Exploring Modesty

I want to examine modesty from a different angle than Donal Graeme.

Donal makes the point that there are two types of immodesty:

  • Lust and sexuality — through the showing of skin or more.
  • Envy and jealousy — through show of status, wealth, money.

Chad has made the point before that immodesty concerns two other mortal sins instead:

  • Pride — the notion that “I can do what I want.”
  • Avarice — greed in terms of wanting excess attention or validation.

Obviously, I think that all of these views are correct in some way. The 7 deadly sins do apply to immodesty in a variety of ways because it puts what a person thinks is more important over what God thinks is important.

Specifically, the Scriptures talk about modesty on multiple occasions including peripherally:

1 Timothy 2:9-10 Likewise also 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 godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but 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.

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 11:22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

If you notice from the Scriptures, modesty and immodesty is almost always contrasted against a woman’s behavior. This is the flipside of physical appearances versus the internal condition of the heart and its influence on behavior.

Contrast this against the ideology of feminism. Most of the 2nd and 3rd wave feminists push for immodesty, but subsequently complain about women becoming sex objects. Logically, modesty is about women being valued for their behavior rather than being sex objects. Yet, feminists are angered when they dress immodest because then they are treated as sex objects.

If feminists really wanted “equality” or “equal opportunity” they would encourage modesty because that would allow women to compete on equal footing and not be valued for their physical appearance. Of course, we know that isn’t the case with feminists. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

Thus, we can see that modesty manifests itself in a dual nature:

  • It shows the inward state of the heart of the woman and whether she takes what God commands seriously.
  • It manifests itself outwardly to those around her — as part of her behavior — to see if she cares about others and relationships. If her desires are inward focused she gives into pride, envy, jealousy, greed, and the like rather than be focused on the Fundamental Nature of Christianity — unity in relationships with others and God.

Christians play the wrong game if we are inwardly focused as opposed to outwardly focused. Modesty is just but one indicator of selfishness versus selflessness. Also, this affects men too because women are definitely capable of lust.

1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his [i]neighbor.

Christians are supposed to be know for their actions — not for what they look like. However, taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit is indeed a good witness.

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15 Responses to Exploring Modesty

  1. okrahead says:

    Modesty is addressed to the women, especially by Paul. I’ve been considering this lately, especially in light of what I see at church worship services. So, as a few stray thoughts…
    1) If everyone present knows what kind of underwear you have on, you are probably not modestly attired.
    2) If you have to hold your top in place to avoid “spilling out” when you stand up from a pew, you are probably not modestly attired.
    3) If other people can see the tops of your thighs, whether they want to or not, you are probably not modestly dressed.
    4) If your “tramp stamp” is visible, you are probably not modestly dressed.
    5) Okay, tattoos, period… Not modest.
    6) If your t-shirt advertises that you “date” the swim team, you are probably not modestly dressed.
    I’m listing these because they are all examples of what I can actually expect to see during church worship services; all worn by women who claim to be Christians. If they do this in the green wood, what will they do in the dry?

  2. donalgraeme says:

    Interesting that you should mention Chad’s points. I actually had intended to address them as well, but lost track when I was reviving that post. My post was focused on the impact of modesty, or the lack thereof, on others. I didn’t really examine what might drive someone to act immodestly. Pride is definitely involved there. And avarice is connected to envy, and I used that in my original post before modifying it. But the frame he mentioned was the internal one, the greedy desire to direct attention towards oneself.

    The internal and external aspects of modesty are both important. In fact, all virtues and vices have internal and external aspects. I’m glad that you and Chad have addressed the internal components, in order to explore the issue thoroughly.

  3. Pingback: Wearing Thin | Donal Graeme

  4. @ okrahead

    It goes without saying that this does occur in many churches. Though, I’d like to see both men and women start to call out the behavior.

    That’s where the real rubber meets the road via Matthew 18.

    I think we let too many opportunities pass us by because we don’t want to say anything or maybe the incorrect thought that “it’s not our problem.”

  5. @ Donal

    Yeah, I think most Christians may be focusing too much on the physical appearance aspect of it.

    It really all goes back to the heart of the person(s) involved. 99.99% of the time the person has failed to examine their heart against God if they are pushing for immodest clothing.

    What I don’t understand is that there are definitely many dresses and skirts that are exceptionally pretty… but many women want to dress like the slut instead. Makes no sense to me.

  6. donalgraeme says:

    @ DS

    That isn’t surprising, really. Most Christians these days aren’t introspective enough to consider what is in their hearts. And don’t get me started on all those who say something along the lines of “I know this might make me a bad person, but I feel….” Ugh, hate that.

    However, the external is still a necessary thing to consider. We can never truly know another person’s heart, at least, not like God can. So we have to evaluate them by the fruit they bear. This requires some kind of yard stick to measure that fruit, which means some kind of external, objective standard of what modesty is.

    What I don’t understand is that there are definitely many dresses and skirts that are exceptionally pretty… but many women want to dress like the slut instead. Makes no sense to me.

    Makes perfect sense to me. Despite the protestations of 2nd wave feminists (3rd wavers are sex positive, so different response from them), women do in fact want to be sex objects. They desire the kind of attention that being “sexy” brings, as compared to merely pretty. Of course, they only that want attention from attractive men, but that is another matter. This is fallen, sinful female nature at work here. Nothing new here at all, as the Bible will attest. Remember, our base nature as human beings is dark stuff. Men are thugs and savage, and women are harlots and cruel.

  7. Chad says:

    Ok. A few points. I’ll copy this comment here and at donals so both sets of readers can see it, as it’ll touch on the same stuff.

    First – you both know my beliefs but not all the readers will. My definition of modesty:

    Modest attire is that which covers a woman’s body in such a way that puts the well being of her soul above her sexual appeal, Pride, and Vanity.

    Second, my definition requires a Catholic understanding of culpability involved in sin. I absolutely think that a woman that does not dress modestly bears part of the burden for sin for lusts she inspires. A great many women scream about how unfair that is to women to be burdened with men’s weaknesses, ignoring that men are burdened with a society built to accommodate women’s weaknesses. In addition, I hold men to the same standard for inspiring lust. I also do for inspiring pride. Chumps paying the way of single women are inspiring pride and, I believe, hold partial responsibility for the poor choices made by the pride they inspire in modern women.

    Third. Yes, there are allowances made for sports. However, no one has even bothered to address a question of, ‘if we need to make allowances on what we’d normally consider sinful, is it possible the activity is a poor choice for mixed sex groups?’. This is not just for swimming but for any sport requiring less clothes. Mixed sexes in those situations is relatively new.

    So, we should first ask which activities are suitable for mix company. Than we move from there

  8. Minimus says:

    Shouldn’t Elspeth’s blog, Loving in the Ruins be on your blogroll?

  9. @ Minimus

    I actually haven’t updated my blog roll in a while. It would be a good idea for me to soon.

  10. Pingback: Why modesty | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  11. Dying 2 Live says:

    @DeepStrength

    I had this discussion with a lady friend of mine. She’s from a missionary family in the Netherlands. Her argument regarding modesty is that it is cultural. That what may be immodest in our culture may be modest in another. She also had mentioned that modesty would have nothing to do with impurity and that a guy’s lust(in the States, at least) is due to the sexualization of American culture.

    What would you say?

  12. @ Dying 2 Live

    Three things.

    1. Purity, chastity, and the like are a direction not a line.

    Would you go up to Jesus and say: “what is the worst thing I can get away with without sinning?”

    2. Think of it in terms of dress lengths.

    A long dress is beautiful and feminine.

    A short dress is sexual.

    Why would you tend toward the sexual when you have the option toward beautiful and feminine?

    Short dresses are great… for husbands. They are selfish used anywhere else, especially in the public sphere.

    3. What is “acceptable” in each culture is different sure, but are we supposed to take our cues from the culture? No.

    James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained [ac]by the world.

    Taking cues from the culture leads to ruin.

  13. Dying 2 Live says:

    @DeepStrength

    Thanks. I was needing a second opinion on it. Yeah, I found it confusing when she said that because I believe the Church is supposed to be counter-cultural. That’s not to say we shouldn’t engage the culture. We have to.

    This started from an article I was tagged in and she responded. I’ll give you the link below. It’s called Dear Christian Men in tank tops. It was satirical, and it was about men and their issues with lust. She felt upset about men blaming women for their struggles with lust(to which, I agree. It’s ultimately our issue to deal with). However, her context sounded as though she wouldn’t do anything to help a guy and this brought on our debate. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but either way, check out the article and give me your thoughts.

    https://faithit.com/dear-christian-men-tank-tops-krysti-wilkinson/

  14. @ Dying 2 Live

    Relationships are a two way street.

    Paul repeatedly discusses this in his letter to the Corinthians. If your actions are causing some to stumble then don’t do that to be gracious to them.

    1 Corinthians 8:4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that [b]there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

    7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not [c]commend us to God; we are neither [d]the worse if we do not eat, nor [e]the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this [f]liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

    Obviously, this does not absolve the other side from exerting self control, avoiding eyes if need be, and so on. However, it’s important to recognize that both parties are to be gracious toward each other and not act out of selfish desire that harms the other.

  15. Pingback: Some additional thoughts on modesty | Christianity and masculinity

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