Making Sense of 'Modesty'
On Saturday, Laura shared with us how being a model as a Christian has changed her perception of what 'beauty' really is. She pointed to God’s all-encompassing love and encouraged us to find our satisfaction in Him rather than in our physical appearance. Today, Emma is writing for us on how we can respond to this in the way we choose to dress. As girls in today’s society, we receive lots of conflicting messages about the issue of ‘modesty’ – how do we define it? Should we ignore it? Are there rules to stick by?
Here at More Precious we want to encourage you to live love-shaped lives, and for Jesus to be at the heart of your decisions and choices. And, though it can be hard enough knowing what to wear or how to look without bringing 'modesty' into it - we should be aiming to live for Jesus and for the sake of others above ourselves, because we love Him and we want others to know Him too. Just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, love has to be our ultimate motivation. We hope that today’s post will encourage you to think honestly about the motivations behind your appearance, based on a foundation oflove.
How much leg is too much? When is a skirt too short? It is impossible to find a definitive answer to questions like these, because society’s view of modesty changes. In the early 19th century, showing your ankle was considered immodest. Today, a little twerking seems alright.
But hang on a minute: we are called to be girls that look beyond the standards of society and instead live for Jesus in the best. most honourable way we can. So – let’s not discount ‘modesty’ as an old-fashioned term that doesn’t have relevance for us today. What does the Bible say about it?
Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8-10:
“I desire...that 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 to worship God."
Paul is not saying that to be modest you have to cover your body in frumpy clothes that hide your shape. The word ‘adorn’ means to enhance and make beautiful, and is used several times throughout the Bible to describe a bride making herself beautiful for her husband, mirroring God’s relationship with the church (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 21:2). It is fine to ‘adorn’ yourself; in fact it is encouraged. The question is just what with.
Paul says we should dress in ‘respectable apparel’ – so what is considered respectable?
Well, he goes on to state that ‘braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire’ is not what he had in mind. But here comes the ‘C’ word: context. Paul was writing this letter to Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus. At the time, a lot of the people in the church in Ephesus were in the habit of dressing extravagantly, with fancy hairstyles and expensive clothing. They were obsessed with showing their wealth.
So if we shouldn’t be showing our wealth, does that mean we shouldn’t wear designer clothing? Well, Paul rebuked the Ephesians for dressing to show off. But the problem wasn’t that they were spending money on their clothes, it was their motivations. Their focus was only on what they wore and that they were seen to be wearing the very best clothing, rather than focusing what was most important – God.
What Paul is really saying is this:
You should dress in a way that shows you want attention to be on God, and not on yourself.
Think about your motivations. Do you wear what you wear because it feels good to know that other people are envious of your outfit? Are you constantly striving to look better than your friends? Are you seeking attention from certain people? Are you placing a higher importance upon how other people perceive you, than on how God views you?
Perhaps we should start viewing modesty in its broader sense: how we can dress in a way that best glorifies God. It’s not simply about covering ourselves up as much as possible, but about dressing in a way that shows the world we are living for something greater, we are not seeking our identity through our appearance, but we are comfortable in our identity as God's daughter. This won't mean having to commit to looking like an 8-person tent, but it might mean dressing in a way that will make people remember you and what you stand for, rather than your clothes.
Because Paul reminds us that modesty is not just about our clothing. It is about professing godliness – desiring to worship and honour God. We should show our worship of God in all that we do, in our behaviour and our attitudes, and that isn’t limited to what we wear. This means that we should not have such a preoccupation with our appearance that it takes us away from being able to focus on properly worshipping and being a witness.
God wants us to be free from cultural and worldly standards of beauty. He wants us to focus solely on Him, and for nothing to distract us from seeking Him wholeheartedly.
‘...let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.’ (1 Peter 3:3-4)
God wants you to know that you are more than what you wear. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and your worth is far beyond your physical appearance. God made you to be intelligent and courageous. He made you with dreams and ambitions and a voice.
You are beautiful, not because of what you wear or what you don’t wear and not because someone else says so, but because your hope is in God.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Father, today I pray for modesty in all I do. I’m sorry for wanting to please other people more than I want to please You. Let what I do, what I wear, and what I say be for Your glory and not for the praise or attention of others. Let me be a a girl who hopes in You alone, and may everything I do today be a reflection of Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God's perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.
Click here to read the rest of Emma's posts.