A New Kind of Modesty

Andromeda:  Textile Macro

Andromeda: Textile Macro by cobalt123, on Flickr

I walked down the high street of Cork, my head down, my ears dulled, and my heart aching. The atmosphere of the world washed over me like a warm wind laced with acid. I felt miserable. Every view my eyes beheld had an immodest diva as the centerpiece, framed by sensual suggestions. My stomach churned. I hate shopping. A strange glimmer of something caught the attention of the corner of my eye, and I glanced up. My eyes locked, and I smiled.

A girl. A real girl. Long hair. Long skirt. Subdued dress. Tastefully adorned. Probably homeschooled. Definitely Christian. Very pretty. At least to me she was. She might not be garishly redone and pimped like an android from Venus, but she was clean and wholesome. The sight of her refreshed me to no end as she walked through the teeming crowds of the world’s charms.

The winds of fleshly temptation blew about me unheeded; the heat of devilish suggestion beat upon me unnoticed. God had sent an angel to refreshen me in my battle, and even when she had gone, my heart was renewed, my eyes were alight with resolve, and my smile remained.

-a generic retelling of an all too infrequent occurrence in my life

Oooooh…! Jay is looking at girls!” I hear you say.

Yup. I do that.

Go ahead and gasp all you like; I am not apologizing. I want to talk about this. I want to encourage young ladies like the one described above (who I have never yet met, though I think I have seen the same one a few times here and there) in what they are doing. And to encourage those who aren’t, to start.

Please note what I saw in this girl: her outside features. All I could see was her clothing and her head. And yet I was inspired, encouraged, lifted, strengthened, and exhorted. How was that? The answer is pretty simple actually:

Clothing is a part of language.

Honestly, it is. It is a part of language just like body language or speech. This has been true as long as there have been clothes… in fact the first occurrence of clothes in the Bible (and in the world for that matter) emphasized this fact (Genesis 3:7-21). This quality of clothing is inescapable.

So what did this girl’s clothing say to me?

I am a Christian. I serve God with my heart and my body. I yield my personal desires to His requests. I seek to please Him in all I do. God is glorious, and worth serving. God has changed me. I am not beat down or trampled on: I am living joyously and full of life. I want to save myself for marriage, and I want to help you do the same. Live for God.”

Nice little sermon there, huh?  And that is why her appearance was like a drink of refreshing water straight from the fountain of life: she was glorifying God. She was pointing straight to Him. And His presence was there in that, blessing both her and me. And that was what gave me strength.

Of course I hear you saying, “But what if she doesn’t believe those things? What if she isn’t trying to say those things?” Well, the answer is rather obvious: there is a miscommunication. *grins*

But it doesn’t matter very much to me. See, if someone accidentally says they hate me, and I forgive them, it makes no difference to me than if they had really meant it and I forgave them. I react the same, and I am right to do so.

If someone gives out Bibles in an attempt to go undercover and subvert, destroy, and otherwise attack a church, those Bibles are not blocked from helping people. Lost may still become saved through his efforts, even if he didn’t mean it.

So it is with clothes. Whether you mean what they say or not, they still say it.

Therefore we all ought to take heed to what we wear to make sure we are saying the right thing.

Now, as with learning any language, there is a lot involved. Thankfully the Bible helps us out a ton in figuring this out (believe it or not, the vast majority of the language of clothing is not cultural, but built into us by God, and laid out in His Scripture). Unfortunately, there is also a ton of controversy on every single standard of communication that is in the Bible. Go figure. Lexicology is tough.

I want to focus on one particular part of this, though: adorning.

Leaving aside the standards of modesty, femininity, and cultural significance (assuming we are at least reasonably in agreement on those, though it would be surprising if we were), of course, because those would take a looooong time to go through.

I want to examine two passages in the Bible: 1 Timothy 2:8-10, and 1 Peter 3:1-5. This will be an exercise in hermeneutics, so hang with me. 🙂

Here is the first:

1 Timothy 2:8-10 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

9 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;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And the second:

1 Peter 3:1-5 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your
chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.
3
Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God,
adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

It is good to take these two in context with each other, since they are talking about the same topic, to a similar audience, in related contexts, and thus act as commentaries on each other.

There are two key words that tie these passages together (among other things of course): Conversation and Adorn.

Conversation means your way of life, plain and simple. 1 Peter actually mentions this word twice, and additionally uses the concept at least 3 times. 1 Timothy does not use the word, but uses the concepts around three times. The theme of these two passages is actually not really clothing, but your lifestyle in general.

This is what I was talking about just a bit ago: these passages are teaching us how to communicate godliness through our actions, including our dress.

Adorn is the important word. It is used in both passages, and provides the key to interpreting them.

ADORN’, v.t. [L. adorno, ad and orno, to deck, or beautify, to dress, set off, extol, furnish.
1. To deck or
decorate; to make beautiful; to add to beauty by dress; to deck with external ornaments.
A bride adorneth, herself with jewels. Isa 6.
To set off to
advantage; to add ornaments to; to embellish by any thing external or adventitious; as, to adorn a speech by appropriate action, sentiments with elegance of language, or a gallery with pictures.
3. To make
pleasing, or more pleasing; as, great abilities adorned by virtue or affability.
4. To display the
beauty or excellence of; as, to adorn the doctrine of God.

Webster’s 1828, of course.

According to Strong’s, every Greek and Hebrew word translated as ‘adorn’ in the Bible has the same definition presented here: to make beautiful by decorating.

With this definition, we are immediately presented with a logical problem.

1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

So, at first glance, this would say that women are not supposed to braid their hair or wear gold or… wear clothes?

Then you think, oh, right, it says ‘adorn’ not ‘wear.’ Therefore we aren’t supposed to decorate ourselves with those things.

Which means women are not permitted to put anything on them which would make them beautiful. Even worse, they are not allowed to put anything on them that will make them not ugly (otherwise it would adorn). In which case the Muslims got it right. 😛

This view is untenable, not because of the Muslims, but because in other parts of Scripture, women are commanded to adorn themselves for their husbands… with jewels (which would defeat the purpose of this verse entirely, with this interpretation at least).

An example:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.

Another interpretation is that they shouldn’t wear clothes at all, which is, ahem, obviously not the right one.

These are the interpretations you get if you look at only this verse. The only way to understand it correctly is to look at the context.

1 Peter 3:4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

The wearing of ornaments is not contrasted with drab apparel, but with a different adornment: good conversation. This is born out also in the sister passage in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And if you look at the example that Peter gives, it becomes even more clear (isn’t it great how the Bible interprets itself?):

1 Peter 3:5-6 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Notice how it didn’t praise Sara for dressing in a bland and ugly fashion, but by pointing out her beautiful spirit.

And that is the point. This passage is exhorting women to make sure that their primary adornment is that of their spirit. If their clothes outshine their conversation, then that is not a good testimony.

They are saying the wrong thing.

Yes, women can wear gold, jewelry, braids, and even quality clothes fit for a princess of the King of kings; as long as their soul, their walk with God, their good works, their faith, their meekness, their sobriety, their shamefacedness, comes forth with yet greater splendor. In fact they must shine forth to such a degree that those are the things that people see first and talk about.

Ezekiel 16:8-14 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time [was] the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
10 I clothed thee also with
broidered work, and shod thee with badgers‘ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
11 I decked thee also with
ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
12 And I put a
jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
13 Thus wast thou decked with
gold and silver; and thy raiment [was of] fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy
beauty: for it [was] perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

This is the word picture that God used to describe His redeeming work in Israel’s life, and ultimately, in our lives. God would not have used this word picture, which describes in fascinatingly vivid detail putting costly array (and even gold) on a girl, if He disapproved of those very things.

The focus of these verses is to exhort women to make sure their conversation outshines their adornment, not to forbid women from wearing gold or braiding their hair (etcetera).

This true interpretation is born out in the definitions and usage of the words in the context of 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 2:9 …that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.

Shamefacedness is easy: it is the opposite of ‘bold’, very close to ‘shy’ or ‘bashful.’ They do not put themselves forward.

Sobriety does not exclusively refer to the absence of drunkenness: it means “Habitual freedom from enthusiasm, inordinate passion or overheated imagination; calmness; coolness; as the sobriety of riper years; the sobriety of age.” Again, reserved, not putting yourself forward.

Modest really doesn’t only refer to sexual chastity, that is actually not even the primary definition. Webster has practically a sermon in his two definitions on this subject (‘modest’ and ‘modesty’), and I wish I had the space to quote it all here, but I am sure you have noticed that this post is fast becoming a book. But here is a snippet:

Not bold or forward; as a modest maid. The word may be thus used without reference to chastity.

Almost enough said, but I can’t leave without quoting this gem (pun intended) found at the end of Webster’s definition of modesty:

In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.

He likes to wax eloquent, doesn’t he? 🙂 But the point is made well.

God wants us to be beautiful for His glory, just like a flower, or a waterfall, or a sunset glowing over the horizon of the ocean.

But we have been given a great gift that God did not give to these things. Above and beyond this sort of beauty, God has given us the capacity to radiate His splendor through our actions and our spirits.

And that is the mark of a child of God, when we do that.

P.S. I want to link to another post on this subject by a good friend of mine, Mrs. Parunak, on her blog Pursuing Titus 2. We don’t disagree on much. 🙂 But we do happen to disagree on this point, and her article, in fact, inspired me to write this one. Mine is a bit longer, though. 😛 I am not here to refute her at all (though I do welcome her to comment and let me know what she thinks, and if I missed anything). The only reason I am linking to her article, is because she does a great job presenting the contrary view.

http://pursuingtitus2.com/2010/09/07/you-might-need-to-take-a-deep-breath-for-this-one/

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54 Responses

  1. Thanks for that, Jay.
    In a town where literally no one else makes a stand, it is hard to keep trying, and sometimes I do give way a little. I will try to keep trying by God’s grace. *thinks of a few things I need to get rid of*
    It’s a blessing and a great encouragement when you know that getting all those painfully odd looks off people isn’t just the only reaction.
    I hope someone encourages that girl and she keeps standing.
    And I wish more guys had the guts to say thanks. It would cause less faltering. (Not that that’s an excuse. Just a wish.)

    I braid my hair to get it in a bun and wear pearls, so. 😛 But it’s not the most important thing in life – being like Christ is. In some areas, the Bible is literal and in some figurative…kinda wish people would see the difference, sometimes. 🙂

    God bless.

    • You are welcome. I am glad it was an encouragement to you. 🙂

      Yes, those who are blessed by your stand are less obvious in their reactions, thankfully. 😛

      I don’t think ‘figurative’ is quite the right word here. It is literal, just people misunderstand what it is literally saying. 😀

  2. Because this subject annoys me to the core: http://cassandriva.blogspot.com/2010/10/my-kind-of-modesty.html

    Really. One of my biggest pet peeves are self-righteous Christians telling me how I should dress. If I go around naked God will still love me and forgive me. Geez.

    • Yes, it is pretty annoying when people get mixed up on this issue. Of course, it is extremely controversial too, so I learned a long time ago to stop being annoyed. Saves a lot of stress-energy. 😉

      Anyways, I agree with your comment (the one about God loving you). God loves rapists and murderers too, though, so I really don’t think it proves anything. * chuckles * If you mean that God doesn’t mind you ignoring what He wants, then I would disagree, of course.

      I read your article, and it gave me a few chuckles (like the one above). I am glad we agree that beauty is a good thing, though. Just as long as the beauty does not violate the other things God wants in our dress (including purity and chastity).

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

    • yes, it was amusing because I was ranting.

      but all the same, my point remains. I think that modesty should fit the time and situation.

    • * nods * Yes. I agree. Though what that means, and how it would be applied would probably differ a ton between you and me. 😀

  3. Good post. I am actually studying 1 Peter–have been for over a year now–with a group of guys and we discussed 1 Peter 3. I think it’s important to that God cares above all about the heart. If you wear what some might consider to be immodest because you want to fit it, then I would say you need to repent (change your mind). If you wear it because you like that kind of clothing, or if you’re like me you wear whatever purely to look different, then I would say there isn’t a problem with that. Where the problem comes in is when your clothing causes someone to stumble.

    Samii – While I am not going to definitively tell you how to dress, I must say that when I see girls is short shirts and short skirts, it’s hard to keep my mind focused on God. This is why whenever I went swimming (I don’t now for obvious reasons). I wore a shirt. I didn’t want to cause anyone to stumble.

    • There is a lot in that passage, definitely.

      Yes, intentions are important, but remember, if you break God’s standards because you ‘wanted to’ for whatever reasons, even if they are ‘godly’ reasons, it doesn’t matter: you still broke His standards. As you said, the problem is where you are tempting other people to stumble.

      I think one of the main points of this post is to encourage girls to help their brothers in Christ in their struggles (like the girl above), not become one of the enemy in their battles. (By ‘become one of the enemy’ I mean they attack my purity by their dress.)

    • I really think modesty is an over used issue. OF ALL the things we could think about… Really.

      But either way. I wear what I wear because I like it. Not in any desire for any sort of attention. I just like it. I think it looks cute on me and I feel comfortable and happy when wearing my clothes. Over half of modesty comes fro attitude and intent. Way over half.

    • I don’t harp on it much at all, but I try to give it the weight that God gives it. A lot of people pass it off as less important than it really is, so I try to help rectify that a bit.

      Ah yes, that is true. Someone can act like a whore in a burqa too. I don’t really think it works the other way very well, though.

    • Acting modest in, say, skinny jeans? (that seems to be something the ‘ultra-modest’ people have issue with. I’m not sure why. Skinny jeans are the MOST unflattering thing you will EVER wear, w/e).

      Quite easily. Don’t flaunt.

      Its all in a matter of presentation. Which is always why ugly girls always end up with dozens of hangers-on. they are TRYING to get attention, whereas many pretty girls just let themselves be themselves, confident in their appearance don’t. See it all. the. time.

  4. Thank you, Jay!

    Being a man, I don’t know how much you’ll realize this, but it is truly refreshing to hear such a bold affirmation of biblical modesty from one of the male sex.

    Dress is certainly an area that I do not take lightly. Of course, part of that is because I’m a girl; girls naturally care about how they look. But, going along with what you said about dress being a communicator, that is something that I truly think of and care about. I’ve realized that when I dress in lounge wear (T-shirt, sweatpants, etc. [I actually don’t own a pair of sweatpants; that was just to get the point across ;)]), I don’t act to the full capacity that I know I am capable of. But when I have a skirt on, my hair is neat, and my blouse is not wrinkled or faded, I find that I carry myself in a more noble fashion, my speech is thought out and my vocabulary put to good use. I also find when I do dress in a more professional fashion, younger men treat me with more dignity and act in a manner that is noteworthy of a gentleman (a sloppy one, perhaps, but still…). And, obvisouly, that is not my end goal in my manner of dress, to gain the respectable attention from a male.

    As a Christian young woman, I feel that it is my responibility to not only refrain from being a stumbling block to the men (modesty), but also to communicate a sense of grace paired with nobility and humility paired with knowledgeable communication.

    Again, thanks for the post – and I have no bones to pick with this one. 😉

    • I have heard that it makes a difference when a guy makes a stand on this issue, which is one of the reasons why I am intending to make this into a series on biblical dress standards. 🙂

      That is an effect that is very well documented among secular and Christian cultures both. Not only do we communicate to others by our dress, we communicate to ourselves, and to God.

      Thanks for the comment! It is appreciated. 🙂

  5. Interesting that you bring this up now Jay. Currently I’m listening to an excellent four part sermon series on the issue of Modesty by Doug Wilson. I would warn you though don’t just go and read or listen to anything by Doug Wilson he has a lot that both you and I would disagree with very strongly, such as the belief that baptism saves. However, on this issue I really like the stance he that he has taken a strong stance and has defended the idea of modesty from the scriptures better then anyone else I have ever heard on the subject.

    Here are three things he wrote on the subject, much of which concurs with what you wrote Jay.

    http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3976:Heart-Lusts&catid=90:deuteronomy&Itemid=1

    http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3906:The-Glory-of-Modesty-1-Timothy-28-15&catid=34:parable&Itemid=1

    http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2489:An-Apology-for-Feminine-Modesty&catid=84:sex-and-culture&Itemid=1

    I think pretty soon I will do a post on my blog on the topic of modesty soon as well. If you don’t mind ;). I have actually been wanting to write one for a long while now, and you given me the urge to start writing it again.

    • Hey Ethan!

      Yes, just from reading the first of those I can see where we would differ on things. Haha. But I will take the time to read all three, they seem to have some good stuff in them. 🙂

      I don’t mind! Go right ahead. 😀

  6. Thank you for your refreshing and insightful post here; it definitely was an encouragement.

    While I may not fit in the typical thoughts of total modesty, I do definitely take modesty very seriously in my own life. I am all for looking tasteful and nice in public, but I also believe that being tasteful definitely means dressing as though everyone were watching. My whole life it to be a ministry for the Lord, and it even comes down to the clothing I wear. And I believe some look at modesty as being a set of rules of what or what not to do. But the problem with that take on it lies in that those young ladies are neglecting the vital seal of their hearts. This is not something that is new to society; in fact, it is a well know tradition that many have neglected simply for the deception of the devil. I do believe that every woman out there, even those who claim they don’t, actually do want to be modest. They just think the grass is greener on the other side because it gets quicker yet more short-term results.

    As for me, I don’t dress modestly because of rules. I dress modestly because I want to glorify God with every piece of my being and life. It is a totally different pursuit than following rules. So, in a sense, you are doing little more than reminding me and refreshing my memory on what real modesty looks like. I’m sure you’re tired of reading my last minute thoughts here, so I’ll just end by saying thanks again for the affirmation. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Hannah Marie

    • Yes, the rules are there merely to help us know what to do to further the higher purpose: to glorify God in His way.

      Haha, I wasn’t tired. Thanks for the comment and the encouragement! 🙂

  7. Well, I’ve already read this several times… but, anyway, I’d just like to say thank you (again) for writing this. It is very encouraging, as several of the other girls have said, to hear a male saying that they appreciate when we dress modestly and femininely. Technically, I know you guys appreciate it… But it’s easy to feel like it’s not making much difference, since not very many boys tell us that. 🙂

    The first time I read this, I got very excited about the concept of clothes being a part of language. Thankfully my family is patient and not only listened in an interested fashion to my excited rant on the topic, but also joined in with their own ideas. It was a very fun discussion. 🙂

    And, for your especial benefit, here is the “rant”. (In part, and probably with some new things…)

    It is so important that people grasp the fact that, whether you like it or not, your clothes are saying something. Your job is to honestly assess the message you are saying with them, and ask yourself whether or not that is what you intend to say. And if the message that you would like to get across is a God honoring one, for that matter…

    Now, of course, a few people may misread your message, no matter how carefully you present it– in exactly the same way few people will misread/misinterpret this post, and…. anything else anyone says or writes. Misinterpretation– It’s part of language.

    However, anyone who thinks openly about this for a little while will soon see that clothes do, in fact, say things. And the vast majority of people will understand the message in nearly the same way.

    Speaking as a girl who wears long denim skirts, button up shirts buttoned all the way up (horror of horrors, apparently) and such (Hehe, I read that earlier today and couldn’t help using it… It is such a funny and true (sort of…) description of us… except she mentioned wearing tennis shoes. I can’t say I wear those often. Had she said bare feet, she would have described me exactly. :D) I can attest to the fact that people think we’re rather weird.

    However. I can also say that I have never been approached by a guy in a sexually threatening way. I have not had to feel ashamed of myself and how I dress. (Except for a few times, when I was a younger teen and wore things I knew were too tight…) My sisters and mother and I have noticed that we are treated like ladies FAR more often than most women around. We have also, many many times, been labeled as Christians automatically because of the way we dress. (Hannah told me a kind of funny story to me that illustrates this perfectly: She was walking in Walmart and noticed some teenage boys. The way they were dressed made her think that they might be the gangster type. As she walked past, she heard one of them say to the other, “That’s a Christian girl.” He said it just as a matter of fact, not in an insulting way at all. :)) 

    I have made the choice to dress the way I do knowingly and freely. I love wearing long, swirly skirts!

    I have, in fact, worn pants before. (About 5 times… 😛 ) And I really don’t like them. They are harder to move in, and not near as fun. (Seriously, try beating walking down stairs in a long flowing skirt. Or spinning in a full, twirly skirt. Ain’t happening.) I don’t think pants are evil, or that they are always immodest. I just like skirts. And yes, I know full well that skirts can be just as bad, or worse than pants. 🙂

    So, I dress the way I do for a few reasons:

    One, I just honestly like dressing like this!

    Two, I feel that this is, as Jay has kindly shown here, a blessing to my brothers in Christ.

    Three, I feel that it is a good way to immediately be recognized as a woman–and one that rejoices in her femininity!

    Four, I know that my parents, especially my Papa, appreciate me dressing like this. (At this point some folks will pounce and say, “Aha!! Your parents make you dress like that!!! You poor, dear, oppressed girl!!” Um, no. Actually, not. My parents put me in cute little dresses when I was young, yes. [I am glad of that; I especially hate seeing little girls in immodest, teenager clothes. Bleah.] But, as I got older, they never made any rules about dress. They never said we couldn’t wear pants or that we must wear dresses. They encouraged us in our pursuit of modesty, yes. They let us know when our clothes weren’t so modest. But they definitely, assuredly, do not force us to dress like this.)

    Five, and most importantly, I feel that it is a testimony to my God. It shows right away that I am set apart from the world, that there is something different about me.

    Yes, yes, I know. There are girls who dress like I do because they have to. They are not joyful, nor do they really glorify God in their forced sort of modesty. They are still wanting attention for themselves–only in the opposite sort of way– “Look at me, I’m so godly and modest and sober”

    That is not the point, people!! This is supposed to be an outward reflection of an inner attitude.

    My sister Hannah and I have been thinking about this a lot. We like to think of it in three “layers”:

    1. Your clothes, hair, countenance, etc. What people see instantly.

    2. Your actions, words, etc. What people see after being around you for a little while.

    3. Your character/heart. Who you really are. What people see after really getting to know you. (and your family, haha.)

    They are ALL extremely important. And, say your outward appearance is saying that you are pure and a good Christian girl– but after being around you for a little while, we learn, by your actions, tones, words, etc. that you are, in fact, a flirty and self-centered girl. The first message (one of purity and goodness) was a miscommunication. Your actions negated the message your clothes were saying.

    Now, obviously, the opposite is also true. One could be dressed in a more “worldly” manner, and then, by her actions and attitude, prove that she actually had a gentle spirit.

    There is a problem here, though. Not everyone is going to have the time to get to really know you. Yes, yes. You’re a splendid Christian girl. Under all the worldly layers.

    But when you’re walking around, what are you saying? What is the main message of your dress? Are you pointing to Christ, to purity– or are you pointing to yourself? Or more specifically… your body? And is it “just fashion” (And therefore okay, somehow… 😛 ) when you wear something that you know will cause your brothers to stumble?? (In case you hadn’t noticed, this mindset greatly upsets me. I have brothers!!!) Please don’t play dumb. You know what I mean.

    Anyway. All three “layers” need to match. Now, I’ve heard so many times, “Well, you know, God looks at the heart. So that’s what’s most important.” Yes of course!!

    But. They somehow miss the first part: Man looks at the outward appearance! People are still reading your message. You are still saying something– Whether your heart is right or not. Make sure that what you are saying is what you intend to say! Don’t be one of those people that just say, “Oh, well, it’s just fashion. I just want to look cute.”

    Ahem. That is not the message the guys get when they see tight and low cut clothes!

    Please seriously and honestly consider this important point: clothes are a part of language. And then think about what message you want to be getting across, and figure out how best to say it.:)

    Well, there ya have it: a long comment for a long post. 😉

    • Haha! Thanks Carissa! I love long comments. 😀

      You put the whole issue about appearance vs. attitude vs. lifestyle really, really well. Thank you very much!

      Your concept of the three layers is very good. It clears up a lot of controversy very well. 🙂

    • You’re welcome. 🙂 Especially ones that support your post, eh? 😀

      Thank you, you are welcome. I’m thankful God enabled me to get all that across clearly!

      Really? That’s good, I guess! haha.

  8. Beautifully written! I enjoy how this is a gentle preaching, and more like giving advice. Love the topic, and love the advice! Thank you so much for posting this–this was something I needed to hear again.

  9. A woman who dresses modestly has confidence in herself–she is using her personality and inner being to attract men, not her body! 🙂

  10. I loved this Jay! People seem to have a very twisted view on modesty these days, either they go too far one way or they go too far another! I dont like seeing people in long long skirts that touch the floor and frumpy tops that makes you look twice to see if youre looking at a woman or a man! I like to see some shape, and i see nothing wrong with wearing a shapely nice fitting top, not tight however. I have got a skirt that stops at my knee cap, I have no problem with it as long as it looks modest when on 🙂 I wear trousers, jeans but not tight ones as well. I think that sometimes men should safe guard what they look at also. Ok, women have their part to play but if a woman should look like a shrouded being all the time then there must be something wrong with the man surely! I like to think I go around dressed like a woman but modestly! 🙂

    • Those are two very good points that I will probably be addressing specifically in future posts in this series. The questions of femininity and the burden of responsibilities are very very common in this issue. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

  11. If I may, I’d like to put another question to you, if you’ll be patient with my attempts to communicate it fluently. You say “believe it or not, the vast majority of the language of clothing is not cultural, but built into us by God, and laid out in His Scripture.” Would you be willing to further develop this post (or even email me) expanding on that thought? I’m interested in specific examples from Biblical text, if that is not to difficult a request to accommodate. I have noticed some of your comments regarding modesty/purity/etc just reading your buzzes, and it has triggered a lot of thought in my head. I’d really like to hear more of your opinions, if you don’t mind sharing them. =)

    • That is an insightful question. I was expecting someone to catch that sentence. 🙂

      I will be expanding on that principle in my next article on modesty. It will address how much of our dress standards ought to be affected by culture, at the same time as addressing the common issue of bifurcated clothing on girls and foreign clothing traditions. It will be fun. 😀

      So stay tuned! 😉

  12. Margaret Fell’s Red Dress (2004)…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  13. Thanks for posting that Jay! That is encouraging for all us modest girls who get laughed at by guys because of how we are dressed.

  14. An excellent post, Jay. A lot of people seem to think that modesty is one of the least important issues for Christians today, but as a brother in Christ I can assure them it has a great effect on our efforts to be more like Christ. The story you told at the beginning of the post is straight truth. My thanks to you for your timely and well-put exhortation.

    • Impurity of thought (or to put it another way: adultery of the heart), is indeed an addiction and a force that is tearing apart this generation. It is weakening our strength even within the churches. It is not a minimal issue, by no means. 🙂

      You are very welcome!

  15. Jay, I’ve got one, just one, issue with this post.

    You’ve addressed the heart of the issue. But that’s not where the real problem lies.

    The heart of modesty is mostly about not making yourself standout. It’s about your attitude. It’s inside you, mostly.

    But the debate is about the letter. Some have gone so far as to say that the verse are true, but that their about adorning yourself in pride, and that because Christ abolished shame, it is permissible for Christians to dress how they want, even not dress, if it is all done in humility.

    In fact, this view was propagated by a little known early church leader who’s name escapes me, who baptized converts unclothed as a symbol of their freedom from shame and the return to Eden’s innocence.

    In you responded that not wearing clothes is immodest, they would reply that the verses you quoted are about being humble, and about not putting yourself forward, and that Christians should be free to act without shame, because Adam and Eve could.

    Now, you know I’m with you on this issue. But I think you need to tackle the letter of the issue, not the heart.

    • That is an interesting viewpoint. I have actually never heard it before. Haha.

      This post is directed at a misconception that is common nowadays, which was kind of annoying me. 😀

      That sounds like an interesting topic for another post in this series… I will need more info on it, however. Mind sharing?

  16. Great post! You know we have some differences on some of the fine points (and my husband and I have a pretty strict “No arguing theology with men” rule for me, so I’m not going to argue those fine points), but I can say a hearty Amen! to your main point about the language of clothing. And, as always, I so appreciate the stand you’ve taken for modesty both in your post and in the comments.

    • Haha, I have several similar rules like that (such as avoiding debating doctrine in a way that contradicts the person’s parents). I respect that completely. 🙂

      Thank you for the encouragement. I appreciate your comment!

  17. “Of course I hear you saying, “But what if she doesn’t believe those things? What if she isn’t trying to say those things?” Well, the answer is rather obvious: there is a miscommunication. *grins* ”

    And we might add… if we DO believe those things, but don’t say them in our clothing… then there’s a miscommunication going the other way!

    Good stuff.

  18. I’ve heard some good things about this blog from some good friends and tonight I decided to check it out.

    I just wanted to say the main thing on my mind while reading the beginning portion of this post (“‘Oooooh…! Jay is looking at girls!” I hear you say. Yup. I do that. Go ahead and gasp all you like; I am not apologizing.”) As a girl myself, I like to look at other girl’s clothing choices and I do tend to make assumptions on their beliefs, morals and character. I suppose I am passing judgment, but my goodness, in my public high school, it is very refreshing to see some modesty in a girl’s clothing every once and a while. 🙂 Just thought I’d share, thanks for your great thoughts.

    • Welcome, Lindz! I am honored that you came. 🙂

      Yes, we have to ‘pass judgment’. We need to read a book by its cover to find out if it is worth picking up and reading. A bit of a controversial viewpoint, but I think it is the only one that is tenable.

      Thanks for the comment! Hope you like my blog. 🙂

  19. Thank you very much for this post Jay, I actually had a conversation on this subject just the other day and was happy to see a young man affirming the same truths I have found in scripture.

    I found a lot of the things that Carissa said to be very refreshing. It is nice to know I’m not the only girl who wears dresses/skirts and enjoys doing so. I’ve also get the “your parents make you” comments, but anyone who knows me and my family knows (a) I don’t do or say anything that I don’t think is scripturally supported or I have not been personally convicted on, and (b) My parents stance is that you pour the scriptures into your children and set the example. You don’t make them wear dresses, abandon dating, or live at home when they are 20. If you force your children into these things then you have polished rebels who will abandon the faith, your principles, and “Jump Ship”.

    A good friend of mine gives a beautiful example of how to judge outward adorning. She says that our cloths and adornment should frame our face, drawing all those who look upon us to see the light of Christ that should be evident there. If our clothes frame our bodies then we have lost sight of our goal. Our beauty should portray the light and love of Christ, not glorify our fleshly desires.

    I have an interesting example that demonstrates how the world looks at a young woman in a different light if she is dressed modestly and femininely. I have a friend who is the very opposite of me. The Lord has placed this young woman in my life as part of my sanctification process, as well as someone who is in need of love and the ministry of Christ. One day the two of us were walking into a store to grab something for the family. She dropped her purse right as we were getting ready to walk up to the doors. As I reached to open the door a young man (not modestly dressed as young men go) quickly scrambled to open the door for me. I walked through with a smile and waited for my friend. The young man then returned to his spot of loitering (I never did decide what he was doing standing there). My friend walked up to the door and waited expectantly for the young man to open the door for her. He did not. She angrily came through the door and demanded why he did not open the door for her. He had one simple reply. “Why should I? I didn’t figure you wanted me to.”

    I think he made very profound statement (one that the old feminist inside me found quite shocking while the new creation in Christ found it interesting). The outside world does recognize when we set ourselves apart from the world by dressing modestly. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked personally if I was a Christian because of how I dressed. It is just like when people ask children if they are homeschooled because of how they present themselves.

    Now, I am a Caver. I do not see a sin in me wearing pants and my Daddy’s old military scrubs in order to safely and modestly enter a cave or repel into a dark pit. However, I do want to make a statement in how I both conduct and dress myself in my daily life a routines. As Carissa so beautifully said, no young woman should wear dresses because she feels she has to. If she does she will not wear them joyfully, which, in my mind, defeats the entire purpose.

    Again Jay, I thank you. It was a tremendous encouragement to hear those words from you. Lots of young men just don’t address the issue because it is such a controversial one. And lots of conservative Christians try to guilt men into believing it is wrong for them to admire a young woman. God made Adam to admire Eve, therefore, if respectful and God honoring, it is not a sin. 🙂

    • Hello Kaitlyn! I am glad to see you comment on here. 🙂

      That is a powerful story. A very good example. Thanks for sharing!

      You reminded me of something I have thought about in response to * sigh * pastors who are trying to put down lifestyle evangelism. They say that “people simply don’t walk up to you and ask about you being a Christian just because you dress and act differently, you have to tell them.” Complete balderdash. 😀 They do. All the time. And I can’t help but wonder if the reason they never see it is because 1) they never give them a chance, and jump on everyone before they come to them of their own free will, or 2) they don’t dress and act differently enough from the world for them to notice. 😛

      I wondered about you and caving, honestly. I wondered if you had tried culottes, actually. Haha. 🙂 I am a bit more strict about the wearing-pants-because-I-need-to thing than most of my friends (even Carissa, I think). But I will be talking about that in a later post. Haha. 🙂

      You are welcome. It is encouraging to have encouraged some young ladies out there in return. 🙂

  20. Well now you know positively Jay, I’m eccentric 😉
    You said “I am a bit more strict about the wearing-pants-because-I-need-to thing than most of my friends (even Carissa, I think). But I will be talking about that in a later post.”

    I’d be interested in seeing your thoughts on the subject. I am very strict in what constitutes “wearing-pants-because-I-need-to”. Culottes are an ingenious invention, by the way. I do not generally wear them unless I am participating in a physical activity though, like horseback riding. However, I do not wear them in the cave. We can discuss that when you make your next post though, at the moment it is off topic for me to pursue it. 😉

    Yes, people can tell you are a Christian. My mom and I were actually at the science center once with my brothers and a man came up and asked if we were Christians. I was slightly shocked to be asked in the science center, but of course we responded that we were. My mom asked him why he thought that and his response was that we looked like lovely Christian ladies without all the makeup, the loud jewelry, or the immodest clothes.

    Consequently guys can have the same effect. We were in Wal-Mart once; my brother’s dressed as respectable young men without their jeans hanging down to their knees, with their shirts tucked in, and belts on. A woman working behind the watch counter got so excited to see them with Daddy. “Look at those little men! That is so refreshing!” She just oohed and awed over my two, somewhat embarrassed, brothers. She imparted some interesting knowledge to my father about the low slung jeans guys now wear, and started bringing her co workers to flock around the two boys. It was an interesting discussion.

    What we wear and how we present ourselves really does affect our witness. Your number two scenario is one that has been the topic of conversation in our home on more than one occasion. You see, our culture has caused us to feel that in order to be “culturally relevant” we have to look like them. I know a man who, when ministering in the inner city among the gangsters, will dress, as he says, like a choir boy. He wears a button up shirt, slacks, a belt, and matching shoes. My friend’s point on this subject is “If he doesn’t look and act different then how will they know that they need what he has?” If he looks just like them, acts just like them, and talks just like them, in an effort to be “culturally relevant”, then how is he reaching them? How is he showing them their need for Christ?

    We are supposed to stand out, we are a new creation. We are now indwelt with the Holy Spirit which causes us to respond differently and look differently. If you are, as the proverbs say, the strange woman, then you learn to cover your body because it is a sacred vessel consecrated unto the Lord.

    I firmly believe we need to meet people where they are, but not in the traditional “seeker friendly, easy believeism” way. We can’t require those without Christ to be something different before God saves them. Now, once God saves someone they are changed, become a new creation, and leave their old self (although not always immediately). We don’t resemble who we used to be once our lives are dedicated to Christ.

    Christ tells us to count the cost. If you live in a jihadist culture and you choose Christianity there is no question, it will cost, you will be different. In the US we make it so easy, deceiving people and giving them a watered down gospel. The gospel is life altering and transforming, the old is dead and made new. If you are a drug dealer you can’t continue in that life. That doesn’t mean our sin is immediately gone, but our heart is different, and we desire to be like Him.

    All that to say we should be different enough that people recognize it. If you go to the pool (we don’t, but some do) do people recognize you are different? If you’re at work, do people recognize that you hold yourself to a high standard of integrity in your work? When you are placed in adversity do your remain the humble and mature party, or do you stoop to petty squabbling?

    I think the number two scenario you gave is a slippery slope and easy to fall into, which is why we constantly need to be looking to the scriptures. I personally like the scripture that states, ‘We should be as a sweet aroma’.

    • I am liking your long comments, haha.

      Yes, we will talk about that then. 🙂 I doubt we will be in much disagreement though.

      “My mom asked him why he thought that and his response was that we looked like lovely Christian ladies without all the makeup, the loud jewelry, or the immodest clothes.”

      Ironically, most Christians only think of the immodest clothes, completely disregarding the other two you listed. Good story!

      Yes, we need to follow these injunctions whether we are guys or girls.

      I remember I was out soulwinning with some friends of mine a while back in the States, when I was going to a boy’s school there. We were dressed in full Sunday attire (regulation attire for the school: ties, dress shirts, dress shoes, etc.), and we were going through a rough part of town. The Mexican quarter.

      It could be safely assumed that every other person there was either a druggy, or a criminal, and I could feel the danger. But one of the guys mentioned to me that we were utterly safe, because they wouldn’t touch us. He explained that it was because they could tell we were “preacher’s boys” and they could tell from our clothes.

      He was right, too.

      Our outer actions make a huge difference. 🙂

  21. Well I’m glad you’re enjoying the long comments rather than going “Will this girl every finish!”

    I haven’t found anything yet we differ on, so I can’t imagine we’ll have a heated debate over the “wearing-pants-because-I-need-to” post. 😉

    Your story is very interesting too. I will have to tell Paul sometime when I see him again. I’m sure he would enjoy it.

  22. Wow! That was an awesome post, and an awesome lot of comments! 😀 I have to say, though. I really appreciated your post. I agree with pretty much everything you said. 🙂

    Might I say in response to the “Oooooh…! Jay is looking at girls!” comment, that this works both ways. As a Christian young lady, when I am down the street shopping with my Mum, I take note of how young men dress. The way they dress is just as important as how we as young Christian women dress.

    I noticed this in particular when my family attended a weekend away with several big families and our cousins. There were several young men there and they dressed in well fitting trousers and collared buttoned shirts. Another rarity and pleasant change was that they all had trim haircuts, no piercings and wore no jewelry. Just as modest dress in women are a welcome change to Christian young men, it is the same for Christian young women to see well dressed young men.

    I enjoy wearing skirts and dresses when I go out. However more often then not, I find it more practical to were trousers at home. I know several people who think trousers for girls are an absolute no-no, but I am inclined to disagree. Depending on what situation or circumstance you’re in, trousers can sometimes be far more modest then a skirt. In my lifetime, I am glad that I was wearing trousers most times when I was chasing chickens, rescuing children from high trees, or walking on stilts! 😀

    I agree with what one commenter said (So sorry, with so many comments I’ve lost your name!) that wearing a skirt or dress does improve the way you carry yourself. For me, it causes me to improve my posture and helps me to assume a quieter demeanor. (I am normally a very bouncy, over chatty and crazy kind of person, so this is a good thing for me! :D) I don’t know about others, but when I wear a sweeping skirt or a long dress, I feel as though I must live up to the title as a lady, to earn the beautiful clothes that mark me as a Christian. Wearing long skirts and dresses for me have become a challenge: not a challenge in the sense that I have to force myself to wear them. A challenge in the sense that I must fulfill the role that goes with them. To live out the Scriptures that they stand for.

    In closing of this lengthy-ish post, thankyou for the encouragement for young women you’ve given in your post. And may all you young men be encouraged in your dress and your walk with God. 🙂

  23. Oh, Jay, did you mean this one? http://thessalonians51618.blogspot.com/2010/11/common-misconceptionsstereotypes.html In the first section I talked about that. 🙂

  24. Thank you for this, Jay. Sometimes it’s so hard to keep myself accountable to my standard of modesty….after all, sometimes what’s modest or ‘cute’ to a girl can in reality be a stumbling block to a guy. Reading posts like yours is an encouraging reminder of why. Why I’m throwing out that shirt. Why I’m not going to buy that blouse. And I’m so, so, SO thankful for my brothers in Christ who strive so hard to resist the filth and corruption that surrounds them, and who are strong enough to speak out about it. Thank you for seeking God’s ways above man’s.

    For the Kingdom!

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