How do we in the body of Christ define ‘Modesty’?
Our study text is found in 2 Timothy and 1 Peter as follows:
8 In every church service I want the men to pray, men who are dedicated to God and can lift up their hands in prayer without anger or argument. 9 I also want the women to be modest and sensible about their clothes and to dress properly; not with fancy hair styles or with gold ornaments or pearls or expensive dresses, 10 but with good deeds, as is proper for women who claim to be religious.
In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word, 2 because they will see how pure and reverent your conduct is. 3 You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. 4 Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God’s sight. 5 For the devout women of the past who placed their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful by submitting themselves to their husbands.
This is a tough question, not because it’s undefinable but more because it treads into the waters of pandora’s box because as with another topic in this forum which was regarding ‘secular music’, there is so much left to interpretation, individual opinion and cultural norms.
I will say that among Christians in the church-those who have been born again, saved, redeemed and filled with the Spirit, there is still entirely too little modesty. The world has so seeped into the body of Christ, literally infecting everything these days, then when you confront someone about it, it tends to lend to unwanted backlash and the proverbial ‘don’t judge me lest you be judged’ jargon instead of, being received with humility with a heart bent towards pleasing God.
I will also say that modesty with regards to ‘dress attire’ applies not only to women but also to men. When looking up the definition of ‘modesty’, I found 3 separate descriptions:
1.) the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities.
2.) the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level.
3.) behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.
The 3rd one is usually the most typified definition when trying to define or enforce modesty within the body of Christ but, the other two are important as well and seem to find their place more alongside walking in humility and meekness.
I believe the longer one walks with the Lord, the greater modesty they will exhibit. It’s a bit subjective to each person but I will say that most have some sense of commonality with modest dress in the church. A woman wearing mini skirt, see through tops, bottoms 2 sizes too small (so that nothing is left of the imagination) neck lines so low everything is hanging out, ect. are things I think most can agree on as being inappropriate. With men as well; obviously half shirts, tank-tops at times, super tight pants and shirts, ect. If we approach it looking through others’ eyes, asking ourselves ‘Will this cause someone to stumble or lust’, I believe we will typically make better choices. And additionally (and more importantly), asking the Lord if what we are exhibiting is modest or not. No one is saying we must dress from head to toe in cloth, with no earrings, no perfume, no make-up…well you get the point. But neither is the other extreme appropriate either. Both legalism and lewdness are incorrect extremes. The Lord wants us to find balance and more importantly, respect for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Much of this comes down to our hearts and their true condition before the Lord. And even though the scriptures typically address women, the question of modesty is applicable to men today. Initially many in the body of Christ find this issue of ‘modesty’ restricting then quoting how we who have been redeemed have ‘freedom in Christ’. But also we see the Bible specifically address freedom that we are not to use our freedom as a ‘license to sin’ or ‘a cover up for evil’. We in the body of Christ need to be willing to adhere to the scriptures in every aspect of our lives so that in all things, Christ may be glorified and the message of the Gospel will be proclaimed and made appealing to all who would hear.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. (Phil 2:14-16)