The Value of Modesty


      The Bible says, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…." (1 Pet. 4:11). "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (and women), who suppress (hold down) the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).     

    Louis L'Amour was a premier novelist. His fascinating stories of the old west have been bestsellers. L'Amour had a vast personal library dealing with American frontier lore, and he was meticulous in producing works that are extremely accurate in terms of the culture of the 1800s.

    Some years ago a national magazine published an article by L'Amour which addressed the manner in which women were viewed in the Old West. He observed that almost uniformly they were treated with great respect, even by the roughest of men. He noted that, as a rule, females could travel alone hundreds of miles by stagecoach and feel quite secure, because men regarded them so highly, and were extremely protective of the "fairer" sex.

    Those days are gone and have been for quite a while. Nowadays, a woman can hardly walk unescorted down a crowded street without being verbally assaulted or in some fashion sexually harassed. Most men in sizable cities do not want their wives driving alone at night. One recent author believes she knows, at least in part, a cause for this dramatic shift in attitude toward women. She says it involves the "loss of modesty."

    Wendy Shalit, a young Jewish writer, is creating a considerable stir in the media with the publication of her new book, A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. This volume has been hailed by some as a work that will "change society"; others-especially feminists-vehemently denounce it; even suggesting it should be banned.

    Ms. Shalit says that her initial exposure to our grossly "immodest" culture commenced when she was in the fourth grade. She was introduced to a "sex education" course (it should be spelled "coarse"), from which her parents presently removed her. She argues that such classes should be "completely abolished" because they erode one's natural sense of modesty. Modesty, she contends, is an innate, psychological barrier which protects youngsters as their personalities are developing.

    Later, as a student at Williams College in Massachusetts, Shalit was appalled by coed restrooms and other on-campus, sex-related problems. She wrote a piece about these practices which was eventually published in Reader's Digest.

    The thesis of A Return to Modesty is that the so-called "sexual revolution" has robbed society of many of its most valuable virtues; for one thing, a sense of self-worth. She contends that the breakdown of modesty among young girls has led to an exploding level of promiscuity, and that "every single study" of this moral degeneracy has revealed that "low self-esteem is correlated with early intercourse for girls."

    Shalit argues that the modern loss of modesty has spawned a host of serious problems that have robbed women of genuine happiness. She cites early feminists who believed that if women abandoned their natural instincts toward modesty, devastating consequences would eventually result.

    The author unhesitatingly charges that modern feminists, together with women's magazines, and the so-called "mental health industry," have, in concert, contributed to the numerous difficulties women now are encountering. She cites, for example, feminists like Naomi Wolf, who has suggested that there is a "shadow slut" lurking somewhere in every woman's personality, just waiting to be liberated.

    Ms. Shalit contends that modesty is not a disease of which women need to be cured! "It is high time sexual modesty came out of the closet," she writes. "Not only can you not get AIDS from it, not only is it morally right, but . . . modesty is really much more exciting than promiscuity."

    My own conviction is this. If women would learn to be women again, instead of trying to emulate the conduct of crude and profane men; if they would learn to speak, dress, and act like ladies again, instead of portraying the image of foul-mouthed, street-corner prostitutes; if they would return to the biblical norm of femininity, whole new vistas would open to them, which they would discover as wonderful, exciting, and fulfilling.

    Modern immodesty has not liberated women; rather, it has enslaved them to lifestyles that have only degraded them, and marred the glorious image their Creator intended them to enjoy. All mature women can envision certain fashions they loathe to the point of saying with hyperbole, "I wouldn't be caught dead in that." There is nothing wrong with admiring a certain style (as long as it is not ungodly) and we all have to learn to tolerate others whose taste in fashion differs widely from our own.

    However, the truth is, there are a lot of bodies roaming America in various stages of UNDRESS which indicates they are spiritual corpses. In the discerning eyes of faithful Christians (Heb. 5:14), these who shamelessly show their skin are seen for what they really are: spiritually dead and in need of the Gospel to save their souls and instill godly standards of dress.

    Every time they venture into public in their short skirts, short shorts, thong swimsuits, skin tight clothes, revealing dresses, low cut blouses, see through fabric, midriff-revealing tops, etc., they are, literally, "caught dead" in them. They are like those whom Jesus described as, "...whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27).

    When it comes to nakedness, society's definition and God's are not synonymous. Society tells us a woman (or man) with a few inches of fabric barely covering the barest essentials is clothed - especially if he or she is on the beach. God's concept is quite to the contrary.

    From the third chapter of Genesis, we notice that after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they saw they were naked. So, they sewed fig leaves together to make loincloths. Surely this leafy loincloth covered at least as much as today's modern swim-wear. But it is very revealing (pardon the pun) that later, when God came to the garden, they hid. Why? Adam said they hid because they were naked - even though they had on the fig leaves (vs. 10). God seems to concur when, in verse 11, He asked Adam, "Who told you that you were naked?"

    Later, God made them both garments ("coats" of animal skins) covering enough so that they were no longer naked. Interestingly, the word for the garments God made Adam and Eve is the same Hebrew word (ketonet) used for the coat of many colors which Jacob made for Joseph (Gen. 37:3). God did not give Eve a mini-skirt.
    Later, in giving instructions for what the priests were to wear, God told Moses "And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs" (Ex. 28:42). The thigh is everything between the waist and the knee. Thus, for God's priests to expose anything above the knee would be to expose nakedness (and these were all men!). It goes without saying that godly Israelite women were not parading their thighs in public, either.  
    Isaiah prophesied of Babylon's destruction, describing it as a virgin trying to escape through a river:  1 "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called Tender and delicate. 2 Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, Take off the skirt, Uncover the thigh, Pass through the rivers. 3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered, Yes, your shame will be seen" (Isa. 47:1-3).

    In this passage God tells Babylon that her nakedness would be uncovered (v. 3). How? Verse 2 indicates (1) her veil would be removed; (2) her skirt would be removed; and (3) her thighs would be uncovered. Result: her nakedness would be exposed.
    There seems to emerge a consistent biblical concept that uncovered legs - at least anything above the knee (i.e. the thigh) - are viewed by God as nakedness. In light of several Bible passages, God expects men and women to be clothed in something that - at a minimum - reaches down to the knees. If someone wants to take issue with that conclusion, let him or her produce the Scripture that teaches you can be modest while revealing your thighs.

    Mary Martini, a godly sister in Christ, has compiled several helpful questions to determine what is proper to wear. I highly commend these questions for your consideration.

And remember, concerning any fashion not up to God's standard of decency, let us all say, "I wouldn't be caught dead in that."

The Dress Test for Women Professing Godliness

  •     Look at yourself in a full length mirror - front, back and side.  Ask yourself:
  •     Will what I'm wearing bring God glory (1 Cor. 10:31; Ex. 28:40, 43; Isa. 61:3) and portray me as a godly woman (1 Tim. 2:9-10)?
  •     Does what I'm wearing meet or exceed God's standard for being modest (Gen. 3:21; Ex. 20:26; 28:40-43)? Will my clothing help or hurt my influence for Christ (Rom. 13:10; 15:3; Phil. 2:3-4)?
  •     Is it too short? Sit down, cross your legs, reach up, bend over and squat down. At any time, does the garment reveal any of your leg above your knees (Ex. 28:42)? Does it emphasize my sexuality, thus tantalizing, enticing or tempting men to have impure thoughts (Matt. 18:7; Gal. 5:19 - lasciviousness)? Will it encourage a man to lust after me, thus causing him to stumble and sin (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 5:27-28)?
  •     Is the neckline too low? Bend over - what can you see? Sit. Have another female tell you what they can see while looking down at you (men serving the Lord's Supper say this is a problem).
  •     Is it too sheer? Can I see my skin or undergarments through the material (With tops and blouses, is your midriff showing at any time (Gen. 3:21)? Is it too tight? Am I revealing my body form - undergarments exposed - naked in God's eyes - John 21:7)? If sleeveless, are my undergarments visible (John 21:7)? Is it appropriate and respectful (Gen. 41:14; Matt. 22:11-14)?
  •     When I come to worship, would someone think I was going to a picnic or other social activity, or can they tell I'm giving my best in my worship to God (Ex. 20:26)?
  •     Because of how I'm dressed, would someone mistake me for a worldly woman (a harlot - Prov. 7:10; Gen. 38:15)? Is what I'm wearing stating that I'm dressed to be chaste (pure and holy) or chased (by men)?
  •     Remember---God may hold me responsible for wrong reactions if I dress inappropriately (Matt. 5:27-28; 14:1-12).    

  - - Mary Martini

     Loved ones, let us dress properly as spiritual children of God, "that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed" (Rev. 3:18). Let us be in appearance what/who we claim to be, CHRISTIANS ONLY! (Acts 11:26; Jam 2:7; 1 Pet. 4:16; Phil. 3:20-21). “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth, for your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2, 3; Eph. 1:3; see Phil. 4:8, 13).

(Condensed due to length. ERH)
—Sam Matthews