We don’t have to look far to find immodesty in our culture today. Simply switch on the TV, flip through a magazine, or walk through the grocery store, immodesty is everywhere. Our over-sexualized culture celebrates clothes that do not cover and garments that glitter. Clearly, our culture cares about what you wear. The art, music, and literature of today want to empower women by self-expression in scanty clothing. Their message is that it is more inspiring, feminine, and acceptable to show off our bodies than to cover them up, that shame of any sort regarding our physique is not appropriate, and that women should be free to dress however they desire.
The Christian must ask, “does God feel the same way?” “Does God care about what you wear?”
Modesty in the Bible
We don’t have to look far to find modesty in the Bible. In the opening chapters of Genesis, we find God as the very first clothing designer. Adam and Eve have just sinned, and they are now ashamed of their nakedness in the garden. They attempt to cover up their shame by stringing leaves together into loincloths (Genesis 3:7). When God later came to the garden and found Adam and Eve, He first addressed their sin, but then addressed their shame.
Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Their little loincloths were not sufficient to cover the shame of their sin, so God made them garments, or tunics, to cover up their bodies. This was not because their bodies were imperfect, rather they were exposed. The point of clothing in this passage is to cover up Adam and Eve’s shame, the shame of the first sin. They were naked, utterly exposed, and God gave them dignity by providing proper clothing for their bodies so that they were no longer ashamed.
We are exactly like Adam and Eve, stuck in the shame of sin. It’s not until Jesus stepped into the world and took our place on the cross that it all changed. Because Jesus died for our sin, taking the punishment we deserve, Isaiah says that He clothes us in salvation (Isaiah 61:10). His righteousness, by which we are justified, is described as clothing given to us by God. This imagery is further developed by Jesus himself in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, an illustration of a wedding feast to come. But what was specifically required to be present at the wedding feast in the parable? Proper clothing.
God is obviously concerned with modesty even though our culture is not. The way we present ourselves is actually tied to worship (Romans 12:1-2), and as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), we ought to represent Him in a way that brings Him glory — not ourselves. Dressing modestly is something that we should be intentional about. As Christian women, we need to think about what we wear on our bodies. But we need to first think about why we wear what we wear on our bodies.
Dressing Inside Out
First Peter 3:3-4 says this: “[Women’s] adornment must not be merely the external — braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Modesty in dress comes from modesty within; it’s a way of thinking.
So before you look in the mirror to see if your clothes are appropriate, you need to look into your own heart. Pray like David did, “Search me and know me, and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).
To be frank, rules, lists, guidelines, and suggestions for modesty will not help unless your thinking has changed. Ask the Lord to search your heart by asking Him to show your motives for what you wear.
Here are some questions to get you started.
- Are you wearing certain clothes because you want to make other people notice your body?
- Are you dressing so that you purposely draw attention from men?
- Are you trying to look better than other women you interact with?
- Will the clothes you are wearing cause someone else to stumble?
As you search your heart with the Lord’s help, remember that humility is a precursor to modest dressing. Paul said in Colossians 3:12 that as God’s children we are to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Emphasis added). That means that humility, having a low view of self, should be put on much like we put on our clothes every day.
Modesty in dress can only come from a modest heart. A modest heart will lead you to having modesty in the way you dress. Remember that the Holy Spirit is living inside of you to help and guide you throughout all of life, even the clothing choices you make!
So, if you are getting dressed and you feel like your shirt is too tight, your skirt is too short, your dress cuts too low, or your bikini is inappropriate, don’t wear it. Don’t wear a piece of clothing that makes you feel uncomfortable or immodest. And if something is on the edge and you’re not sure, don’t wear it. That doubt is a sign that it shouldn’t be worn.
Dressing modestly doesn’t save you, yet being humble and modest as you dress will reflect the work that God has done in your life through salvation. Dressing with dignity will reflect that you are God’s and that you live for Him, that you’re no longer wallowing in the shame of your sin and nakedness, but that you are covered with Jesus’ righteousness.
Beyond even the temporary clothes we wear here on earth, God gives us glorious hope for clothing in eternity. Revelation 19 points to a wedding feast to come and this is illustrated in Matthew 22. It is a wedding feast beyond comparison because it highlights the union of Christ and the Church He returns for. We, who are not worthy to be there, will be clothed with “fine linen, bright and clean” because we are His beautiful, blood-washed bride.
On that day, we won’t look in the mirror and wonder if our clothes are modest. We will not be worried about making people stumble. We will be wholly and wonderfully covered by Christ.
Let’s look forward to that magnificent day, by dressing modestly today.