1 Timothy 2:9-10, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.”
My first post on modesty dealt with the foundation of God’s glory and His gospel. Without those two, inter-related truths capturing our hearts, modesty will always fail. But with those two truths saturating our souls we are able to begin to consider what modesty is and what it looks like. I envision three posts that will help us see modesty rightly and fully. They will focus on the modest heart, the modest body, and the modest mouth. Before continuing I must express my indebtedness to C. J. Mahaney and his efforts on this whole subject. May God bless this effort.
Too often the first thing people begin to do when considering modesty is to zip up, pull up (or down depending on the clothing), cover up, and such. In other words, the exterior is the focus. But this is simple futility in action for an immodest heart, modestly attired is an ugly and deadly thing to behold. But a modest heart shall never allow immodest attire.
What is a modest heart? It is one that desires and values and exalts modesty. It begins in the heart and flows outward; and if it fails in the heart, then it simply fails. You can have a modest exterior that is covering a very immodest heart. And you can easily fall into the trap of thinking that modesty is simply being properly covered up. As Mahaney said it so well, “We must address the heart first and not the hemline.”
But what is at the core of immodesty? It is a heart of pride. Immodesty is nothing more than an outward expression of a heart of pride. One that seeks for others’ eyes and focus to be upon yourself rather than on the Lord. Therefore, modesty is more than simply wearing a low cut shirt. Immodesty reveals the heart to be arrogant.
Modesty, on the other hand, is humility expressed in dress. Modesty is the desire to serve others in your dress. No woman show dress in a manner that would hinder their ability to serve others, especially men. Men should not have to avoid any sister in Christ; rather, they should be very secure around them.
The heart of a modest woman seeks to be known by her good works rather than her appearance. That is what she most highly prizes, the character qualities that delight God rather than those qualities in which the culture delight. Notice what our passage says in verse 10, “…rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.” In Paul’s mind, the dress has a direct connection to the reputation that a woman possesses within the Church. Notice how the contrast is being made. It is NOT, modest versus immodesty. It is really immodesty versus good works. There is a vital connection on how a woman dresses and how she serves.
1 Peter 3:2-4 gives us additional information regarding the heart of a modest woman. Notice that it is a chaste (pure, holy) and respectful behavior. In addition there is the (vs 4) gentle and quiet spirit. Then, Peter makes the key explanation as to why a godly woman would wish this—it is precious to God. Which causes a modest heart to sing! But makes an immodest heart grimace.
Back in 1 Timothy we see that the heart of a modest woman seeks to be discreet (vs 9). This speaks of the practice of prudence, good judgment, moderation, self-control. In other words, when you dress so as to be noticed, you are not dressing correctly. Frankly your dress should not be a point of distraction even if it is “modest.” A sloppy, unkempt appearance can be as distracting as immodest dress. I am not talking about a person who is poor. I am talking about sloppy, uncaring dress. Where comfort reigns supreme over consideration of others.
Paul says to use self-control, be discreet when you choose your clothing. I believe it is Joshua Harris who said that it is one thing to dress attractively and another thing to dress to attract. Now let me just spend a little time on that attitude of “self-control.” I think it is much misunderstood. First a few questions: Do we desire to be noticed? Are we noticed nonetheless? Do we create a negative reaction by our dress or demeanor?
To argue for purple hair, spiked hair, 5 inch nails, extreme body piercings and jewelry, clothing five sizes to big, shirts too tight, etc is to make a mockery of what “self-control” means. At the very core of the decision making is the usual argument, “but I like it.” Which simply means that they are not controlling themself. Do not miss this point, for it is critical to a mature understanding of a heart of modesty. To have “self-control” means you control your wants and desires. Your dress needs to manifest that type of heart. One that makes you not the deciding factor in your attire, but rather one that flows from a heart that seeks to manifest humility and desire to serve your brethren.
Allow me to end this post with three questions that C. J. Mahaney developed for his own church:
1. What statement do your clothes make about your heart?
2. Is your shopping for clothes and purchase of clothes informed and governed by modesty and self-control?
3. In choosing the clothing that you wore today, whose attention did you desire? Whose approval did you crave?