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What Scripture Teaches about Modesty

on April 2, 2014 by Jami Balmet 0 comments

An honest and open talk about modesty must begin with the Bible.

As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate authority for what we say, how we dress, how we act, and how we live our lives. It doesn’t matter what I have to say on the subject or what the world has to say. Ultimately, the only truth in this world is what Scripture teaches, and its teachings are all we need to run our lives.

What Scripture teaches about modesty

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16

God’s Word is truth. He gave us His holy Word so that we could learn how to live lives for Him. By reading and studying God’s word, the man (or woman) of God may be complete, and ready to handle EVERY good work. Scripture is sufficient to teach us all that we need to know about living a Christian life, parenting, work, ethics, morals, and yes, even how to dress. We must first know and grasp that before we can delve into how the Bible handles modesty and dress.

Scripture does not go into every detail. It doesn’t talk about hemline lengths or how tight is too tight. But it does give general principles on how to live a Godly life. From there we must go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to convict our hearts and show us His way for modesty.

1 Timothy 2 9 - 10


Modesty is an attitude

While Paul does not speak to specific guidelines when it comes to dress, he does call women to be modest and to have self control. The New Testament church, hearing this for the first time, would not have been confused on what Paul meant by modest dress. Many in the church that Paul wrote to were copying the fashion of the Roman ladies, which was provocative and extravagant. They dressed to seduce. In contrast, the woman of the church were expected to wear modest clothing that did not draw sexual attention to themselves.

Essentially, modesty is putting on an attitude of humility. Humility in dress, in speech and in life. A humble woman does not draw unnecessary attention to herself, but rather serves her brothers and sisters in humility.

Part of our modest and humble heart is serving those around us. The Bible commands us to not be stumbling blocks to one another. You may feel comfortable wearing a mini skirt, but chances are, it is causing a brother around you to stumble.

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

This verse is talking about eating food that was previously forbidden under the old law, but is now acceptable under the New Testament covenant. But, even in this context, where eating the food is acceptable by God, if it makes your brother stumble to eat it, then don’t. God clearly commands this, if it is causing your brother to stumble then it’s not okay.

Modesty from Time Warp Wife
Image from Time Warp Wife

We need to be careful to not take this to the extreme. Some men have such a problem with lust that looking at any woman in any condition will cause them to lust. We obviously cannot base modesty on them. But we should be concerned about the teenage boys in our youth groups, and the men across the pew, and the pastors in charge of our congregation. Are we making it difficult for them to stay pure at church and at Bible study?

And unfortunately, our modern fashion and clothing are designed for just that. Sex appeal. We must be careful to not buy into this fashion crazed culture. We can have some fun shopping and enjoy being trendy without causing our brothers to stumble or not being humble and modest in our dress.

C.J. Mahaney said it well:

Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality. 1

Likewise he shares what immodesty looks like:

Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.

Scripture commands that we dress modestly. God wants women to learn to be modest, self-controlled, and humble in our dress and how we act. We are also commanded to not be stumbling blocks to our brothers. This means wearing clothing that will not cause them to lust. Clothing that emphasizes cleavage, is too tight, too short, shows too much skin, too much leg, etc. Specific modesty guidelines will differ from household to household based on how the Lord convicts each person individually. 

But a good starting place is to read C.J. Mahaney’s God, My Heart, and Clothes. His wife, Carolyn Mahaney wrote an excellent pamphlet, the Modesty Heart Check, which helps outline certain styles of dress that may be less modest than others. Another excellent resource is to ask the men in your life.

Do you live at home still? Ask your father before you buy a new outfit or leave the home. I know, this sounds extreme if you are not used to doing this. But your Dad can give you an accurate idea of what MEN are thinking of when they see you in an outfit. What seems cute and innocent to us, can drive men wild. My husband greatly helps me with this. My husband can give his opinion and share how men might be seeing my outfit.

More in this series:

Cultivating a Modest Heart Series

1. C.J. Mahaney, God, My Heart, and Clothes Page 2.

Get instant free access to my Finding Joy in Your Home video course.

  • Do you want to discover more joy, peace, & tranquility within your home?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed and like your house is out of control?
  • Join my free course and learn the essential habits for Christian homemakers

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