Six Questions About Modesty
By Kyle Pope
Holy Spirit instructs in I Timothy 2:9,10 “…That the women adorn themselves
in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold
or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing
godliness, with good works” (NKJV) With warmer weather coming soon it might
be good for us to remind ourselves (and ask ourselves) some basic questions
about the matter of modesty.
1. How Is Modesty Defined?— There are three
words used in the text above which help answer this question:
“Modest apparel”. In the Greek this is the word kosmios, meaning
- “Put in order, Adorn or Decorate” (Bauer, Arnt & Gingrich,
p. 445). The verb form of this word is translated “adorn” in this same passage.
We could say they were instructed to “order themselves in orderly apparel”. Our
clothing must be that which matches the responsibilities and relationships
which are a part of the Christian life (respect for others, morality, humility,
avoidance of sin, etc.).
“Propriety”. The word here
is aidos, which communicates both a “sense of shame” and a “sense
of honor” (Little Kittel p. 26). The King James renders this
“shamefacedness”. The Bible teaches that our bodies are “temples” of the Holy
Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). Christians should feel a sense of honor that leads
us to present ourselves decently, and a sense of shame when this is not the
“Moderation”. The Greek is sophrosune
meaning - “Good sense, Sound Judgment” (Newman, p. 178). This speaks
soundness of mind as opposed to intoxication or senility. The King James
renders this “sobriety”. We must think soberly about what our attire
communicates to others about our values, intentions and priorities.
2. Do I Know What The Bible Says
the Bible does not lay down a “dress code” for Christians, principles and
instructions regarding modesty run throughout both Old and New Testaments.
First, we learn in I Corinthians 12:23,24 the basic truth that there are “presentable”
and “unpresentable parts”. Though the world around us has rejected this
basic truth Scripture teaches that the unpresentable parts “have greater
modesty, but our presentable parts have no need”.
Scripture offers for concealing certain parts of the body relates to the
marriage relationship. In marriage a man and woman give themselves physically
and emotionally to one another. I Corinthians 7:2-5 teaches that each partner
has authority over the body of the other. Leviticus 18:1-30 condemns a variety
of sexual relations. Verse eight of this text forbids a person “uncovering” the
nakedness of his father’s wife, the reason being—“it is your father’s
nakedness”. There are certain parts of our bodies which should be preserved
for our mates alone. Not because they are “dirty” but because God would have us
save them for that one person in our lives to whom we have committed our life,
love and honor.
3. Does My Apparel Provoke Others To
the sermon on the mount Jesus taught—“whoever looks at a woman to lust for
her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
While this is primarily a challenge to each of us individually to control our
thoughts, we must also recognize the responsibility we all have not to put
temptation before others. The man who takes off his shirt while working in the
heat may unwittingly put an obstacle before someone he doesn’t even know. The
woman dressing in tight fitting or low cut attire may do the same. Of course we
can’t control fully what others choose to think but we can avoid unnecessarily
4. Do I Dress To Show Off?—Of the specific
items of clothing mentioned in some of the texts related to modesty, what is
specifically condemned is high priced “showy” clothing (gold, pearls, etc.). In
my judgment the emphasis is not a condemnation of those specific items but
rather anything which serves to show off our wealth, physical attributes or
status. In Christ we are to emphasize the inner man. Clothing that attempts to
flaunt one’s beauty or material standing demonstrates an improper perspective
on spiritual matters, and an attempt to exalt ourselves over others.
5. How Do I Carry Myself?—Modesty is often
demonstrated as much by our attitude and conduct as it is by our clothing. When
Proverbs six and seven warns the young man of the peril of adultery it speaks
of both the attire and a disposition to guard against. The Adulteress is
clothed - “with the attire of a harlot” (7:10). She has a - “crafty
heart” (7:10). She is “loud and rebellious” (7:11). She uses “enticing
speech” and “flattering lips” (7:21) in order to “allure...with
her eyelids” (6:25). Christian men and women must demonstrate modesty in
both their manner and their disposition.
6. Am I Willing To Be Different?—It would be nice
to imagine that the standards of modesty and decency will improve in our world.
If recent trends are any indication I don’t think we can count on that
happening anytime soon. As a result we must come to grips with the fact that
the way we cloth ourselves and conduct ourselves must be dramatically different
from what the world does. That demands courage on our part. We must choose
“long” when short is popular. We must look “old fashioned” when the new is
revealing. Our assurance (as with all things) must be that when we do what God
asks, He is pleased with us regardless of what the world thinks of us. Remember
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”
(I Samuel 16:7).