Let’s talk about Modesty

Last week I nervously talked about modesty to a group of middle and high school girls, not knowing how they would take it. I came back to my dorm room and thought, “oh boy, I wonder what they thought about that,” and “I really hope I spoke the truth in love.” I hopped in the shower and just prayed that at least one girl would take what was spoken to heart, and when I got out of the shower I had the sweetest message on my phone from one of the high-schoolers. She expressed her thanks for my devotional and talked about how different mine was. She said that she loved how I got “real and seriously showed what modesty is to its core.” And now that you’ve read my little story, I pray I can do just that right now, no matter how old you are.

Modesty has everything to do with who you are as a Christian. It truly has such a powerful impact on your life. With that being said, I want to define modesty how I will be talking about it. Modesty is the offspring of humility. The goal is to make the daily choice of choosing to focus more on Christ and less on yourself than you did the day before. I know that none of us will ever be able to live without a little bit of selfishness (because that is our human nature), but we can’t forget what has happened to those of us who are in Christ:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

Although death could not hold Jesus, our spiritual crucifixion is meant to be final. God does not wish for us to resurrect the old person that constantly seeks itself and lives in ways that deny Him. Dying to ourselves means that even though we have the desire to do sinful things, we don’t do them because of our commitment to Christ. “Christian” becomes our identity, and Christ is meant to be the very core of who we are.

When talking about modesty, Jesus truly is the greatest example of modesty that we have.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” -Mark 10:45 (ESV)

Christ laid down His life for those less important than Him. Although He was the Son of God, He poured out Himself in humility, allowing us the change to become new creations through His blood. He knew that there would be plenty of people who would curse His name and mock Christianity. He knew that a lot of people would never obey Him. He knew that a lot of people would claim to be Christians yet totally deny Him by the way the live. But, He also knew that many (like us) would obey and be faithful to His sacrifice and words.

“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” -Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)

Jesus was submissive as a lamb to the slaughter. A lamb has no way of knowing what’s about to happen to it when it is led to be killed. But, our Savior knew every single gruesome detail before He ever set foot on this earth. He knew that He would be beaten, spat upon, and then lifted onto the cross, brutally killed for things He didn’t even do. And what did He say in reply? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was God— He had all the power in the world to stop it, yet, out of love for you and me, the Great Shepherd became the Sacrificial Lamb.

“Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” -Matthew 26:42 (NKJV)

Jesus gave up His own desires and did what His Father instructed. You see, Jesus knew that His sacrifice was part of the Father’s will. Similarly, if we are Christians, we must give up things in our lives to better fit the Father’s will. It doesn’t matter how “stupid” or “pointless” we think something is. We have to realize that just like Christ’s sacrifice for our sake was God’s desire, our personal sacrifices for Christ’s sake is God’s desire too. We must give up our selfishness and replace it with God’s selflessness.

We must be a people of faith— a people who choose to act as Jesus would and reflect Him in every single situation, every single day, because we love Him.

In connection with modesty being a form of humility, to be modest is to humbly outwardly express your inner purity. This means that your heart is devoted to Christ above anything else. When you dress modest, you are expressing the idea that God owns you and that you are not your own anymore.

“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.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

So many girls today forget that they were bought at this extremely high price of Christ’s blood and sell themselves in real life and on social media for so cheap.

They show off every inch of bare skin they have, and they find themselves wearing so-called “cute” outfits for the sake of being trendy or fitting in. It honestly hurts my heart to see so many girls seeking their worth from the society around us. It’s simply not healthy to the Christian lifestyle. People let their desire to fit in and be “comfortable” control them, forgetting that God is the one who has told us to stand out, be uncomfortable, and give up our personal desires for His desires.

I definitely used to be more relaxed on modesty. I honestly didn’t really take it that seriously. The rule in my house growing up was that shorts were supposed to be to the knee, but when I got in high school, my parents started letting me make more of my own choices, so naturally, I started to wear my shorts just above the knee, and then soon enough it became mid-thigh, which quickly turned into mere inches below my butt. Please understand that those aren’t times I’m proud of, and I am in no way blaming my parents for my own actions. I wore that stuff because I wanted to fit in with my friends and be “cute” like them. It wasn’t until one of my best guy friends at the time lovingly told me the way that most Christian guys actually see modesty, and my whole outlook changed.

Now, anyone who’s ever had to do a closet clean out with clothes that didn’t fit anymore knows how hard it is to get rid of all that stuff. It’s like you’re still attached to it, even though you know it’s too small. But you see, these clothes really didn’t fit me anymore. Sure, they fit me physically, but they didn’t fit the name “Christian” that I had been wearing for almost 9 years. So with that, I got rid of anything that showed cleavage, anything that was too short, anything that was too sheer, anything that was too tight— basically anything that brought too much attention to a part of my body that only my future husband deserves.

Through all of that, I learned that it’s not about how close to the line you can get without going over it, but rather, it’s about how close you can align your heart to God’s standards.

Here’s the truth: we all struggle with something, and we probably don’t know what the brother or sister next to us is struggling with. As Christians, we should strive to not put a stumbling block in someone else’s path. 

Say you’re trying to stop gossiping, and your friends know that. But day after day, they come to you, constantly telling you the latest drama happening in your friend group. They’re so excited about it, they’re all up in your face about it, they’re texting you about it, there’s just no way to avoid it. Would it be easy for you to avoid gossiping in that situation? Would you feel like people are helping you to avoid sin or that they’re just making your life harder? It’s the same way with modesty. If a Christian guy is trying to keep a pure mind and not look at women in an inappropriate way, would you be helping him or hurting him by the way you’re dressing?

In 1 Corinthians 8:12-13, Paul addresses this exact issue: “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Because God has commanded us to be modest (1 Timothy 2:9-10), we should follow up with it that much more in order to help our brother.

“but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” -Matthew 18:6 (ESV)

A millstone can weigh up to 3,000lbs. Jesus is literally saying here that it’s better for you to drown with a 1.5 ton weight around your neck than live if you’re going to cause other people to sin. With that being said, aren’t we all just trying to get each other to heaven? I personally don’t want to be the reason someone can’t enter into heaven, because I wanted to do whatever I wanted. It’s hard, but we should be willing to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of someone else’s soul.

I got several Christian male perspectives on this issue actually. You may still be thinking that this isn’t as big of a deal as I’m making it, but sister, please listen to their words.

Three high-school to college-age guys answered each of the three questions below.

  1. How do immodestly dressed girls affect you?
    1. Overall, negatively. It leads to immature and impure thoughts, that are still my responsibility to handle and contain, but it still makes the situation difficult.
    2. Immodestly dressed girls distract my mind from whatever the subject or focus is of the situation. It creates a new train of thought which is unrelated to the situation. This newly created train of thought is sexual and often sinful. It can be either attractive (pleasant) or unattractive (unpleasant), and still the thought turns into lust. It is a huge distraction to the mind from being fully present— not necessarily only what my eyes see, but where my mind goes from there. It definitely leads to sin. It causes someone else to stumble in their faith.
    3. It depends on the situation. Sometimes it is gross and I’m disgusted, and other times it leads to inappropriate thoughts. Either way, it doesn’t affect me positively in any way. 
  2. How does it affect your view of them?
    1. This depends on the extent and situation. Say, if I saw someone in a one piece at the beach, that would be much better than seeing a two piece, but still a dress or regular attire that reveals as much as a one piece would would not be modest. It definitely has an effect on how I look at someone, and it is not in a good way, especially when they claim to be a member of the church.
    2. Unless said girl is a truly close friend of mine, my view of the girl does not change much at all. That is partially because we as a society have become so numb to it. We see immodestly dress girls hundreds of times a day. We have immodest thoughts hundreds of times a day, unrelated to seeing an immodestly dressed girl. However, the biggest point of why it doesn’t change my view of the girl is because it makes her an object in the mind. Lustful thoughts of an immodest girl are of the object. Not her as a person. Therefore the opinion of her as a person is not affected. You forget about the depth of her humanity. She becomes a faceless object as a means for a way of pleasure, and nothing more than that. The only time my view of the girl is affected is when she is a close friend. Because you see her as a person. You can’t detach her personality and face to make her an object. It hurts because you care about her as a person with depth, and don’t want that to be forgotten if she is only seen as an object. She deserves more. It’s a shame she has brought herself down to lower standards, like she doesn’t respect herself enough.
    3. Seeing a woman dress very immodestly will instantly ruin my respect for them in a spiritual way. If it is someone that I would have previously thought could be very spiritual, that would be very damaged by seeing them dress immodestly. If the spiritual life is important to you, the way you present yourself should be important as you live by example. Dressing immodestly is the opposite of a Christ-like example. 
  3. What is modesty to you?
    1. To me, it is respecting yourself and your body by not exposing what shouldn’t be seen by anyone but you and your spouse.
    2. To me modesty is self-respect. It is self-love. It shows that you care enough about yourself to have the standard that a guy who is attracted to you is attracted because he likes YOU. Not an image of you. Not a fake you. He likes you, not a faceless object. You don’t need any extra help attracting a guy, because you are attractive enough without considering how you make your body look. Modesty shows you care about guys. It shows that you don’t want to be the reason that he could stumble. It shows that you respect a guy enough that you realize he is intelligent enough to understand the depth of your person, not some vain being only capable of seeing an object through his eyes. Modesty shows you care about yourself and about others.
    3. Modesty is kinda two main things for me, both relating to how you display yourself to people.
      1. It is the display of yourself. Not what you wear, but how you act. It’s the general idea of being modest in a humble-type manner. For example, “This person is modest about their skills.”
      2. This deals with the same exact meaning, but in the manner of what you choose to wear. 1 Timothy 2:9 discusses being modest by not wearing things that draw undue attention to yourself. Not just things that are too tight, but things that are too flashy and showy to grab people’s attention…Either way, modesty is something that comes from the heart.
      It isn’t just a feeling of sticking to the rules or being modest because I have to. It is about covering and saving the very sight of your body that God has made for your spouse, because it is a gift for them only. It is consciously trying to watch what clothes you wear so that you don’t draw undue attention to yourself. Not because you should be ashamed of how God made you, but because your body has a purpose, and you would be wasting that beautiful moment that a married couple should share by showing it off before it can be theirs and theirs alone.
      Modesty is from the heart.

So you want to attract a good Christian guy? So you have a daughter who you want to marry a wonderful Christian man one day? THIS is what Christian guys are thinking. Modesty definitely matters to them, and girls need to hear that.

I was talking to two of my good friends about all of this a few weekends ago, and one of them led me to a passage in Scripture that I had no idea even existed. Most of you are familiar with the fact that before Jesus was offered as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, God commanded burnt offerings and sacrifices. When the priests went in to offer these sacrifices, they had specific guidelines for dress. It was God’s intention that their clothing be reverent and modest. They were approaching the presence of God, after all. The guidelines that we’re about to see in this passage that Aaron and his sons were to follow was no exception.

So you shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him. You shall anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me as priests. And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him.” -Exodus 28:41-43 (NKJV)

Although God never commands a certain length of shorts or dresses that you wear, it is very clear that God has guidelines for His people and that He does not appreciate nakedness.

If your outfit does not look like something someone who professes Christ on a daily basis should be wearing, maybe you shouldn’t either. If your attitude does not show Christ, maybe, just maybe, you need to change it. We are to reflect Christ and do our best to not cause anyone to stumble.

To be modest is to put on Christ. True Christians step back and let Jesus take over their heart, mind, and actions. It’s not about what we want to wear or say, but rather what God expects us to do. We don’t have to compete with the world to fit in or discover our social status, because Christ has already given us the status of being covered by His blood. God cannot fellowship with sin, so a pure heart is the absolute goal.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” -Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

God takes fragile human hearts like ours and repurposes them for His glory. He not only picks up the broken pieces and puts it back together, He washes it as clean as can be with the blood of His Son so that one day we can stand before Him one day and enter into heaven’s gate.

C.S. Lewis once said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”

If we are constantly striving to do God’s will above our own and ask forgiveness when we fall short, our hearts will be able to reach the purest form. That is what true beauty is before God. Modesty is an attitude that comes from an understanding and commitment to honoring God. It’s safe to say that the woman who is serious about her faith will be acting and dressing modestly. She will want to express her purity in not only what she wears, but in what she thinks and says as well.

Bottom line, modesty is an attitude that affects the way you dress that comes from a humble heart seeking to reflect Christ.

Anna Hudson
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