The Virtue of Modesty

“Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency; simplicity, plainness, unpretentiousness.” What has happened to this characteristic and virtue? The Amish seem to dress humbly and do not call attention to themselves, either in attire or in their refusal to succumb to other worldly snares. If they stand out unintentionally, it is far better to stand out—positively or negatively perceived though it may be—for being humble or appearing common rather than for being proud or ostentatious. I applaud that.

One may also look at some Muslim women who wear long, loose-fitting and all-covering clothes. This custom is not only good to keep them free from sensuality, but it negates the possibility of calling men’s undue and lustful attention upon themselves. It also serves as a model or tradition for women to put their value in intelligence, faithfulness, love or something much better and far more important than one’s physical appearance.

Though I don’t know their motives or the intents of their hearts, nor what initiated, in particular, these habits or traditions—nor do I agree with their theology—I do want to give credit where credit is due. While these “religions” are non-Biblical in whole or in part, they are considered worldly. Why? Because we are either reconciled to God (Christians) or we are still unsaved Gentiles.

Unfortunately, we observe far too many Christian women dressing all too immodestly. This is not an attack on our sisters in the Lord, but it is a fact. I know there are many reasons: TV, movies, magazines, little choice in most clothing stores, the world they are in but not of, the lure of the flesh, and the innate desire to be noticed and feel attractive. However, the Word we claim to know, and to love, and are committed to live by has much to say to us and we should take note of, learn, and heed what our God says to us.

James 1:27 says for us, “to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of the hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—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.”
Romans 14:21 relates that “it is not good to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” once you are made aware of it.

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul passes on the love-inspired admonition to avoid anything which may, or certainly will, cause another brother or sister to be tripped up or to fall. As is always the case, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The love, care and wisdom of the Father pays attention to the intent, purpose or motive of the inner man or woman. If our motive is love, then we will not do or say anything which will cause our brothers or sisters to have problems.

For example, we may have a brother who has had an addiction to alcohol or, in fact, may still be struggling with temptations. Though it is alright to have a beer or a glass of wine once in a long while, we don’t want to drink one when in our brother’s company. Or, we choose to purposefully avoid drinking all together so as not to cause someone who sees us to gossip, or to tarnish our godly character. As it is with godly love—AGAPE—which has the betterment of the other person in mind, we should voluntarily give up or sacrifice our “right” to do it.

Many women may know, or may not be aware, that at one point or another in a man’s life he will most likely struggle with pornography or some degree of sensual lust or temptation; its season may be short, long, recurring. Unfortunately, we have very little control or influence over the world around us in this area. And to the detriment of godly men in our churches all over the world, our sisters in the Lord are causing our brothers either to stumble or to be tempted, especially within the sanctuary (safe place) of the Lord’s assembly. This is the last place a brother should expect to see such worldliness. Tightly-fitting pants, high or short skirts, and low-cut blouses abound. To be frank, I am amazed that women of God who profess godliness and are baptized, Spirit-filled and born-again believers don’t feel the strong prick and conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit telling them what is said in 1 Peter (that we mentioned earlier).

The Father tells the Spirit, and the Spirit tells us that we should not let our external appearance define us. It should not be what makes us attractive. It should not be what makes a man find us desirable. (And men, it is our duty not to allow our flesh to desire these things). Beyond that, if our aim is to get positive attention from the opposite sex, it shouldn’t be. We should let God’s view of us be what matters. He loves us just the way we are, but righteousness is the goal for Him where our lives are concerned. If a wife wants to be attractive for her husband, she can dress appropriately for him and him alone – and at home. Why are you wearing inappropriate clothing (outward adornment) to church or to work? Do you want to be noticed by other men? I certainly hope not. God tells us that it is “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” which He (and your husband, boyfriend, or future mate) sees as very precious. That is part of being Christ-like. Isaiah describes Jesus as having “no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” And yet we are drawn to Him, but it is because of His heart; not His external appearance.

Finally, included in what we have discussed so far and going way beyond that, is what James tells us at the end of chapter one. He says what should be in capital letters followed by a few exclamation points to all of us, “Keep yourself unstained from the world.” Not only will the world take notice of us and know that we are Christians by our love, but it will think we are one of them if we insist on and continue to dress like them. Do we see a young girl or woman in tight jeans, short skirts or cleavage-bearing blouses and think to ourselves, “She must be a godly woman, or a symbol of purity or a pastor’s wife”? I don’t think so.

This is not an unkind word or a bully pulpit, but rather a long-overdue word of exhortation to all women, but specifically to those belonging to the body of Christ. This discourse may have caught many of you unaware, but it is absolutely true. I am willing to bet (not literally) that virtually any church-going man will confirm what I have said, given the right conditions, forum or anonymity. Don’t ask your husbands unless you have an unusually open and honest relationship AND you are willing to accept his transparent and vulnerable answer with extraordinary Christian love and understanding.

I am sure we men have an issue or two ourselves but unless you are willing and able to share and properly articulate it to us, we can’t do anything about it. Unfortunately, I have brought this up in the not-so-distant past with my pastor/ friend and shared that I knew and agreed with a couple of guys that wanted this topic addressed and out in the open. How can we not talk about this knowing what it is doing to the household? Though I respect him and know him to be a man of God, it frustrates and saddens me that he refuses to see any problem with it. I know this.

We don’t want to humiliate any women, of course, but the Bible does tell us that the Word of God is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Maybe a good idea within the individual congregations would be for an honest, articulate and humble man of God (layman or other) to relay these things to his wife or a sister who can speak in some sort of ladies’ meeting or conference.

God bless you all! Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The latter part of 1 Corinthians 14:12 says we are to “strive to excel in building up the church.” Amen.


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