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Modest: Properly Restrained by a Sense of Propriety
The Lord gives us many guidelines in the Bible for our dress and appearance in general. Let me start by saying that we must first believe Psalm 119:128 and be able to say it for ourselves. It says, "Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." Now let me share some of the Lord's precepts to us on this issue of modesty and purity as well as the counsel of others in this tough area.

In considering modesty, it would do us well to keep in mind "The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman" (Elisabeth Elliot, from Let Me Be A Woman)

Romans 12:1-2 -- "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Isaiah 3:9 -- "The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, and they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves."

Proverbs 3:7 -- "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil."

Romans 13:14 -- "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."

Deuteronomy 22:5 -- "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."

Here are some excerpts out of an article called, "More on Modesty," By Mrs. Susan Theall (from the June 1995 Coming Home Magazine):

"In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul gives specific instructions as to how women should dress. These include 'modest clothes, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with braided hair or gold, or pearls or costly array.' Webster's Dictionary gives the following definitions:
  • Modest -- not vain or boastful, unassuming, not forward, shy or reserved, behaving, dressing, speaking in a way that is considered proper or decorous, decent, moderate, or reasonable, not extreme, quiet and humble in appearance, style, not pretentious, chaste
  • Shamefaced -- very modest or shy
  • Sobriety -- seriousness, sedateness

"We all understand that costly array means expensive clothing. In Titus 2:4-5 we are told that the older women should teach the young women to be discreet and chaste.

Discreet -- careful about what one says or does, prudent

Chaste -- pure, decent, or modest in nature or behavior, restrained and simple in style; not ornate (Pure implies chastity though innocence and an absence of seductive influences. Modest and decent are both applied to propriety in behavior, dress, bearing, or speech as exhibiting morality or purity.)

"We really should mention the subject of temptation. Matt. 5:28 says that for a man to look after a woman with lust is to commit adultery with her in his heart. It is each person's responsibility to resist temptation, but are we as Christian sisters, supposed to put temptation in our brother's path? (Matt. 18:6-7)

"It is interesting to study the history of clothing in America. From the time the first Pilgrims arrived, to the beginning of this century, clothing for women did not change that much. Women basically wore long skirts with blouses, or long dresses.... Can you guess who started the move toward the shorter skirts and pants? It was the first feminists in the late 1800's. They insisted that women had miserable lives, and should be liberated. The feminist thought the answer was for women to dress and act like men... In 1851, the early feminists were denied admission to most churches and buildings even though they had a skirt past the knee and bloomers to their ankles. When she realized it was hurting the women's movement, she gave up trying to wear men's clothing, and no more was heard of women wearing pants for 40 years. As the feminist movement grew, the push to dress like men grew too. Shorter hair, pants, and suit jackets are all society acceptable today, less than one hundred years later. Wouldn't these early feminists be pleased to see the way most women dress today?"

While looking through some of my dad's notes (from sermons) on modesty I found the following statement that he had written, "The clothes should draw attention to your face, not the body which is sensual -- your face shows your character."

In all honesty, let's examine each thing we put on... does it glorify God, or our bodies?? If our countenance witnesses against (or for) us, what is our countenance saying? Can people even notice our countenance, or are they being distracted by looking at parts of our body that we have boldly put before them (in knit shirts, form fitting dresses and pants, and slits which play peek-a-boo while we walk past) , do the colors we wear take all the attention? Our clothing should not show only what is comfortable to us, or our individualism (taste, style, etc) -- rather it should reflect the One we love and serve. As St. Francis De Sales said, "We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love."

In the Bible study called The Joy of Womanhood, Susan D. Zakula has the following exhortations to share:

  • Is not that a sobering thought, that God looks down from heaven and notices our appearance, our conversation, and our mannerism? He not only notices them, but they matter to Him. Our appearance, conversation, and mannerism are important for they reflect our hearts and reflect our love and obedience to God. We should strive to please our heavenly Father -- not to be accepted by our peers.

  • Christian women and girls often talk of having the right priorities, and of course, the only right priorities are biblical priorities. We should have a biblical priority when making decisions on how we dress. We must never forget that we are dressing for God. He sees us and has given us a standard in His Word to follow. May we seek His approval and not the world's.

  • Happiness comes from obedience to God's Word.

  • We should not dismiss our appearance as trivial and unimportant, and, therefore, feel that it is just a little thing to transgress in this matter. There is no little thing with God. Every jot and tittle is important, and God has taken the time to be very specific in His Word to teach us how to dress. May we all be encouraged to dress to please our heavenly Father and not to please the Satanic god of this world! (For we are pleasing one or the other!)
James 4:7 -- "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

We must also remember that, "A woman can take on the outer appearance of a godly woman, but unless God is forming her inner character, the resulting woman will be a counterfeit. In our own strength we can at best become a dime store trinket. Our goal should be to let the Lord mold us into the real gem" (Wanda Sanseri, from God's Priceless Woman).

In closing, I would like to share with you a couple of quotes out of Beautiful Girlhood by M. Hale, revised and expanded by Karen Andreola (a wonderful book focusing on many of the important issues of yesterday and today!)

A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. A woman who is not beautiful cannot properly fill her place. But, mark you, true beauty is not of the face, but of the soul. There is a beauty so deep and lasting that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it pretty. This is the beauty to be first sought and admired.

There is no more beautiful adornment to womanly character than purity, and a girl does well to see that everything that concerns her dress and behavior ... is decent, clean, modest, and quiet.

Purity is a precious virtue. Christ has said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." They perceive His nearness and this knowledge of His presence gently keeps them on the right path. Happy is the girl who walks along the way that abides with Him.

~Written and compiled by Kristen E. K., from Iowa
Written for inclusion in HW, Vol. 43, Sept.-Oct. 2001

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