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Let’s Talk Modesty

By Stacy McDonald

Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy. Leviticus 11:44

Joel and Marian joyfully stand up on the fourth pew at the church in which they were married 50 years earlier. Their two grandsons, 15 and 17, along with their parents, stand beside them. The oldest smiles at his grandmother and whispers, “Happy Anniversary” as he turns the pages of the old beloved hymnal, preparing to sing Marian’s favorite hymn, Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated. My, how times have changed in this old church since the day she married Joel. It used to be that young ladies dressed discreetly. Even if Christian modesty was not practiced at home, it was certainly respected in the worship service. Now today, 50 years later, she must cast her eyes downward, hoping her grandsons do the same, as the 3 young ladies in the pew in front of them wiggle their way to their seats. Short skirts and tight clothing leave little to the imagination. When did immodesty and nakedness creep into the church? How was it that God’s people didn’t notice? Was it our complacency or our active participation? “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee..”

One of the most controversial topics among Christian women today is the topic of Christian modesty. Why is something that is commanded in Scripture even questioned by God’s people? How could we, as a “Christian” nation, have degenerated so far in such a short period of time? Less than 100 years ago women would have been arrested for wearing what some ladies would unflinchingly wear to a worship service today! To our degradation, modesty and femininity are no longer common, or, in many cases, even desirable.

There is much we could discuss concerning modesty and the apparel of Christian men and women. However, since I am a woman, I will simply address the issues concerning women. Although it is true that men should dress modestly and decently as well, I will leave such details for discussion amongst the men. Neither will I attempt to delve into whether or not it is lawful for a woman to wear pants. Instead, my desire is to challenge you, my sisters in the Lord, to reevaluate what God’s Word says concerning modesty.

Many times we seem to be asking, “How much can I get away with before it is considered sin? How many articles of clothing may I shed before it’s considered wrong? How tight is too tight? How short is too short? How low is too low?” Instead my question to you today is, “What is God’s best?” Let us reason together and see what God’s Word tells us.

First of all, the Bible is clear that God wants His daughters to dress modestly.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 1 Timothy 2:9-10

We as women love to adorn ourselves. Before redemption, many of us “adorned” ourselves in provocative clothing that was purposely intended to entice and seduce men. Some may have adorned themselves in costly jewelry or expensive clothing to pridefully flaunt their wealth or status to others. How does God say we should “adorn” ourselves? “In modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” We must honestly ask ourselves (and our husbands!) if this
describes our current wardrobe. The Christian woman should not be “focused” on outward appearance. Men are attracted to the female form. If we’re showing ours off, purposely or not, we’re not being modest! Shorts show off legs. Plain and simple. Tight or low blouses show off other things. Pants can also show off the crotch area and the bottom. (I don’t know how to say that more politely!)

Secondly, God wants us to dress like women and be delightfully feminine (the way he designed for us to be). In case you haven’t noticed, God made men and women drastically different! It’s a shameful crime when society succeeds in convincing little girls they should be tough, ambitious and masculine and little boys that they should be soft, effeminate and pretty. It starts out with a few “innocent” twists of God’s design for men and women. Then this same evil deception and perversion leads to those fools who are under the delusion that they are “women trapped in men’s bodies” and “men trapped in women’s bodies.”

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5

Although I believe this Scripture is specifically referencing the Transvestite, what else can we learn here? Go to your local mall and watch the teenaged girls dressing and carrying themselves like gangster boys! Baggy jeans, t-shirts, short messy hair, pierced body parts! When we smudge
the clear lines of the differences in the sexes, this is where we end up! Open a magazine that has women’s business-wear in it. You’ll see slightly feminized men’s business suits. Even the shoes look like men’s! If it’s a business suit with a skirt, then the skirt is short and sexy and the rest looks manly! We have a wonderful medley of masculinity AND immodesty all packaged nicely for today’s modern career woman!

Thirdly, we do not want to be responsible for causing a brother to stumble. Sadly, few ladies consider their brother when choosing their attire. “It’s his problem if he lusts!” is the more common reply.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:28

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. Romans 14:13

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Romans 14:21

These are all issues we need to seriously consider when choosing our wardrobe. It is clear God wants us to dress in “modest apparel.” But does He leave it up to individual interpretation what “modest apparel” is? My neighbor thinks her leather mini skirts and halter tops are modest because she covers the important” areas. Does the fact that she *feels* she is being modest make it so? What about the pastor’s wife who wears short dresses and sits at the front of the church playing the piano as her skirt rises higher and higher? If she has decided in her heart she is being modest, does it make it right? Is everyone supposed to decide what is modest for themselves or does God give us any guidelines at all?

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. Proverbs 30:12

Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Isaiah 5:21


In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, (katastole) with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 1Timothy 2:9

What does the Greek word “katastole” (apparel) mean? In our modern society, the word apparel could mean a bikini! Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words tells us “katastole” is connected with “katastello,” which means “to send or let down, to lower” (kata, “down,” stello, “to send”), was primarily a garment let down; hence, “dress, attire,” in general (cf. stole, a loose outer garment worn by kings and persons of rank.) This describes a long, flowing robe-type garment.

The only time the word “katastole” is used is when it is describing how a woman is to dress AND it is a verse that is specifically addressing modesty. It describes a LONG, FLOWING, LOOSE, outer garment. All other references to “apparel” in the New Testament are gender neutral. They simply mean “clothing” or “to clothe.” We are to understand that as women, our clothing should be long, flowing and loose.

According to the Westminster Assembly’s Larger Catechism:

Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior, and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

Q. 139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto;
wanton looks, impudent or light behaviour, immodest apparel. and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

Although immodesty and nakedness is at an all time high in our country, it is not new to sinful man. John Bunyan preached against immodesty in his day as well! Consider his words:

“Why are they for going with their.naked shoulders, and paps hanging out like a cow’s bag? Why are they for painting their faces, for stretching out their neck, and for putting of themselves unto all the formalities which proud fancy leads them to? Is it because they would honor God? Because they would adorn the gospel? Because they would beatify religion, and make sinners to fall in love with their own salvation? No, no, it is rather to please their lusts.I believe also that Satan has drawn more into the sin of uncleanness by the spangling show of fine clothes, than he could possibly have drawn unto it without them. I wonder what it was that of old was called the attire of a harlot: certainly it could not be more bewitching and tempting than are the garments of many professors this day.”

My, my, wouldn’t John Bunyan be shocked by the “bewitching and tempting” garments of today’s “professors?” From what we have found in Scripture, long dresses, long skirts, long robes,
long and loose culottes or even pants if they can be described as long, loose and flowing (and not sheer) would be modest and feminine. Can short or tight skirts be described as long and flowing? Can shorts be described as long and flowing? What about blue jeans? You might be able to describe them as loose but are you convinced they are long and flowing? Can you describe a skirt that is slit up higher than the length of a dress you could wear decently, as modest? If the dress is too tight to walk without a high slit, maybe the dress is too tight to wear!

Therefore we are certain that God commands Christian women to dress modestly, to dress like women in a feminine manner and to not dress as to cause our brother to stumble. We have also learned that Scripture is not up for individual interpretation. God’s Word is the final authority in all we
believe, do and think. Don’t allow the world to set your standards of dress!

Dressing modestly will not get you to heaven. It will not make you a “better” person and it will not save your soul. What it will do is display obedience to the Word of God. It will reflect a heart that is submitted to Him and a desire to dress “to the glory of God!”

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

It is a sad day indeed when God’s chosen people flaunt their nakedness shamelessly all in the name of “Christian Liberty.” We live in a day when His precious sons and daughters wreak of the world and resemble more the heathen, than the elect.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate. 2 Corinthians 6:17

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Pet 2:9

The feminist cry from our heathen society is, “But it’s MY body and MY choice how I dress!! I’ll do what I want!” Is the cry much different from our congregations? “But it’s MY Christian Liberty to dress the way I want! Legalism! I will do what I think is right!”

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Romans 6:1-2

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6:13

Should we have the “liberty” to pick and choose what is worth obeying?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. II Timothy 3:16

Sisters, let us repent of our arrogance and rebellion. Let us turn to the Lord with a humble and contrite heart and may the God of mercy grant us pardon for our worldly and selfish desire to dress contrary to the glory of God.

If you haven’t honestly and earnestly sought God in how He would have you dress, then I urge you dear sisters to do so now! I pray God gives you the grace to walk and dress as befits a child of the King. In so doing, you are considering your brother, loving your neighbor and honoring your God.

And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. II John 1:5

By the grace of Him Who saved me, may I seek to give Him honor and glory in all that I do.and yes, all that I wear. “Take my will and make it Thine – It shall be no longer mine!”

©2001 The Patriarch’s Path. All rights reserved. Used with permission

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