with Holiness. I have heard others speak of those in the church with disdain because they don’t dress nor conduct themselves any different the average unbeliever. Indeed we are in this world but we are not to behave as if we belong to it. We belong to the Lord,and we are to Love HIM with all our soul, strength and mind and, our neighbor as ourselves. So then I need to ask; If our dress code causes others ,christian or not, to lust, how is that loving to our neighbor and honoring to our GOD? I feel as if a talk about self -respect is not about honoring GOD Name.but becomes an excuse for anything goes as long as I myself am OK with it. It flies in the face of being my brother’s or sister’s keeper for that matter. I hope I haven’t misunderstood anyone. If I have I do apologize.
I find your response appropriate, along with a Biblical mandate. “If you love Me, Keep My Commandments.” Modesty is spoken of in the Bible in the OT as well as the NT. God’s laws, with reference to moral laws in the OT, are still applicable today. We don’t honor Christ when we dress immodestly becoming subsequently a stumbling block to new believers, and or the lost. We are not the world. The world is at enmity with God.
Sarah Mae, hello. I am going to step on toes with this input, but defining modesty is not really difficult and God’s Word begins the process in the OT, then follows through with what is modesty in Titus, the Nt. Deuteronomy specifically states that a woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man and a man shall not wear that which pertaineth to a woman, both are an abomination before God. The beginning of the slope you speak of, as I see it as an older woman, began with women wearing pants and spiraled down. Pants, regardless of how loose they are, still are pants. Men wear pants. If a man were to come into the congregation with women’s clothing on, most here and most everywhere would find it appalling, as we should. This begs the question, why?? God doesn’t say, except in these circumstances, He says no. To suggest that women need pants for specific situations, is problematic, One, what did women do for centuries without pants? Two, is there not a reason that youth leaders don’t coordinate activities that will not run interference with a girl’s attire? Three, the argument that it’s warmer? Again, what did women do for years? Finally, perhaps the proverbial, “Men and Women dressed alike in the Biblical Days.” Similar is not alike. And, men and women’s attire were designed to specify which gender was who. God would not give a command that the provision to carry it out was not possible. That would be contrary to who He is. The Bible is not a smorgasbord where we pick and choose what we like. We shouldn’t struggle with what one person thinks, versus what someone else thinks when there are areas in the Bible that are clearly stated. When God says, “Thou shalt not….” No wiggle room folks. As for defining modesty without vagueness? Any article of clothing that defines the body, is immodest. Look in the mirror, ladies…you know if what you are wearing is modest.
Deuteronomy was written to and for the Israelites. When you look at the bible, you have to practice exegesis. That includes understanding that while a specific command isn’t addressed directly to you or any other non-Israelites, you can pull a general principle out of it.
Do you know why people in ancient times and the first century were not to cross-dress? It had to do with pagan idol worship; it was part of the ritual. That’s the same reason the ancient Israelites were told not to sow different seeds together nor to wear fabric blends. It had to do with pagan customs. The principle is to avoid anything that might draw you into worshipping foreign gods or whatever is an idol in one’s life. It doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with sowing different seeds together or my wearing pants. Those things are not now connected to the worship of fertility gods. You have to take the principle, cross the divide of time and culture, and apply it to now.
Further, if I were to follow the mandate to only wear a skirt (and by the way, men in O.T. times did not wear pants), I would need to follow all of the Mosaic law, which is under an old covenant. I am under a new covenant with God. Also, it needs to be pointed out that the Israelites, to whom those laws were addressed, took them as general principle themselves, not hard-and-fast rules. I can cite the resource for the last statement if you’d like.
Deuteronomy is inclusive of laws, both ceremonial (which were written for Israel) and moral laws, also written to Israel, but……..are applicable to today’s principle. Cross dressing would no more please God now than it did then or any other time. The ceremonial laws were strictly for protection (many of which dealt with hygiene and food handling). But, moral laws…..then the Ten Commandments are not applicable because they were given to the Israelites only, correct? Any moral principle applied to Israel, God knew would also dictate and admonish the Gentiles too……..hence the reason why we would not be able to keep the law(s) and there were 601 in the OT and an additional 300+ in the NT. The cross at Calvary covered all our sins and set us free. Free from sin, not free to sin. You referenced the men not wearing pants in the OT. The nation of Israel (whom God chose to reveal His truth in us) had their clothes designed specifically for men and women. It was important to God that men and women look distinctly different. And, men did have pants under their “robes” and the women did not have pants. The issue of pants is clearly a hot topic because women want it to be and they are “more comfortable” wanting things their way, irrespective of God’s rule/law. If you are suggesting that God’s laws were not to be taken as “hard and fast” I would suggest a fuller study of both the OT and NT in light of God’s manner of dealing with disobedience. He is a Holy God and as such comes His command to “Be ye holy.” We are a compromising nation and the truth of the Gospel is watered down across the Bride of Christ. It’s not just about pants, its also about modesty and above all, it’s about obedience. “A woman shall not wear that which to a man and a man shall not wear that which perpainteth to a woman.” There is no wiggle room in that verse, which has upset women for years.
I am very offended by your misguided rant about men wearing skirts….in my culture Christian men can and do wear KIlts and there is nothing feminine in that behavior. Men always have worn Kilts in Ireland, not woman, and they are associated with the male gender only. So they are not wearing feminine apparel as you seem to think. I believe that you might want to expand your knowledge of other cultures and not be blinded by your own scriptural bigotry….I most certainly hope that know one in your family has ever braided their hair….
I so disagree with you…my Grandfather was married in a skirt (Kilt) and in many other cultures men wear lava lava or wrap skirts. I always found my Grandfather to be very masculine. His dress was not feminine in anyway. Did not men in the OT wear long flowing robes without pants underneath??? You are confusing culture with the Bible…the reference here is regarding men dressing to be woman or vice versa as in transsexual or transvestite
Sarah, I read the article from the link you posted and Lauren was able to say so much better than I have been why it is important to teach modestly and self-respect and self-esteem to our daughters. The list of offenses against the author are EXACTLY what I hope to avoid bythese values to my girls. I pray that if they are ever put in those sitations that they will recognize that the problem (sin) does not lie with them, but with the offender. Thanks for the link!
Personal convictions are often different than Biblical convictions.
Jeff Pollard’s book ‘Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America’ is the best book I have ever read on this topic. Immodesty is rampant in churches today, mainly with girls and women which defiles our boys and men. This is wrong on every level and unacceptable behavior for any Christian. Yes, men need to dress modestly as well, but the fact remains that men are hardly the problem in churches. When girls/women are scantily dressed in front of men that are not their husbands, it defiles those men. We teach our boys to divert their eyes when they are affronted by immodest girls/women, but this does not work in every circumstance. When the girl/woman on the pew in front of a man is wearing a backless/strapless dress and the girls/women on either side of him are wearing short skirts and revealing tops, his only choice is to get up and find a better place to sit if one can be found, otherwise he would have to look down at the floor the entire service or leave. It is the responsibility of the girls and women to not put men in this kind of predicament, especially Christian girls/women. Women who dress immodestly do it for one reason….to get attention. If they are seeking and getting the attention of anyone other than their husband, they are acting inappropriately, irresponsibly and with behavior that is unbecoming of a godly, Christ honoring woman.
Like anything else, I think modesty can turn into a prideful thing. I’ve seen several women who pride themselves on the modesty issue so much that they almost put others down who aren’t as “godly” and modest as they are. I think like anything, it’s all in motivation. Do you want to dress modestly to praise the Lord? Great! Do you want to dress modestly so everyone else can see how awesome you are? Bad motivation. Just saying.
I completely agree.
Kelly, has someone who dresses modestly told you specifically that you are not modest? You mentioned that they dress so as to “almost put others down ” . I ask you a two fold question: how can one be too modest and how can you judge another person’s heart/motivation? I’m wondering if perhaps the Lord is working on you maybe and
Modesty in the biblical sense is not that complicated. It is directed at women. They are instructed to dress in a way that holds to biblical sexuality. In such a way that does not deliberately sexually excite.
We all know what that means. The problem is that we are not willing to come to grips with how that applies to the evolution of fashion and our social identity. Let’s face it. Our wives and daughters are tasked with operating in a social context that validates them based on their appearance. And we can’t pretend that we do not know how that affects women psychologically. So to dress sexy in our culture is to invite the approval not only of men but other women who would potentially look down on them if they don’t.
And as a man and husband, I won’t lie and say that I don’t prefer to see my wife an attractive dress when we go to dinner or in shorts or skinny jeans when we go to the mall or in a bikini when we go to the beach. I like her looking attractive…so that underscores where the difficulty of the matter. It all comes down to what does biblical modesty look like in our context and are we willing to apply that to our wardrobes.
The image that conjures in our minds when we think of modesty is Amish and 19th century peasantry. And many are not willing to accept that as an image to adopt.
Hello excellent article, these days talk to women at my church about the appearance and attitude of the Christian woman and came to the conclusion that whatever clothes, shoes or makeup (look) using Christian women in any culture or partnership must be based on three principles: The being decent (appropriate and tasteful), with propriety (appropriate, acceptable for a Christian woman, who is not sexually provocative) and modestly (free of pride, pretense and vanity) especially when you attend the house of God.
I’m Dominican and also in our country this is a problem that exists in our churches.
Elaine I live on Anguilla and the problem exists right here as well. My issue is that many people are only given 2 options regarding modesty… Beyonce or the women of “little house on the Prairie” and with the cultural pressure that exists coming from American media and Internet, the little house on the Prairie will lose almost every time because nominee of our women including those who claim to be Christians what the sort of negativity attention that such attire will grant them. People need to be taught ways of dress that are tasteful and yet not sexually driven. My observation is that this is not being done.
It is difficult to speak rightly on these matters. But I think you go too far when you say that women should strive to be attractive without being sexually attractive. Of course she should strive to be sexually attractive! You mean something different, though I admit the right terms aren’t coming to me now. It is per se no sin for a man to be sexually attracted, but natural and good in itself. Young women should be positively trying to attract a good man, to the end of marriage. Sexual attraction is at the foundation of marriage, and should usually precede it – it’s not something that is evil until he puts a ring on it.
We should indeed fight against lust and occasions to it, but it would be unnatural to condemn sexual attraction at the same time.
I was raised in a home where we as woman had to wear long dresses , long sleeves and make sure that every inch of our bodies were covered to make sure that we were modest . Pants , makeup ,jewelry , short sleeves and shorts were immodest and a “NO”. Men were allowed to dress however they saw fit. It was not immodest for a man to wear shorts and no underwear while sitting across from us with his legs open. It was not immodest for men to wear tight pants that left nothing to the imagination . I saw this every day . Here is what is missed ! Modesty is NOT a woman’s or mans issue . It is a heart issue , it is an attitude . Im so sick of hearing this . YOU are in charge of YOUR own actions and mind . I can not tell you how many woman and girls that dressed “modestly ” from head to toe just like I did ended up being raped and molested . The reason was always the same from the men ” It was the immodesty of the woman.” My dress can never be long enough , my shirt can reach my chin but my “modesty ” can not fix your evil.
When I see what options even young girls have to wear, it is simply appalling. When a first grader has only daisy duke short shorts available to her, as well as clothing cut way to tight and small, there is an issue. We have to take a stand against clothing makers and the media to create something that emulates positive beauty without dressing like a hussy. It can start at home, but in the real world the two collide.
There is another article written by a woman that I think are solid points to reflect on for this subject.
***Here are some key ways that obsessing about modesty hurts us***
Here are 10 practical suggestions to help balance the modesty discussions in our families, wards, and communities:
1.Reflect on your own attitudes and behavior. Do you tend to think about, invest in, and lead with your physical appearance, your external possession, or visible accomplishments?
2.Offer an expanded definition of modesty. If you are involved in discussions where modesty is being reduced to what females are wearing, speak up! Suggest exploring the meaning of “propriety and decency” of thoughts, feelings, words, behavior, and appearance for men and women.
3.Lead conversations about how the principle of modesty applies to males. Explore how to better teach and apply modesty to young men with your family, friends, and faith community to balance out the discussion.
4.Reach out to the youth. Make sure that everyone knows that they are loved and welcome at church and church activities (no matter what they are wearing).
5.Notice when you are judging someone else’s level of modesty. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on yourself.
6.Emphasize that modesty is about how you want to present yourself. When teaching the youth help them reflect on what kind of appearance feels congruent to them. What message do they want to send to others?
7.Avoid using language that implies responsiblity for another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Help the young women understand that appearance sends a message about who they are, based on their culture, and that it has influence on others, but they are never responsible for another person’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.
8.Teach the cultural context of modesty. Help them understand that our current specific modesty guidelines are not fixed, but are inspired recommendations based on what specific clothing and appearance means in our era and culture. Share examples of other cultures that give different meaning to clothing that the United States. For example, in Polynesian cultures men wear lava lava, large pieces of cloth tied as a skirt. And in some traditional African tribal communities it is common for women to not wear a top.
9.Speak up against body shaming. When you read, see, or hear people shaming a woman for her appearance or clothing choice, do not jump on the bandwagon. Be a voice of reason and of compassion in all conversations about other women.
10.Focus on the doctrine behind the principle of modesty. It is important for us to understand the why behind the application. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says that our bodies and our spirits are gifts from God and he wants us to use them to glorify Him.
My issue with this article is that it puts all of the responsibility on women. Sure, women should dress modestly for themselves, but they should not have to worry about dressing modestly for men. Rather than telling girls, “You must dress modestly so that you don’t tempt men,” we should be teaching boys and men to control their thoughts. There will always be girls and women around who do not dress modestly, but men cannot blame those women for creating impure thoughts in their minds. They must blame themselves for having those impure thoughts and work on controlling them.
You talk about girls in swimsuits but what about boys/young men. Don’t you think brief style swimmers don’t leave much to the imagination? Even if they are wearing board shorts their chests are still uncovered.
I believe that purity and dressing appropriately should not just be the responsibility of females.
Thank you for sharing your insightful and biblical thoughts on modesty for both boys and girls. One of the things young ladies and men may not be aware of is the meaning of one of the “L” sins listed in the Bible, Lust & Lasciviousness. Most probably understand that lust is an intense sexual desire which someone feels. However many may not know that lasciviousness, which also leads to sin, is when you act or present yourself in such a way as to cause someone to be aroused towards a sexual desire. Another words, when you cause someone to lust after you by your actions or lifestyle choices. Both are not pleasing to God and as disciples of Christ we are exhorted to avoid throughout the New Testament, both by the apostles and even Jesus in Mark 7:18-23. Yes in man’s eyes we can do what we want in a free society, but the question that beckons to those who would follow Jesus is, “does it please my heavenly Father, what does it look like in His eyes?”
Sorry for the typos
if a woman really understands her worth, knows who she is in Christ, tears down cultural lies
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