Modesty. It’s an out-of-style word that makes most people cringe, even in the church. Debates about modesty have divided believers for years.
But, no matter how long you search, there is not a list of do’s and don’ts in the Bible pertaining to modesty. There isn’t a skirt length or style listed for all Christian women to wear. Modesty isn’t a list of rules; it is a reflection of our hearts.
The first clothing ever worn by man and woman was fig leaves. These fig leaves were a sad attempt by Adam and Eve to cover their sin and feeling of shame and guilt (Gen 3). But God, in His great mercy and grace, killed an innocent animal to provide for them durable, more suitable clothing. Like Adam and Eve, we have all tried to hide behind “fig leaves”—whether it be our clothing, our appearance, our titles, our family or our good deeds. When we, as women, wear clothing that barely covers our bodies, we are covering up insecurity, a need for affirmation or self-gratification. However, dressing modestly acknowledges the beauty and power of femininity. Dressing modestly doesn’t mean you’re ashamed of your body. Modesty is simply valuing what has value.
We have to evaluate why we wear what we wear. As Christian women, who are ambassadors for Christ and “citizens of heaven,” which kingdom are we representing through our clothing and dress? The attitudes of our hearts directly affect the way we dress and the message our outfits send to the world around us.
Do we point others to Jesus? Or do we distract them from the gospel? Our lives should look the same behind closed doors at it does at church. Our dress should be a reflection of who we worship. In his book When People Are Big and God Is Small, Edward T. Welch states that we either worship God, others or ourselves. Since Christ purchased my body on the cross, I am to steward it for His glory.
You Are a Temple
As a Christian woman, your body is the temple of the Living God. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20 states:
“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.”
“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
In the Old Testament, the Temple was cared for with extreme attention to detail. In Exodus, there are chapters of instructions given by God as to how the Temple was to be set up and cared for. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two. This veil originally separated the people from God’s holy presence. His sacrifice opened the door for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We are now the temple of the Living God. Modesty is more than we have deemed it. It is not about rules and regulations, but about the state of our hearts and the object of our worship.
Our clothing reveals where we find our worth. 1 Peter 3:3-4 states, “Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” When people look at me, I want them to see Christ. I want them to see someone who has been changed by the gospel and looks different from the world.
Questions to ask yourself before getting dressed each day:
- Does this display the gospel or distract from the gospel?
- Is what I am wearing going to bring someone down, make someone envious or cause them to struggle?
- Am I dressing to make myself known or to make Christ known?
- Do I find my worth in my outfit or in my identity in Jesus?