Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Myth of Modesty

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The topic of modesty has caused unimaginable division, especially within the Church. The reason is clear: we’ve focused so much on how women dress that we’ve lost touch with the heart of God. Sure, sometimes we’ll throw in the male side of the discussion, but our attention still isn’t in the right place.

The problem is that the outward appearance is such a tiny portion of modesty that it’s no wonder why we’ve gotten things so wrong!

I have yet to read a description of modesty that explains it as it really is (not that one doesn’t exist; I simply haven’t found it). So what I’d like to do is try to paint for you the whole picture of modesty and destroy the myths that have caused such ungodly division.

The Whole Picture

Webster’s dictionary defines modesty as “having or showing a moderate opinion of one’s own value, abilities, achievements, etc.; not vain or boastful; unassuming.” Modesty is not seeking attention. To put it simply, modesty is humility.

That’s it. No specific mention of women or men. No mention of clothing.

Thus, before anything else, modesty is about character – the character of humility. We are to be modest in receiving compliments, by pointing the praise to Christ; in our accomplishments, by not seeking all of the credit; in our relationship with the Lord, by remembering that we are nothing in comparison to the Almighty.

It is clear, then, that modesty – humility – is inseparable from the Christian faith, considering scriptures such as Proverbs 22:4, Philippians 2:1-11, and 1 Peter 5:5. Modesty is a crucial part of our salvation because without it, we wouldn’t realize we are in need of a Savior!

Clothing-Modesty, Redefined

I cannot stress enough that modesty is an issue of character, and is therefore so much bigger of an issue than simply apparel. However, because modesty is so commonly thought of as merely an issue of clothing alone, it’s important to view “clothing-modesty” from a perspective of true modesty.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 is most often cited as the scriptural basis for dressing modestly: “likewise also 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.”

When you read this verse with an understanding of the biblical definition of modesty, it doesn’t appear that Paul is speaking about revealing too much skin at all. He is instead, in the context of the entire passage, talking about drawing attention to ourselves in what we wear.

This should not put us at ease, however. Far from it; it should make us all the more earnest to dress in a modest way – a way that does not draw attention to ourselves. With the right understanding of modesty, we can separate the truth from myth about clothing-modesty with relative ease.

Busting the Myths of Clothing

Firstly, it should be clear now that modesty is an attitude of an individual, not something imposed on someone. God wants us all to dress modestly, but not because we are told to.

Why does He want us to dress modestly? Is it for the sake of the other gender? Sure. But more importantly, it’s for His own glory. The way we look on the outside (clothing being just one part) is a reflection of our hearts, and the Lord desires hearts that want to draw attention to Him, not themselves.

In addition, it would be absurd for clothing-modesty to be a list of rules. It’s not about keeping your skirt a certain length, a belt around your pants, or your shirt a specific size. You can wear shorts and still be modest, and you can wear a full-out burka and be horridly immodest.

Clothing-modesty, like talent-modesty, like verbal-modesty, like social-media-modesty, like any other division of modesty, is an issue of the heart. As a result, any standards we set for our apparel should flow from the humility of our character.

Lastly, to devalue a person’s body would be completely unfitting with the idea of modesty. If our bodies were intrinsically bad, what point would there be in emphasizing the need to be humble and not draw attention to them? Each of our bodies is the temple – the dwelling place – of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Bible says we are to honor Him with them.

As you can see, modesty is not dependent on clothing alone. However, it is definitely reflected by clothing. I must, though, reiterate the fact that clothing-modesty is just a small application of a much greater value, one that is plainly emphasized in scripture.

Let’s Get to the Point

I’m saddened and angered by seeing so many men and women, who have been severely hurt by a false view of modesty, completely discard this God-given gift – and even reject their loving Creator – because of it.

Maybe you’ve been wounded by the “modesty culture.” Perhaps you’ve embraced it. Whatever case, I want you to realize that modesty is far more – and much better – than what society has told you.

If you think I have written this to encourage you to dress modestly, you have completely missed the point. While our choice of clothing is certainly a reflection of modesty, that is not the intention of this article.

I want to encourage to you to be modest in every part of your life: your clothing, your thoughts, your words, your behavior, but most of all in your relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who loved you enough to give up His life for you.