Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)
1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (NKJV)
(Update, long after this series was written, I put together a report on Modesty. Download it here)
I receive many questions that pertain to modesty; which clothes are appropriate for Christians and what does God have to say about it all. Recently my local church has re-addressed this issue as well, so I decided that this would be a good time to do a short series on the subject. While the comments and thoughts will be mine, I decided not to “reinvent the wheel” on this, and reference the bullet points below that our church is using. You can find an excellent lesson by the originator of the list (Dr. John Barnett) at http://www.dtbm.org/message_detail.asp?fileid=749.
- Our Clothing Was Invented By God To Cover Our Bodies
- Our Clothing Is To Prevent Confusion
- Our Clothing Can Be Either Beautiful Or Lustful
- Our Clothing Must Never Be Immodest Or Alluring
- Our Clothing Should Help Us Avoid Sin
- Our Clothing Should Help Us Avoid Being Manipulative In Our Goals
- Our Clothing Must Not Be Ostentatious
- Our Clothing Is To Show Separation From The World
- Our Clothing Reflects Christ
- Our Clothing Is To Reflect God’s Ownership Of Our Bodies
- Our Clothing Must Not Encourage Lust Of The Flesh
- Our Clothing Is To Demonstrate Humility
- Our Clothing Is To Prevent Causing Pictures That Feed Lust
In today’s world, modesty is a very serious issue for the Christian. Even ABC News referred to the modern female fashions as “hooker wear”. If the unsaved can recognize that clothing has become inappropriate and immoral, then why is the modern Church mostly silent on the issue? The simple answer is because we are “competing” for church members and “friendliness” has become priority one for the unchurched. As well, teaching on modesty is seen as highly judgmental and not “seeker-friendly” towards those we seek to make comfortable in our churches.
On the other end of the spectrum there are segments of Christianity that dictate exactly what can be worn in terms of style, length and coverage. As I have personally witnessed, the rules are obeyed often times with the greatest of lawyerly care, and while keeping the letter of the law, the spirit of it is violated resulting in some very provocative and alluring styles of dress (even though length and coverage complies).
So, if you are looking for a list of rules, “do’s and don’ts” or a checklist…. you won’t find them in this series. Foundationally, this is not a matter of fabric inches, but one of a right heart.
Get the internal right, and the external will follow.
This principle is something that I repeat over and over in my writing. Some many times we are looking for a checklist, or set of rules… which is the easy way out. Checklists foster a “minimalist” attitude about Christianity… “how little can I do and successfully keep the rules?”. The motive behind that is “how much can I sin, and still be acceptable?”.
This is the very opposite of what a true Christian should be thinking. We should be asking, “what can I do to bring the most glory to God?”. And when it comes to the issue of modesty and clothing, this attitude alone is capable of cultivating true modesty in us and our children. Any time we take that approach of “what can I get away with?” our standards will plummet predictably. You can always find ways around the rules. But when you are dealing with attitudes and motives of a heart that is directed and monitored by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself, the externals will take care of themselves.
So as we discuss this list, keep in my my main point:
Modesty comes from Godly heart, not a checklist.
Get the internal right, and the external will follow.
Our Clothing Was Invented By God To Cover Our Bodies
It is appropriate to understand the purpose for clothing. If you grasp why God desires us to be clothed, then conversely you will understand why the increasing LACK of clothing is inappropriate.
Originally, the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, did not need clothing. Why? Because they were “not ashamed” (Gen 2.25). They had not violated any of God’s holiness by sinning. There was no lust, no immorality, no lewdness. The human body was the perfect creation of God. After Adam and Eve chose to sin and disobeyed God, that perfect holiness was lost and sense of shame came upon them (Gen 3.7-11).
Shame wants to be hidden. Shame wants to shrink back, cover itself and not be exposed. So from that point on, their bodies were now a source of shame because they were no longer in perfect fellowship and holiness with their Creator and God. So Adam and Eve took large leaves, sewed them together, and covered themselves.
Modesty is the natural solution for the shame caused by sin
and that shame has to be desensitized in order to be ignored.
This brings us to an interesting point about today’s culture. We are constantly being bombarded with the idea that the human body “is beautiful” and “God’s creation” and this is constantly used as an excuse for ever-increasing exposure of skin, and the intensifying of the sexual allurement of clothing. “Show what God gave you” is one of many wicked statements justifying the accentuation of the human body.
Deep down, every person knows that this overt immodesty we are seing today is wrong; that’s why a person doesn’t go from one day dressing appropriately, to “hooker wear” the next. It happens in small steps, whether on an individual level or a societal one. The inborn sense of modesty has to be desensitized and suppressed. The shame of “nakedness” is overcome through a series of small steps that push the “modesty boundary” a little further each time.
We are teaching our young children to
ignore the natural modesty they have.
Today, we think it is “cute” for our little girls to wear clothing that would be considered immodest on a teen girl or grown woman. What message is this sending to them? Are they supposed to figure out that “real” modesty begins at a later age in life? Just because a child is young and physically undeveloped, does not mean that modesty is not an issue. As children grow, they become naturally “ashamed” or embarrassed to be seen naked. Then we start chipping away at that modesty by teaching them to wear all the “cute, little-girl versions” of grown up sexy clothing (miniskirts, short shorts, bikini’s, etc). This desensitizes their natural sense of shame that comes from being uncovered.
For boys, this more typically begins in the teen years when “muscles” start showing. While we may see modesty as an issue for girls, boys showing off their muscles is basically a non-issue. Again, we are teaching them the ways of the world and stunting the natural “shame” that should come with showing off the human body for the purpose of attention and allurement.
God created clothing as the result of the appropriate and resulting shame that comes from sin. The basis of modesty comes FROM a desire to glorify God; it comes BECAUSE it is the natural result of the human shame for sinning against a perfect and holy God.
God then created clothing for Adam and Eve from animal skins. Why? Because the “shedding of blood” is always necessary to pay for man’s sin. This was a foreshadowing of the blood that Jesus would shed to “cover” our sin, and “clothe” us in righteousness (Gen 3.21)
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I’ve used the entire devotional this morning to develop this first point because it is important to understand the REASON we have clothing. Without this reason, it just becomes a subjective debate over what constitutes modesty, or worse, whether or not modesty is even an issue at all. After all, “God created the human body”; “the body is beautiful”; “it’s natural”; as we hear so often today. There is a spiritual war in full force to make modesty and holiness a “side” issue of the prudish and old fashioned.
But modesty has a purpose straight from God. It has it’s basis in our sinful nature and the resulting shame of violating God’s holiness. So far from being a side issue, in truth, it plunges right to the core of our relationship with God and affects every other aspect of our relationship with Him.
With the modesty of our society PLUMMETING at an alarming pace it is important that we as Christians be ready to teach, defend, explain and practice modesty according to God. As the world grows more wicked, sensual and immoral, modesty will increase as defining trait of holiness.
As I close today, remember, modesty only STARTS with what clothes you wear…. it is an attitude of the heart; a statement of holiness about your entire life; and a part of being a “living sacrifice”, pleasing and acceptable to God.
Lord, Help us to understand that modesty is an issue of the heart. Help us to know and understand the reason why You have made clothing and modesty a part of a holy life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you think short tight clothes on your four year old is cute, but on your fourteen year old is immodest? At what age should children be taught modesty? When does “cute” turn to “hooker wear”? Did you know that God instituted clothing? Did you know that God has a specific reason for clothing, and that it is a symbology of our salvation?
Application: Modesty is God’s solution to our shame; a shame that comes from our sinful nature. That shame can only be ignored after it is desensitized and suppressed. Modesty reflects our attitude about sin. As time goes on, and the world speeds towards a modern “Sodom and Gomorrah”, modesty will increasingly define the Christian from the world.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?