I thought I'd post this helpful article on modesty, written by my dear friend Pam Hardy. Before Pam and her husband Carey moved to North Carolina a few years ago, I had the privilege of spending time with her and being mentored by her. She is a wise and godly woman and someone who I look up to. Carey is also a mentor to Rich.
It is lengthy, but a very worthwhile read. Below is a photo taken in August when the Hardy's came for a visit. We love them and wish they didn't live so far away!
Modesty Matters- By Pam Hardy
Today we are going to talk about matters related to modesty, and the reason we are going to do that is because modesty matters. In fact, when we are talking about how we live our Christian lives and the testimony that we present to the people around us—it matters a great deal. Now, I will be honest and tell you that I approach this subject with great fear and trembling. This is not the easiest subject to teach on.
There are several risks to teaching about modesty.
1. I guess the first one is that, when you teach about modesty, basically what you are doing is inviting every person that hears you to scrutinize your wardrobe for the next 20 years. So that is one negative to this.
2. Another risk that is actually much more significant is this: I may offend someone, and I hate to do that. I love you ladies and I think you know that, but this has really been a burden on my heart for a long time now, and I am afraid that it is the type of thing that simply needs to be addressed from time to time. I have been at Grace Church for over 14 years and I have basically kept my mouth shut for most of those 14 years. But just for my own conscience’s sake I simply cannot stay silent any longer. There are some things about modesty that just need to be said.
Now, I realize that we will always have some examples of immodesty here at our church, because we are a large church and we have so many visitors and new people. Every Sunday we just have tons of new people on campus, but I am not talking to them. I am directing what I say this morning to the faithful people who come here on a regular basis, and as will be very obvious this morning, I have some very strong convictions about modesty. They have developed over the course of many years and I have tried very hard to base what I believe on what the Bible has to say about modesty and purity.
Now, there are a few things I will say today that will fall under the category of my personal opinion and I will try to make that very clear when that’s the case. Also, I want to be very compassionate in what I say because I have come to believe that modesty is a process. I see a tendency for women to become more conservative with age and maturity, and it corresponds to an increase in wisdom about how our dress affects the men around us. I have seen that as women get less naive they tend to get more conservative.
Now, let me say right up front, I am not the “Fashion Police”; I am not the “Cleavage Patrol”; I am not the “Modesty Mafia” of Grace Church. I do not want you to run when you see me coming. I am not the last word on modesty and I do not claim to have all the answers. I especially don’t want you to think that I walk around every Sunday judging everyone and writing things down in my “Little Black Book.” That is absolutely not the case, in fact, I have never written anything down until I began to type up this lesson.
On the contrary, do you know what I do? And this is the honest truth. Instead of walking around judging everyone, I am constantly excusing everyone. I do my best to just believe for the best in people, and I choose to believe that much of the immodesty I see is mainly due to ignorance or naiveté. I cannot really believe, myself, that people wear what they wear, many times knowing exactly how it looks and the effect it is going to have on people. I just choose not to believe that.
I was talking with a lady at the church recently, and she made the comment that her teenage daughter was never intending to be immodest—that was not her goal at all. She just wanted to be fashionable. And I really do think that is the case with many, many girls. They’re not intending to dress in a way that is sensual; they just want to be fashionable.
One reason that this is such a difficult issue to tackle is because the popular culture is so strongly opposed to the biblical standard. There is a scripture in Jeremiah that talks about the children of Israel and it says, “They were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush” [Jeremiah 6:15, 8:12]. Well, ladies, today I think we live in a culture that does not know how to blush.
You know it was kind of interesting at the last Super Bowl; the Janet Jackson incident that happened. You know on the one hand I was pleasantly surprised that there was such an outcry about what happened, but on the other hand I was surprised that there was such an outcry, because we see such immodesty around us all the time that was not too far from what happened there.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a great book called, The Look, and in this book she contrasts what the world says about how we should dress and what the Bible says, and as is often the case they are diametrically opposed to one another. For instance, the world says beauty is external and physical. The Bible tells us that beauty is internal and spiritual. The world says you should dress for people to notice you. The Bible says we are to dress to please God and to glorify Him. The world tells us that the purpose of clothing is to uncover and to reveal. The Bible says the purpose of clothing is to cover and to conceal.
We, as Christian women, should look different from the world. What does it tell us in Romans 12, verse 1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…and do not be conformed to this world” [Romans 12:1-2]. We are not to dress like the women of the world, but we are to be “transformed.” The women of the world don’t know any better. When I go to the mall I don’t expect to see modesty, but when I come to church I do. But I am sad to say that too many times, when you see a group of girls standing around, there is very little difference in dress between those who profess to know Christ and those who don’t.
One of our pastors on staff, Rick Holland, recently did a three part series on modesty in our college department. He did an excellent job and I will probably quote him several times in this lesson. When Rick taught on this, he opened up his lesson with the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” and he made the application that just like the Emperor, those who wear revealing clothes believe the lie that they’re not really indecent. And those who are looking on are often afraid to say the truth for fear of being thought hopelessly ignorant or old fashioned, or worst of all—legalistic.
You know, I thought of another illustration that I think would apply here. You’ve all heard the story of the frog in the boiling water. You know, if you put a frog; if you throw him into a pot of boiling water, well he will immediately jump out. But if you put him in a pot of cold water and you ever so slowly turn up the heat, he won’t realize what’s happening and he will stay there until he boils to death. You know, I think we could apply this to our churches because I feel like immodesty has crept into our churches so subtly and so gradually that all of a sudden modestly is boiling to death in our churches.
So, this morning, all I am asking is that you hear me out and hopefully I can give you some food for thought related to this issue.
Alright, let’s get started. You should all have a syllabus, and so you can follow along with me, and let me reassure you, every scripture that I mention today I’m sure is in your syllabus, so you if you miss one, don’t worry, it’s there in the syllabus and you can look back at it later.
I. THE NEED FOR MODESTY
First, we need to talk about the need for modesty. Modesty is necessary because of several reasons:
A. The Fall (Genesis 3).
The first reason is because of the Fall that we find described in Genesis 3. We need to understand that there is a theological foundation for modesty that goes back to Adam and Eve. The very first thing after the Fall—what did Adam and Eve do? They looked for fig leaves to cover themselves up. They immediately tried to cover their nakedness.
So the very first result of the guilt of sin was the recognition that they were immodest. I think that is huge and it should tell us that this is a very important issue. When you read the account of the Fall it becomes clear that clothing is a direct result of the guilt of sin. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve had no fear that their nakedness could ever be used for evil purposes. But when sin entered the world it changed everything and the innocence of nakedness was lost forever. And you will find, as you study the Bible, after Genesis, chapter 3, whenever nakedness is mentioned, except in the context of marriage, it is always associated with shame. There are many Old Testament scriptures that link these two concepts together.
So, first, modesty is necessary because of the Fall. Another reason it is necessary is because of the similarities between men and women.
B. The Similarities between men and women (James 1:14-15; 1 John 2:16).
In James, chapter 1, it says this, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” In 1 John 2:16, it says this, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
These scriptures tell us how men and women are similar in their temptation to sin. These things affect both of us: “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Both men and women have to be on guard against those things.
But there is one more very important reason that modesty is necessary and that’s because of the differences between men and women.
C. The differences between men and women (Job 31:1; Proverbs 7:10; Romans 14:12-13).
I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but men and women are different—they are very different. And one of the main differences that is crucial here, is that God has designed men to be more visual. Women tend to be more verbal—men tend to be more visual.
In Proverbs, chapter 7, verse 10, it says this, “And there a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart.” Look at that phrase, “the attire of a harlot”—the Bible specifically calls attention to the way an immoral woman dresses. Why? Why does it do that? Because that is one of the main ways that men are tempted. Now think about it, the Bible never talks about how an immoral man dresses—why not? Because for most women sight is not a major avenue of temptation, but for men it is a different story, because men are tempted by what they see.
Remember what Job said, in Job 31:1, he said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” I think of King David. When did all his trouble start with Bathsheba? What was he doing? Remember it tells us, he was walking on his roof one evening and “he saw” Bathsheba. He saw her bathing and he was tempted through what he saw.
Nancy DeMoss, in her book, says this, “What a man’s touch is to a woman, the sight of a woman is to a man.” That’s how important it is and how powerful it is. Our poor men: our husbands, our sons, our fathers—men are tempted everywhere they look—the Internet, TV, movies, billboards, and magazines. My heart really just goes out to them, because they are surrounded by temptations every day, and I think as Christian women we should take this very seriously, that we are not to make men stumble with how we dress. When men come to church they should be able to rest. They should have a little bit of a respite from this constant temptation that they face out in the world.
Now, let me hasten to say this, immodesty is no excuse for lust. A man cannot control what women wear, but he can control what he looks at. So yes, the bottom line is this: it is still basically the man’s responsibility, but ladies they don’t need any help sinning. Okay? Don’t be guilty of feeding those sinful thoughts by the way you dress.
Nancy DeMoss says this, “This is not to suggest that men are not responsible for their thought life or their behavior—they are. They have to learn how to walk with God and bring those thoughts under the control of Christ, even though they live in a culture where immodesty is rampant. However, as Christian women, our clothing choices can either help men succeed morally or can put temptation in their path that they may find difficult to overcome. This means that both men and women are responsible for moral purity. We should do everything in our power to help our brothers stand and to be sure that our dress and our appearance brings glory to God.”
Romans 14 speaks clearly about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans 14:12-13, says, “Each of us shall give an account to God…and we should resolve not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.”
And you know what? This is not a new problem. The great old Puritan preacher Richard Baxter said this, “You must not lay a stumbling block in their way nor blow up the fire of their lust. You must walk among sinful persons as you would with a candle among straw or gunpowder. Or else you may see the flame which you did not foresee when it is too late to quench it.”
If there is anything in your dress that is sensual or suggestive you are inviting the men around you to go some where in their imaginations where they should not go. The sad reality today is that many times a man doesn’t even have to use that much imagination, because so much is already revealed.
All right, so we understand about the need for modesty. Now let’s turn our attention to the:
II. THE GOAL OF MODESTY
Before I tell you what our goals should be I want you to remember a couple of key points, and the first one is this, remember:
· Goals begin internally (in our hearts)
(Proverbs 4:23; 23:7; 27:19; Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 139:23-24)
Many scriptures testify to the importance of the heart, and I have listed some references there in your syllabus.
o Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
o Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
And you know as I began to think about this issue I began to realize that the most important question is not, “What do I wear?” But instead, “What is the state of my heart?” Because the real issue ladies is the heart. How you dress on the outside says a lot about who you are on the inside. Our pastor John [MacArthur] made this great statement one time in a sermon; he said this, “The train of sin runs on tracks that were laid in the heart.” So you must be very honest with your self about your motives. Why do you dress like you do? What kind of reactions are you trying to get?
Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive and pleasant to the eyes of other people, but a woman must be very careful that, that does not cross a line and becomes something she craves, because that becomes a pride issue. We should never ever get secret pleasure from thinking that we are attracting attention from men. So we need to examine our motives, and I am dead serious when I say that you have to be brutally honest with yourself here, because our hearts can be deceptive.
o Jeremiah 17:9 says, “"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
A woman can be trying to get attention from men and all the while pretending to herself that she is doing nothing of the kind. This is an area where we really need to pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24, where is says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and…see if there is any wicked way in me.”
In John MacArthur’s commentary on 1 Timothy, he made this statement about the heart, “How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshipping God? Or, is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty, or worse to attempt to lure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshipping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and her appearance.”
You know sometimes the problem is not even modesty, but instead it is a pride issue. Sometimes a girl can be relatively modest but she is very focused on buying certain name brands of clothes, or she always buys very expensive clothing, and she wants other people to notice that. That is just as wrong as being immodest, because that is a heart issue. So ladies, I implore you, examine the motives of your heart.
Ok, the second key point we want to look at is this:
· Goals are expressed externally (Matthew 12:34; Mark 7:20-23)
They begin in our hearts, but they are expressed externally in our attitudes; in our actions; in our appearance. God always sees external actions as expressions of what is in the heart. In Mark 7:20-23, it says this, “What comes out of a man, that defiles the man.” It talks about “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications,” and it goes on and on about these things and it says, “All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” So this scripture tells us the things that on the inside will eventually be manifested outwardly.
In Matthew 12:34, Jesus made this statement, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” I think we could adapt that and say this, “out of the abundance of the heart the body dresses.”
Never forget ladies that your clothing says something about you. A person’s first impression, is often, and actually, usually based on outward appearance. When you walk in a room, before you have even said one word your clothes are making a statement, and if a woman’s dress is a revelation of what’s in her heart; what you are actually telling others is whether you have a modest heart or an immodest heart.
And while we are talking about externals here let me caution you to guard against being legalistic in this area. Legalism is an overemphasis on external things in the belief that, that is what produces spirituality, and unfortunately this mindset often leads to becoming self-righteous and judging other people by those same external standards.
Do you know what? You can be very modestly dressed and still have a wicked heart, or you can be immodestly dressed and just be naïve and need someone to come along side and help you. I cannot stress it enough ladies: it is all about your heart! It’s not just about what you wear.
Now with those key points understood lets move on to what our goals are, and they are really very simple.
The goal of every Christian should be:
A. To glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 6:19-20)
We find the first one in 1 Corinthians 10:31, where it says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So our first goal, of course, is to glorify God. The goal of every Christian should be to glorify God in every area of life and that includes modesty. Why? Because Christ sacrificed His life to pay for our sin and we are bought with a price. If you know Christ you are owned by God and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Think about it this way: you are dressing a body that belongs to God—it doesn’t belong to you anymore, so how we dress is all about the glory of God, just as everything in our lives should be.
There is another goal that we must have and that is:
B. To please God (2 Corinthians 5:9)
This is one of my favorite scriptures, 2 Corinthians 5:9, it says, “Therefore we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
How do we please God? By loving Him, by worshipping Him, by obeying Him, and I think another way that we please Him, is by loving the things He loves, and one of the things He loves is righteousness.
Let me challenge you to take the scriptures that I have given you in your syllabus and study these, and you will discover that purity and righteousness are a priority with God. Over and over the scripture talks about things like “clean hands and a pure heart.” It talks about whatever is pure and lovely; it talks about the “pure in heart”—over and over you read those words.
From Psalm 11:7 and Psalm 146:8 it is very clear that the Lord loves purity and righteousness. Why? Because that is the very essence of who He is, and if we want to please Him, we should be very concern with reflecting what is right and good and pure in our personal lives. And you know what? A clear conscience is worth more than gold. It is a wonderful thing to go to bed at night with the assurance that you did not make anyone stumble that day by how you were dressed.
Ok, lets review what we have looked at so far:
o We have discussed the need for modesty.
o The theological foundation for modesty.
o Two major goals of modesty:
1. To glorify God.
2. To please God.
As we move through the rest of the lesson, please keep in mind these basic biblical principles that I have already mentioned:
1. Our bodies belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16)
2. Our external appearance reflects our inner condition (Matthew 12:34-35; Proverbs 6:14)
3. We are responsible to not cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. (Romans 14:12-13)
Alright, I want to turn a corner here and move now into the last section of our lesson, which I have called:
III. THE EXPRESSION OF MODESTY
Modesty can be expressed in many ways but it is primarily expressed by how we dress. And here is where I want to address the specifics of how to dress modestly. But before we do this, I want to look for a moment at the two watershed passages on modesty in the Bible: 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4, these are the scriptures that really define the issue for us.
Now we don’t have time today to study them in detail but I do want to give you the main point of each passage.
o 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says this, “…in like manner also, 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.”
Now, don’t misunderstand the intent of what Paul is saying here. He is not saying in these verses that you cannot braid your hair, instead what he is confronting is the showy hairdos and clothing that some of the women were wearing when the church would gather to worship. The women in Paul’s time often wove gold and pearls and other jewelry through their hairdos to draw attention to themselves and to flaunt their wealth and their beauty.
Another important thing to understand here is that the prostitutes of that day also tended to wear lots of jewelry and elaborate hairdos and expensive clothes. In the MacArthur Commentary on First Timothy we read this, “The wearing of expensive clothes and jewelry that drew attention away from the Lord was obviously was inappropriate for the women in the church. They were supposed to be demonstrating humble godliness—not appearing like prostitutes or showy pagan women. To come to church so attired was at best a distraction, and at worse an attempt to seduce the men of the church.”
Joshua Harris, in his book, Not Even a Hint, made this observation, “There is a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract.”
When you do a study on the key words in these verses in 1 Timothy, such as, “adorn, modest, propriety, moderation,” you will find that they are referring to qualities, such as, “orderliness, modesty, humility, and self-control,” so that is what Paul is encouraging here.
o Now, let’s look at 1 Peter 3:3-4, where we see a parallel passage. It says this, “Your adornment must not be merely external: braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and a quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” In this passage Peter is reminding us, that as women, our beauty should not come from outward adornment, but rather from a spiritual character that is honoring to God. The emphasis here is on cultivating inner beauty.
In his commentary on 1 Peter, D. Edmond Heibert makes this statement, “It goes without saying that this passage does not encourage slovenliness or indifference toward appearance. Neither does it constitute absolute prohibition of braids or jewelry any more than it forbids the putting on of dresses. This passage is a warning against extravagance and self-centered display.”
So, you don’t want to wear things that are immodest or things that are designed to attract attention, but (let me caution you here) be balanced. You don’t want to completely ignore the outside either. In 1 Peter, that word, “merely” is very important. You do not want to take 1 Peter to the extreme and not do anything. Certainly, you can attract attention by being too made up, but you can also attract attention by being too austere, or too sloppy.
Many years ago Melody Green wrote a little pamphlet called, Uncovering the Truth About Modesty, and she says this, “I have seen people go to the other extreme and they try to prove to others that they are more spiritual, because of their lack of concern about the way they look. But this too can simply be another form of pride and self-righteousness. God wants us to be balanced and to seek to glorify Him in everything we do.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I wake up in the morning, I’m kind of scary—okay? Why should I scare my husband for no reason at all? I mean, I’m a little scary, but you know when I get up and I put on a little makeup and I fix my hair, it’s better. So, ladies be balanced, and I think this especially applies to the married women—after you get married do not let yourself go and stop putting much effort into your appearance. Be beautiful for your husband. When I go out with my husband, I want him to be glad I’m with him. I don’t want him to be ashamed of how I look. But, ladies, again let me stress: be reasonable. Please understand I am not talking here about plastic surgery and tummy tucks and six hours at the gym everyday—that’s ridiculous. Some women, even Christian women can get way too focused on their external appearance, and it really becomes an idol in their lives, and if you are not careful you will get very out of balance in this area.
There was a wonderful lady in our church years ago named Sandi Keasling and she used to say this, “Your character is the picture and your appearance is the frame. The frame should complement the picture, not distract from it.” Now think about that. When you look at a picture, the frame should not be the main focus of attention. Right? I mean it’s the picture you want to see, not the frame. So remember, in conclusion, don’t pay too much attention to your appearance, but on the other hand don’t pay too little either—be balanced.
So, from these passages, in 1 Timothy and 1 Peter, we are told that we should dress in a way that is orderly and appropriate, modest, and in a way that demonstrates humility and self-control.
One more thing. Remember that we are always to dress like women. In Deuteronomy 22:5 we are forbidden to dress like the opposite sex. So just make sure that whatever you wear supports the fact that you are a woman. Don’t wear clothes that were designed for men or intended to make you look manly. You always want to look feminine.
Alright, now we need to turn our attention to the details and I do want to be specific today. I think sometimes you can be so vague and so general that it really doesn’t help at all. But I will tell you I will do my very best to be tasteful and tactful as we talk about these things. And as we begin I do want to give you a foundational principle to remember and this is it: if you dress in a way that draws attention to a certain part of the body and makes a man take a second and a third look—it is wrong. Okay? It is sinful and it is wrong. I mean here are the poor guys trying to fight temptation and guard their eyes, and here are girls dressing in such a way as to draw attention to the very areas that the guys are trying so hard not to notice, and I personally think that is sinful to do that.
You know, the way a woman dresses should draw attention to her face, to her countenance, not to her body. We do want to be an overall vision of loveliness, that’s fine, but you don’t want to draw attention to certain parts of the body.
Now as we examine our wardrobes
I want to tell you what Nancy DeMoss says to ask yourself, as you look at your wardrobe: “First question is this, does it expose? Second question is, does it emphasize?” And I think that’s a good place to start.
As our college pastor, Rick, was preparing to teach on this subject, he asked his Bible Study leaders to write down what the main temptations were to them in how a girl dresses. And let me remind you, these are guys who love the Lord with all their hearts. They are trying their best to live holy, godly lives. These are not men off the street—okay? But they were very honest about things that were temptations to them, and here were the things they listed:
1. Low pants
2. Midriff showing
3. Bare shoulders
5. Low necklines
6. Thin tops
7. Tight form-fitted tops
8. Tight pants
9. Skirt slits that are too high
So, as we go through this next section I just want you to keep those things in mind.
Now, let me give you my philosophy about clothing. There’s nothing wrong with being fashionable as long as it does not lead you to violate the rules of modesty. Our goal should be to make reasonable accommodation for the current fashions without compromising biblical principles.
There is one thing that you really have to guard against and that is: measuring yourself against the popular fashions and using that as your standard, and the reason you can’t do that is because the culture is so blatantly immodest. You can make some accommodations to current fashions as long as it doesn’t cross the line and become a modesty issue.
I have had to learn as a mother, what are the hills to die on. What are the non-negotiables? I’ll just tell you this, many years ago, when my oldest daughter was young; it was when all the weird strange colored nail polish was getting popular; you know, the purple with the white dots, and the green, and all the different colors. At first, I was very hesitant about that, because I was thinking, I had always worn pink, or red nail polish and so should she. But you know what? Those are the type of things that I have kind of mellowed on through the years, because especially that is not a modesty issue. Now, if she wants to wear green fingernail polish, well, you know, that’s not that big a deal. I am much more concerned about the things that really matter, which are things like modesty.
Let me just say a word to any teenage daughters that may eventually listen to this lesson. Let me reassure you, your mother does not want you to be ugly and out of fashion. That is not her goal in life. Let me reassure you, she loves you. She wants the best for you. So when she gives you direction on how to dress—listen to her. She has been around a lot longer than you have, and she’s got a lot of wisdom, and just remember that she loves you.
I have been there; I have been there on those six-hour shopping trips at the mall, trying to find some modest clothing. Trying to find things that we could agree on, and you know, you both end up in tears by the end of the trip—I’ve been there, so I do understand this. But daughters, you just have to trust us, just remember how much we love you.
I will give you a practical suggestion. You may have to be going to some of the more of the traditional stores and not spending a whole lot of time in the teen clothing stores, which are specifically geared towards the teenage girls, and in general, the clothing in these tends to be very immodest. So, you just have to keep looking; you will find modest things, and it is hard sometimes, believe me. Another good idea is to get Dad’s input, or actually let your daughters go shopping with their fathers. That is a great way to kind of get the man’s viewpoint on this, so try that.
Alright, let’s get started. I want to give you three broad categories, and I think everything we need to address today will fit into one of these categories.
You need to examine you wardrobe and ask yourself some questions:
A. Is it too short?
This can apply to dresses, to tops, to shorts.
First, with dresses and skirts. This is hard to set an exact limit; an exact length that your dresses and skirts should come too. I will give you kind of a general guideline, and I would say you need to stay around the knee. Obviously, anything longer than that, kind of a midi-length or a long-length should be fine. As long as you stay right around your knee I think you would be okay. I have seen some wonderful, godly older ladies in our church that will wear very nice suits to church and many times they are right to the knee. Okay, so they are not super long and they stay right around the knee and they’re fine, they’re beautiful and they’re modest. But as you begin to go up the leg; every inch you go up it becomes more and more immodest.
Also, keep this in mind of what happens when you sit down, especially a straight skirt—it may not be too bad when you are standing up, but when you sit down it really will come up.
Now, tops; just different kinds of blouses and tops. Remember the list of the college leaders—don’t show your midriff. Okay? Do not make that too short.
Now, the issue with shorts is a little more challenging. I think shorts and bathing suits are in special category. With shorts, I would definitely say this: absolutely, definitely, no “short-shorts.” I had one mother say that she told her daughters, that their shorts could be the length where their fingers came to, with their arms hanging down at their sides. Just put your arms down at your sides, and wherever the end of your fingers are, the shorts should not be any shorter than that. Well, that’s great unless a girl has really short arms, and then it could be shorter than it should.
I personally think that mid-thigh is okay for shorts, but I know junior high and high school girls, and I know they would rather die than wear their shorts that long. So let me give you a wonderful alternative here, and that is in the form of Capri pants. Amazingly this is one of the few times that fashion actually works in our favor and that is in the form of Capris. Capris are cute; they’re fashionable, and they come down below the knee and they are quite modest. So I would get rid of a lot of your shorts and go by some Capri pants—I really recommend those. If you do insist on wearing shorts just make sure that they are as modest as you can make them, but again, I really recommend Capris.
Alright, let’s talk about swimsuits. Let’s analyze a swimsuit. A swimsuit basically covers the same area of the body that underwear does. Right? And you think about it—would we wear our underwear to a pool or to the beach? No. But people wear that today; bathing suits that are incredibly immodest.
I will give you a little food for thought here: in 1922, if you wore what today would be considered a very modest one-piece swimsuit you would have been arrested for indecent exposure (Jeff Pollard, Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America). That is how much the standard has been lowered in our society, in the last 80 years.
I heard somebody say this, “You know when you get really honest, there is no such thing as a modest swimsuit.” You may think, “O my goodness, that’s somebody that’s really out of touch. That must be some much older woman who’s out of touch with today.” No, on the contrary, do you know who said that? My 20-year old, college age daughter, who I think is being much more honest about this than most girls her age.
But, I am realistic enough to know that you are probably not going to go home today and immediately throw your swimsuit in the trash and say, “Boy, I’m never going to wear that again.” In our culture, from time to time, most of you will probably wear a bathing suit. So, if you do, let me say this, just be super modest in this context. Today, amazingly, there are actually some fashion trends that really work in our favor here, and we see that in the skirts, the sarongs, the paseos, the boardshorts—any kind of skirt or wrap that covers up the swimsuit, obviously, is a great help. Just remember this, absolutely, even with a one-piece suit, you should not wear anything that is low in front or back. Do not wear the high-cut legs.
My own personal conviction on this, is this, I personally am not comfortable wearing even a modest one-piece around any men other than my husband. Now, I am not going to tell you what to do. You will have to make your own decision before the Lord on this. I am still really thinking through my own convictions in this area, and I think possibly in some contexts, it is permissible to wear a modest, one-piece swimsuit. For instance, I know in our fellowship group we sometimes, in the Summer, have a day, when the mothers can bring their children to go swimming at someone’s house, and there’s not any men anywhere around. You know, also, of course, you may go swimming with your family. I do think, possibly, in those contexts a modest swimsuit is okay, but you will have to make your own decision in that area.
Okay, so that’s the first category: is it too short? The second one is this:
B. Is it too tight?
This could apply to just about anything you can wear. Now, let me be very tactful here. If you are, shall we say, “endowed,” you have to be particularly careful not to wear things too tight. Do not dress in a way that emphasizes your figure, but in a way that minimizes it. You can still look like a woman, just don’t dress in a way that draws attention to that area.
Now, this next point, I guess would be my personal opinion, and actually this is just a personal request from me. Please, I am begging you, don’t wear those thin, stretchy, tight bras that are made of nylon or spandex. Wear a bra that has some sort of thickness—kind of a rounded appearance. Those thin, stretchy bras, I mean for all the good they do—you might as well not wear anything, because they really don’t cover or camouflage anything. Now, if you just really like that kind, and you really insist on wearing them, I am begging you, please don’t wear tight knit tops or sweaters with them.
There are three things that should never go together: one of those thin stretchy bras; a tight knit top; and a cold room! Okay? So, do you get my drift? I am trying to be really tactful here.
You know, talk about something that will make a man stumble—I have seen some things that—it embarrassed me, and I just don’t understand sometimes how woman do not understand that everything is showing. So please, I am begging you, wear something underneath your tops and your blouses that kind of camouflages. Okay?
Now, again, does this mean that you can never wear a knit top or a sweater? No, of course not, just don’t wear them too tight and make sure you wear proper undergarments with them. Okay?
Now, how about dresses and skirts? Again, don’t wear your dresses and skirts too tight. Don’t wear thin stretchy material that is so tight across the back that it hugs every square inch. Sometimes the girls don’t wear a whole lot underneath, and it is truly indecent.
You know gals, so much of this comes down to this: what do you want? I do not want men staring at me as I walk past, and I don’t think you do either, and if you don’t want that, then you cannot wear your pants and skirts so tight that, that is exactly what they will be tempted to do as you walk by.
This applies to pants and jeans—they need to have some slack.
And since we are talking about tightness here this is a good time to address something else, and that is the issue of our weight. No matter what I do, every year I seem to be adding on a few more pounds, and I think most women struggle with their weigh to some degree or another. So let me give you a few helpful hints.
If you are overweight consider these things:
1. Consider color. Light colors make you look larger. Dark will make you look slimmer.
2. Think about the patterns you wear. Horizontal lines add width and weight. Vertical lines make you look taller and slimmer.
3. Tightness. This is absolutely the most important thing, do not wear your clothes too tight. That is the worst thing you can do, because it accentuates the extra pounds. Now, does this mean that you have to wear a tent dress all the time? No, of course not, just wear things that drape nicely on the body and are not too tight.
Alright, the third section; the third question to ask is this:
C. Is it too low?
This mainly, obviously, applies to the tops that you would wear. Let me be very clear on this—no cleavage! Cleavage is for your husband and nobody else—nobody else. I taught this to the junior high girls last year, about modesty, and one of the mothers caught me later on and she thanked me for what I said, she said, “My daughter really listened,” and she said, “We even took some things out of her closet.” And the mother said, “You know I had a top that was a little bit low and I was going to give it away, and my daughter said, “Well mom, no, no, don’t give it away.” She said, “You can wear it with daddy, because Mrs. Hardy said that, “Cleavage is for your husband.” So, just remember that—cleavage is for your husband, it is not for the men of Grace Church; it is not for any other men except your husband, and any cleavage at all will draw a man’s eye, and even an inch is too much.
Here is probably also a good place to address a very controversial area; that is the area of weddings. I am going to give you my personal opinion here and you may not agree, but I really must say something here about this.
I have been so disappointed at so many weddings with the wedding dresses and the bridesmaid dresses. So many are strapless, backless, and show lots of cleavage. The main problem with strapless wedding dresses is the cleavage that goes along with it. You know, I don’t care what the occasion is—cleavage is cleavage, and skin is skin! I do not understand why people throw out all the modesty rules just because it’s a wedding or a formal occasion. No one has ever been able to give me a valid argument of why it is okay, suddenly okay, to be immodest in those settings.
Think about this, there are several aspects of a wedding that make it a worship service: we join together in the Name of the Lord; we are reading the Word; there is proclamation of the Word; there is prayer, and it is shameful what some women wear in that context.
Now, please don’t get offended here. I know there are probably some of you here that wore strapless wedding dresses, but believe me I don’t know who you are. I mean I can barely remember sometimes if today is my carpool day, much less remember what you wore at your wedding five or ten years ago. So I don’t have anybody in mind here today, I just know that I have seen it a lot. I know the current fashion is all strapless wedding dresses. I realize it’s hard to find one that is not strapless. I have seen one, maybe two at the very most that were somewhat modest. They didn’t gap or pull away from the body and there was no cleavage. Another big problem with these, is that as you twist and turn they do gap—they pull away from under the arm and it’s immodest.
Let me give you a behind the scenes peek at Grace Church. My husband, who is a pastor, has given me permission to tell you this. Every Monday they have a staff meeting and they discuss what the pastors think are significant issues at Grace Church, and more than once the issue of immodest wedding dresses has come up. The pastors are shocked and grieved by some of the immodesty they see at the weddings, and they are currently doing their best to find a way to encourage a higher standard for wedding attire. And personally, I think it is shameful, that our pastors are even having to deal with this issue, because I think the women of Grace Church have been so well taught they should know better.
My husband also was talking to some of our leaders in our fellowship group and he asked them, “Guys, just be really honest with me. When you go to a wedding and you see a wedding dress and it’s low, it’s very bare, do you just look at it like this beautiful vision of loveliness, or is there anything in that, that comes across a little bit provocative, a little bit tempting? And you know what? And these are godly men who love their wives and love their families, but all of them said, “Well, to be honest there is something that is a little bit sensual about that.”
So ladies, I am just appealing to you to really consider this. Many of you are already married, but you know girls that are going to get married someday; you have daughters; you have granddaughters—just encourage them to think about this. If there is ever going to be a day in your life that you should look chaste and modest and pure, it should be your wedding day. Now, if you don’t agree with me on this, don’t worry, we can still love each other. My husband and I don’t agree on every little thing either and we love each other a great deal. So all I want you to do is promise that you will think about it.
Just a few more things. We are still in the “too low” category—is it too low?
Alright, let’s talk about jeans. Please make sure that your tops that you wear are over the top of your jeans no matter what you do. Raise your arms, look in the mirror, do jumping jacks, whatever you need to do, but make sure you do not show your belly button. A belly button is something that really catches the eye of a man! It’s just terrible. I go to the mall and I begin to wonder if there is any girl in that mall, under the age of 25, who is not showing her midriff. It is just awful, and modesty issues aside, just from a practical standpoint, believe me they should not dress like that—it begins to make you wonder if they have mirrors at their house.
Let’s keep going—I don’t need to get on my soapbox here, but just keep that in mind, don’t wear your jeans too low. Also, this goes without saying, don’t wear things that are low in the back. Okay? That’s just common sense.
There are a few more miscellaneous issues I just want to consider here.
Think about color. Now I love white. That is about my favorite color of clothing, but the big negative to white is that it can be see-through. Any kind of white or light colors can be see-through, and yet dark colors are a natural concealer.
Now, I am not big on visual aids. I am not a big visual aids person, but I have brought something today that I thought would be very helpful. This as you know is a camisole and contrary to popular opinion this is not to be worn by itself. Ladies, we live in a day when, as Nancy DeMoss reminds us, underwear has become outerwear. What this is intended to do, is to be worn under those things that are a little bit thin, a little bit see-through. I do encourage you, if you have like a dressy white blouse; sometimes those are a little thin—wear a camisole under it—whatever you need to do to keep it from being see-through and to see lines underneath it. Let me encourage you—don’t buy a white camisole, because that again shows up…you’ll see a line against your skin. I recommend buying something that is as close as you can get to the color of your skin and so it all just kind of blends together.
Another issue is the writing that is on clothes. I think this is really only a problem if your clothes are too tight. I have some loose sweatshirts that may have something written on the front, but it’s loose—it’s not tight on my body. But sometimes you see things that are very tight and they have writing that draws the eye to that area, so don’t do that.
Also, be careful when you wear sleeveless shirts. Be careful of the armholes, you may need to sew them up. I love button down sleeveless shirts when it’s hot in the summer, but you know what? I think probably half of the ones I have in my closet; I sewed them up because the armholes were too big.
Another thing, how about exercise clothes? Be modest in your exercise clothes, you don’t have to wear skimpy little outfits. You know when I do walk around my neighborhood or jog sometimes, I wear sweatpants and I wear kind of a loose T-shirt, but I have seen women out jogging in outfits that were just totally indecent—little short, kind of biking shorts; tight little tops—you don’t have to do that.
One last thing to consider here is modesty in the home. It is so important to set a good example—be modest around your children. Set a good example for them. My husband and I have always been very careful around the house to be modest. Now, I am not saying you have to…remember that wonderful old show, Leave it to Beaver…I am not saying that you have to look like Mrs. Cleaver. I don’t clean my house and cook dinner in my Sunday dress and a string of pearls, but I do dress modestly.
Now, as we begin to wind down here, I want to say a quick word to both the single ladies and the married ladies. Never lose sight (single gals) that you are to save your body for your husband. The kind of man that you want to marry is not the kind of man that will be attracted by suggestive, immodest dress. If you a woman who loves the Lord, don’t send a confusing message by the way you dress. You will give men a wrong impression of who you are and you don’t want to do that. The right kind of guy will be looking for the right kind of girl.
To the married ladies here, just remember that marriage was designed by God and God designed a woman’s body to be beautiful and attractive to her spouse and only to her spouse. But to dress in public in a way that is alluring to other men is wrong.
Now, what do you do, and we have run into this situation, occasionally, where the wife wants to be modest, but her husband wants her to dress in an immodest, sensual way. First of all, she should appeal to him. What this really boils down too is an issue of obeying God rather than men. Obviously, we are to honor our husbands and submit respectively everyway we can except when he is asking you to sin. A wife has been given clear direction in God’s Word about how she should dress and in this situation, her husband, tragically, is encouraging her to disobey God. And as important as the modesty aspect is, I think and equally important problem here has to do with the husband’s motives.
Why would a man want his wife to dress immodestly and show off her figure to other men? I have really thought about this and I cannot think of any reasons for that except of pride. The husband is getting some sort of satisfaction out of showing off his wife because it builds him up and it makes him look good. Now, it’s one thing just to be grateful to the Lord that you have an attractive wife, and just be thankful for that—that’s okay. But it’s another thing altogether to flaunt a wife and make her a temptation to other men, and that is sinful. In fact, in Ephesians 5, it tells the husband that he is to love his wife and cherish her, which means he would never want to lead her into sin.
So, if a husband is insisting that his wife dress in an immodest way; she needs to pray about it and then she needs to appeal to him respectfully. If he keeps insisting, she needs to enlist the help of a friend, a pastor, an elder, someone she respects to go intercede for her with her husband. I think you follow this course of action, whether your husband is a Christian or whether he is not; I think you do the same thing.
Alright, we have covered a lot of ground today, so let’s wrap it up.
When it comes to modesty, we’ve seen that both men and women have a responsibility:
· Men are to guard their eyes and thoughts and they need to train their sons to do the same thing.
· Women are to dress modestly and exhort each other to be modest.
· Mothers, please talk to your daughters about the importance of modesty. And you need to start young. You can't allow immodesty when they're young and then expect them to suddenly become modest when they're 13!
When you dress modestly, what are the results? You glorify God and you please Him, and you will be an encouragement to both men and women. You will not be tempting men and you will be setting a good example for women.
Let me give you a word of caution. Should it ever be necessary for you to confront someone on a modesty issue—give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be judgmental and condemning, but instead, come alongside them with humility and compassion for them as your sister in Christ. Make sure that you desire to honor Christ and that your own motives are pure.
Alright, here are my final thoughts on this:
Instead of drawing attention to ourselves in our dress, we should bring glory to God. Instead of dressing to please ourselves we dress to please God. Instead of being clothed with immodesty, we should be clothed with what the Bible tells us. I’ve given you some scriptures there that talk about, “Strength and honor are her clothing.” And 1 Peter says, “Be clothed with humility.” Ladies, these are the things that the Bible says we should be clothed with.
"DeMoss makes this observation: As women, our beauty should not come from outward adornment but rather from character that is honoring to God. When others spend time with us or even meet us for the first time, they should be struck by God’s work in our lives (our character, our pure speech, our gentle and quiet spirits) not by our trendy clothes."
In your appendix, I’ve given you something called the Modesty Checklist written by Carolyn Mahaney. This is a great checklist to help you as you dress.
Now, I do want to close with this final prayer by Nancy DeMoss, that says this:
Lord, this body of mine belongs to You. I desire to bring You glory and honor through my words, my attitudes, and the way I dress. I resolve to be pure inwardly and outwardly, and I am willing, where necessary, to stand against the culture. I accept responsibility for how I dress. Help me to be teachable and to have an attitude and spirit that brings You glory through my actions and appearance.
If you will make that commitment today, I can promise you that the Lord will bless you and you will know the joy and peace that comes from obeying the Lord and living your life in a way that glorifies Him.
©2005 by Pam Hardy, All Rights Reserved. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.
By Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, Janelle Mahaney
(Used by permission)
“…Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with
modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls
or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess
godliness- with good works.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10
First, it’s time for a heart check…
“How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshipping God? Or is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty? Or worse, to attempt to lure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshipping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.”—John MacArthur [emphasis added]
· What statement do my clothes make about my heart?
· In choosing what clothes to wear today, whose attention do I desire and whose approval do I crave? Am I seeking to please God or impress others?
· Is what I wear consistent with biblical values of modesty, self-control and respectable apparel, or does my dress reveal an inordinate identification and fascination with sinful cultural values?
· Who am I trying to identify with through my dress? Is the Word of God my standard or is it the latest fashion?
· Have I solicited the evaluation of other godly individuals regarding my wardrobe?
· Does my clothing reveal an allegiance to the gospel or is there any contradiction between my profession of faith and my practice of godliness?
So, I’m ready to leave the house, but I still have to do a modesty check. What are some things I should look for as I stand in front of my mirror?
Starting at the top…
· When I am wearing a loose-fitting blouse or scoop-neck, can I see anything when I lean over? If so, I need to remember to place my hand against my neckline when I bend down.
· A word on purse straps: How could a purse possibly be a modesty concern? When you’re wearing the strap across your chest. Regardless of the shirt you’ve got on this accentuates your chest and creates a temptation for men.
· If I am wearing a button-down top, I need to turn sideways and move around to see if there are any gaping holes that expose my chest. If there are, I’ve got to grab the sewing box and pin between the buttons.
· The same check is needed if I am wearing sleeveless. When I move around can I see my bra? If I do, I need the pins again!
· Am I wearing a spaghetti-strap, halter-top or see-through blouse? Not even pins will fix this problem! Most guys find these very unhelpful. It’s time to go back to the closet.
· Can I see the lace or seam of my bra through my shirt? In this case, seamless bras are a better option.
· One final shirt check: Does it reveal any part of my cleavage? Does my midriff show when I raise my hands above my head? Is my shirt just plain too tight? If the answer is “yes” to any one of these questions, then I need to change my outfit.
Moving on down…
· Does my midriff (or underwear) show when I bend over or lift my hands? If so, is it because my skirt or my pants are too low? Either my shirt needs to be longer or I need to find a skirt or pants that sit higher.
· I also have to turn around to see if what I’m wearing is too tight around my derriere, or if the outline of my underwear shows. If so, I know what I have to do!
· And for my shorts – I can’t just check them standing up. I need to see how much they reveal when I sit down. If I see too much leg, I need a longer pair.
· The “sit-down” check applies to my skirt or dress as well. And I must remember to keep my skirt pulled down and my knees together when I’m seated.
· And speaking of skirts, watch out for those slits! Does it reveal too much when I walk? Pins are also helpful here.
· Finally, I must remember to do this modesty check with my shoes on. High-heels make my dress or skirt appear shorter.
· And don’t forget – this all applies to formal wear as well.
· A note on swimwear –the pool or beach. Look for one-piece bathing suits that aren’t cut high on the leg or have a low neckline.
Copyright 2002 Sovereign Grace Ministries, Gaithersburg, MD.