After celebrating the virtue of modesty at the Modesty Matters event Hawaiian Falls waterpark on Saturday, I felt encouraged to explore the Biblical call to modesty. There are vast differences between American fashion trends and the way that our culture promotes feminism, versus what the Lord has designed concerning modesty for His glory and for our good. America's Next Top Model contestant Leah Darrow told The Gospel Herald at the event that despite what many in our culture may pursue, she desires to be modest in dress, in speech, and in conduct.
In 1 Timothy, Paul writes that "women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness-with good works" (English Standard Version, 1 Timothy 2:9b-10). While modesty is to be displayed by both men and women, Paul specifically addresses women in this passage, exhorting them to display godliness instead of flaunting their physique.
In a "Revive Our Hearts" message, Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages women to first examine their hearts if they find themselves dressing or behaving immodestly - "Modesty doesn't begin with our clothing - it starts in the heart," she says; when we are walking in "humility before [God], it will be reflected in a modest appearance." DeMoss offered some practical questions that women can use to help check their hearts:
"Do I have a humble view of myself and a high view of God?
Do I avoid promoting myself?
Am I grieved at the thought of causing someone else to sin?
Am I reserved in my speech?
Do I always have to be the center of attention?
Am I appropriate in my behavior?
Am I appropriately reserved in my dress?"
If you are a Christian and your answers to these questions are often "no," then I encourage you to seek the Lord with me for a reminder of the cross and the humility that brought us to trust in Christ for our salvation - we are utterly in need of His grace and should not boast in ourselves.
Our culture flaunts sexuality - this can be seen especially when returning to America from a much more modest country like Myanmar, which has more recently opened its doors to western influence. Most everything from magazines to billboards and commercials in America promote immodesty to entice men and women to buy products.
My husband once told me that modesty was one of the things he was looking for in a wife - a virtue that many godly men find very attractive. DeMoss, too, says that it is "good for women to have some mystery about them - some things that only your husband will ever see and enjoy."
A lack of modesty is prevalent in the church as well, unfortunately. Many Christian women are "comparing themselves to the standard of extremes and excesses that are out there in the secular culture," says DeMoss, and have a false sense that because we dress more conservatively than others outside of the church, we are being modest. Whether it is casual wear, formal wear, or swimsuits, says DeMoss, the standard of modesty should be the same - a believer should ask herself how a daughter of the King should dress around her Heavenly Father.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus warned us against causing others to stumble (Matthew 5:28 and Matthew 18:6-7). The Lord's call to dress modestly highlights women's character and faith and helps to keep men - both non-believers and Christians alike - from stumbling into sin.
Colossians 4:6 says, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Modesty is not only observed in the way a man or woman dresses; it is also displayed in a person's speech. God calls us to count others as better than ourselves, and to trust in His good plans for our lives - having a humble heart that is submitted to the Lord will help us to respond to others in a gracious manner, regardless of the circumstances (see Philippians 2:3 and Matthew 6:25-34).
Proverbs 29:11 reminds us that "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back;" modesty is therefore displayed by self-control. In 1 Peter 3, God calls women to have respectful and pure conduct, and for married women to submit to their husbands - "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," it says (1 Peter 3:4). God loves for His children to model after His Son, Jesus Christ, Who -though He is God - subjected Himself to become a human and to bear all of our sin on the cross for us (see Philippians 2:4-11).
Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that one of the best ways to teach children the virtue of modesty is to model it as an example for them. Both men and women ought to be encouraged to cherish and to promote modesty, even if it goes against the grain of our culture. In Proverbs 31:30, God's Word says that "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."