So far in this little series on modesty we have seen the foundation for modesty and the heart that creates true modesty. Now we come to the application of modesty. In other words, how do adorn the woman’s body in such a manner so as to reflect the supremacy of Christ over her body, the beauty of the female form without exploiting it, and be a testimony of the grace of God in the gospel.
We again look to our passage, 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.”
There are three aspects of clothing and attire that Paul addresses in verse 9 that help us. The woman is to “adorn” (kosmeo–cosmetics) themselves in three specific ways: properly, modestly, and discreetly. We could break these down individually but instead I want to simply consider what they are all saying as a group.
First, the church is not a place to be showing off our clothing. It is not a place to display our political preferences. It is not a place to display our money. Rather, it is a place to give refuge and welcome to all who are in Christ. I am speaking here of our sisters-in-Christ. Men need to practice self-control when around anyone immodestly dressed, but they should never have to run away from a sister!
Second, I believe that one can be modest and yet very indiscreet. I remember as a young boy being entranced by this one woman’s mink stole, complete with glass eyes and a mouth that now functions as a alligator clasp. She always sat in front of me and whenever she wore that thing all I could do is look at it and want to pet it. Nothing else. I still remember the slap I got from my mom because finally I got the courage to actually pet it during communion—not a good idea. But I can make the same argument when a girl decides she is going to go with a bright purple, sparkle look in her hair. Is she truly seeking to discreetly blend in on Sunday?
Third, clothing communicates information to those around you; without even realizing it, there is a uniform that we all wear. When we go to see the Brewers or Cubs game there are all sorts of identifying clothes. Baseball players in uniforms, umpires, beer salesmen. In our society there are those who are punk, goth, emo, jocks, geeks, and such. Their clothing often defines them, though often the claim is that they just like dressing that way. But the reason that they dress that way is because they fit into a group.
Let me give a few practical points that bring all of this into focus:
To see a person’s underwear is simply inappropriate and immodest. This includes low pants, tight pants or shirts, sheer clothing, low cut shirts, etc.
To be more specific, no man other than your husband, should no what color your bra or your underwear are. Never. I don’t care how hot it is, underwear is never a fashion statement for a modest woman.
There are shirts that are fine when you stand in front of a mirror, but open up completely when you sit down. I am thinking right now of men who have talked to me about how they have had to move from where they normally sat in our church service simply because of a woman who would bend over for a hymnal or to get in her purse, and . . . well you know.
Let me close out this post with a testimony of a young man in my church. I asked him to simply share the issue of modesty from his perspective as a college student:
As a college student, each and every day on campus is a battle—a battle against my sin, a battle against temptation, a battle against my sin nature. Every morning I have to cry out for mercy, strength, and a renewed conviction to flee youthful lusts. The Spirit is faithful to bring me the renewal I need to prepare me to do war against my sin, yet the temptation still exists.
I am thankful God has created me to be attracted to women. However, campus is a loaded minefield. There are girls everywhere. And it’s guaranteed I will pass some attractive girls as I walk between classes. I either have to actively be engaging my mind and my spirit to pray, quoting Scripture, listening to worship music, or simply looking at the sidewalk to make it through unscathed. Many days it takes all four to be safe.
The thing that women do not seem to fully grasp is that the temptation towards lust does not stop for us as men. It is continual. It is aggressive. It does all it can to lead men down to death. And women have a choice—to help or to deter its goal.
Sometimes when I see a girl provocatively dressed I’ll say to myself, “She probably doesn’t even know that a101 guys are going to devour her in their minds today.” But then again, maybe she does. To be honest, I don’t know the truth of why she chooses to dress the way she does, the way she chooses to walk, the way she chooses to act, I don’t know because I’ve never asked. All I need to know is that the way she presents herself to the world is bait for my sinful mind to latch onto, and I need to avoid it all costs.
For the most part, the church serves as a sanctuary from the continual barrage of temptation towards sin. However, the church’s members are not yet free from sin, and there are girls both ignorant and knowledgeable of men’s sinful tendencies.