We’ve all heard the verse before: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31). Things that seem so mundane to us are very important to God. Modesty in dress and actions is important in the everyday life of Christian women and girls.
Modesty Is Important
Modesty is important. Why? Because the Bible commands it. A well-known verse on modesty is I Timothy 2:9–10: “ In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” In addition, I Peter 3:3–5 says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.” These and other verses clearly show that modesty is important.
Modesty is directly related to the command to not commit adultery. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Consider also I Thessalonians 4:3–5: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to posses his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
Obviously, a woman cannot control a man’s thoughts. “…if an attractive woman is ‘lusted after’, that is the man’s problem. The Bible does not require pretty girls to wear paper bags over their heads to keep from stumbling all the brethren.”1 However, pretty girls can do their part to help prevent lustful thoughts. They can do this by dressing modestly. As it says in Mark 9:4, “ But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Far be it from us women, in our dress and actions, to be stumbling blocks for men!
Modesty is always important in everyday life. But what is modesty? How do I know if the clothes I wear are modest or not? To answer this question, let’s break it down into several smaller questions. Who commands modesty? As we have already seen, it is God. What is our standard of modesty? Where does this standard come from? Our standard of modesty must be based on the Bible. The Bible does not give specific guidelines such as, “no tank-tops, no shorts shorter than mid-thigh, etc. etc.” This absence of particulars can result in disagreement among Christians. The Bible does give the earthly authority for modesty, however. In Numbers 30:5, it says concerning a daughter not yet married, “But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will release her, because her father overruled her.” This passage goes on to say that if she is married her husband can overrule her. This appears to be a rule that can be applied to modesty, as well. If Dad overrules it, it’s not to be worn. “But Dad,” the daughter will say. “Nancy is older and taller than me and she wears it!” Nonetheless, if Dad said it is not proper for his daughter to wear, then she must be content with that. So girls, when you find a dress or blouse or any article of clothing that you wonder about, go to Dad. He is your God-given authority. Ask him, “How does this affect you as a guy?” Let Dad go through your closet. After all, your father was a young man once, and knows from experience what kinds of clothes can cause temptation. Have him help you get rid of all articles he would not be willing to have you wear. It sends a sad message when a brochure from a Christian family camp. has to put modesty restrictions in the brochure because they have received complaints about the women’s swimming suits. This should not have been the case. This poses an additional problem: different families do have different ideas of modesty. One woman I know wore two-piece swimming suits when she was growing up, and thought nothing wrong of it. Her father never thought it was wrong either. In cases like these, it is best to err on the side of too modest rather than not modest enough.
As Christians, our question should not be, “How close can I get to sin?” Rather, it should be, “How can I best serve God?” Consider what the apostle Paul says in Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” Again in I Corinthians 8:9: “ Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” Modesty is to be a mark of the Christian community.
Modesty is Obvious
Modesty is obvious. It is the one thing that anyone walking by you on the street can notice. Non-Christians and Christians can and will judge you by the way you dress. “One of the first evidences of a real lady is that she should be modest.”2 “As the reader may have noticed from time to time, there is a direct relationship between how a woman dresses, and whether or not men come around—and, of course, there is another connection to what kind of men come around . . . The principle is very simple; if girls dress immodestly they will attract the wrong kind of attention.”3
Modesty is important in actions as well as dress. Modesty in actions can sometimes be overlooked. Are you trying to get attention from the guys by how you dress? Then you will be quite likely to try to get attention from them by how you act as well. “There is no more beautiful adornment to womanly character than purity, and a girl does well to see that everything that concerns her dress and behavior when away from her home, on the street, or otherwise in the eyes of the public, is decent, clean, modest, and quiet.”4 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17). This applies to the dress and actions of all Christians.
It is not wrong to wear make-up or to look nice. Psalm 104:15 tells us: “[God causes] . . . wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.” But remember, our adornment is not to be “merely outward . . . rather let it be the hidden person of the heart.” (I Peter 3:3–4). We should be focusing on the inner qualities which will not pass away, rather than the outward beauty which will fade. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30). Even when Paul speaks about your adornment not being merely outward, he is not saying that outward adornment is wrong. “Paul is not concerned with clothing and jewelry as such, but with the attitude of the one wearing them.”5
We who call ourselves by Christ’s name are to be different from the world. The world will be blatantly immodest. We are to be consistently modest in all of our dress and actions. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Do not go solely by the stylethat’s not important. “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7). What is important is obeying God.
Yes, you might feel “out” sometimes. When everybody else is wearing immodest clothes and you aren’t, you may be laughed at. You may feel uncomfortable and wish you didn’t have to obey all of God’s commands. You may be ridiculed for not following the latest style. But remember what Jesus says in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Let us go forth as Christians and show the world by our speech, our actions, and yes, by our clothes, that we are indeed people of God.
1. Doug Wilson. Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World. (Moscow) p. 48.
2. Karen Andreola. Beautiful Girlhood, Revised by M. Hale. (Oregon) p. 122.
3. Wilson, pp. 47–49.
4. Andreola, p. 132.
5. Reformation Study Bible, p. 1911.
Miss Vanessa Rubingh lives in Ellworth, Michigan. She is in 11th Grade at the Rubingh Home School and attends the Chain-of-Lakes OPC in Central Lake, Michigan.