Modesty: A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

What does it mean to be a modest woman? Is modesty just based on cultural and personal preferences? Is there a standard for modesty set forth in God’s Word? These questions and many more alike have been circulating the hot topic issues for years. In a society that often values beauty and sexuality above all else, it is no wonder that we are bombarded with advertisements and commercials for face creams that “take years off”, “sexy” models showing off “skinny” jeans, and lingerie ads that are pornographic at the most. Our culture has led the mindset of many women to believe “if you got it flaunt it”. This attitude affects every aspect of a woman’s life, and it is this author’s opinion that this prideful and selfish thinking has led to an increase in abortions, females viewing pornography, and more women in the church overstepping their God-given role. The purpose of this article is not to state opinions however, but to recognize that we (as a culture and as Christians) have a problem with modesty. Let us have an open heart as we examine what God’s Word says about this subject and a willing mind to change our thinking to be that of our Lord’s.

When we hear the word “modest” our minds often drift to thinking upon clothing and proper dress. That is not the meaning of this term in its entirety. Modesty involves a mindset that does not think too highly of one’s own abilities or appearance – In other words, a humble disposition. The root of the modesty issue lies in our hearts (Proverbs 23:7). Since sin is ultimately a heart problem the Bible emphasizes what kind of character God desires in His followers. We are to walk in humility to receive true honor (Proverbs 29:23; Philippians 2:5-8) not thinking ourselves better than others (Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 12:5-6). Christians are commanded to resist the urge to act prideful but to have the heart of a servant (Luke 22:25-27; 1 Peter 5:5). Some examples of modest individuals include Sarah (Genesis 18:12; 1 Peter 3:5, 6), Joseph (Genesis 41:16), David (2 Samuel 7:18), Daniel (Daniel 2:28-30), a centurion (Matthew 8:5-9), and possibly Vashti (Esther 1:11,12). When we learn from these examples and cultivate these qualities from God’s Word in our heart and mind, we will speak, act, and dress accordingly.

What we put on our bodies is an outward reflection of our mind. This is apparent from the Scriptures. Paul addresses Christians in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, giving them instructions concerning their conduct in the world. Specifically to women, the inspired writer states: “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” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10). Similarly, Peter wrote: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3, 4). Another passage that is noteworthy to mention is Isaiah 3:16-24. Here God, through Isaiah, warns the daughters of Israel whose thinking is opposite of what God expects for His people. The picture is of prideful women using extravagant fineries and outer garments to attract attention instead of living a life glorifying their Creator. Notice the imagery He uses, “walk with outstretched necks,” “wanton eyes,” “jingling anklets…bracelets…rings,” and “headdresses…leg ornaments…charms” (Isaiah 3:16, 18-21). These immodest women rather look like the worldly women around them than serve their God in submission and humility. As God’s women, we are not to be concerned with wearing the latest fashion or drawing attention to our bodies with excessive jewelry/extravagant clothing or too little of clothing. We are to be actively involved in conforming our minds to that which is right and just. God desires us to be more interested in spiritual beauty (“godliness”-“gentleness”-“quietness”), which will reveal itself in “good works”. That godly mindset will reflect itself in our behavior and clothing choice.

God Himself set forth the standard for modest dress in the very beginning with the first humans. After Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and their shame led to the making of coverings for themselves. We can imagine how poorly those fig leaves covered their bodies (especially after days of wear and tear, not to mention the over-exposure of the flesh). Thus, God provided appropriate clothing (animal skins) in order to cover up their nakedness (the first sacrifice for man’s sins). Genesis 3:21 states, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin and clothed them.” In Manners and Customs of the Bible Lands, Fred Wight states, “The simplest form of [the tunic] is without sleeves and reached to the knees and sometimes to the ankles”, (page 91; these garments were nothing like we imagine on Tarzan and Jane). Why would it matter what Adam and Eve wore since they were husband and wife and no other human was present at the time? Clearly, God (knowing the human population would increase) in providing clothing for man for the first time was setting a standard by which all humans were to abide. The purpose of covering up their bodies was due to the fact that they now knew good and evil (Genesis 3:22). This knowledge brought on shamefulness of their nakedness. Today, we (accountable persons – not babies) also know good and evil and should therefore be ashamed of our nakedness in public. God’s people should not practice sin nor cause others to sin (1 John 5:18; Matthew 5:28; Romans 14:13; Proverbs 6:25). This should motivate us (men and women) to cover our bodies as God desires. The God-approved example of clothing covers from the shoulders down to at least the knees. (See also Exodus 28:42-43: the priestly garments to cover their nakedness – Today, Christians are God’s priests – 1 Peter 2:9).

It is high time we as God’s women wake up and think more about the state of this world (lying under the sway of Satan) and the lost souls we encounter everyday rather than how many shoes/purses we can accumulate or the next piece of jewelry/clothing we can buy to be in style (1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 John 5:19). Too often we try to justify our clothing choices with such thoughts as: “If he lusts, that’s his problem”, “I can keep my short skirt/low-neck shirt pulled down/pulled up throughout the day”, or “I’ll be the only one not wearing a bathing suit at the beach”. The next time such a thought crosses our minds, let us ask ourselves if that is the mindset of our Lord. Let us ask ourselves if thoughts like that show a spiritual or a carnal mindset (Romans 8:5-10). We are called out of this world to something greater than being beauty queens, fashion models, or even the best dressed in the room; we are called to be daughters of the King of the Universe and “His own special people” (Galatians 5:13; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). We can be shining lights in this dark world, but we must start with ourselves.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Do special occasions (vacation, wedding) make null the commandment to be modest
  2. Since the first thing people see of us is the way we dress, how does that affect our reputation?
  3. Read Exodus 28:42 and Isaiah 47:2, 3. What does God consider nakedness? (The thigh is the area between the pelvis and the knee.) Do we need to wear clothing that shows our upper leg?
  4. According to the Bible, does God think “showing one’s nakedness” is serious or not that big of a deal?

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