Thursday, January 22, 2009

What is Modesty? Part I


As I look around on the internet, I see that modesty seems to be the new fad -- what's "hot". (These photos are from just one site, Modbe, which claims to make "modest clothing for Christian women, kids and pre-teens.")


And I laugh to myself, because wearing what's "hot" seems to go against the very essence of what modesty is. First century Christians would be shocked to see fashions like these.


This is a painting from the Catacombs, where first century Christians hid themselves from persecution. How did Christian women cover their bodies back then?

So what is modesty, really? Is it just covering the body from "here" to "there"? Here is what the word "modest" means, according to Webster's dictionary (1828):

modest, a. 1. Properly, restrained by a sense of propriety; hence, not forward or bold; not presumptuous or arrogant; not boastful. 2. Not bold or forward; as a modest maid. 3. Not loose; not lewd. 4. Moderate; not excessive or extreme; not extravagant.

Now in light of these definitions, this scripture takes on new dimensions for me:

I Timothy 2:9-10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

I would like to open a discussion about Biblical modesty here, hoping that many of you readers will feel free to comment. I want to take an honest look at how God truly expects modern women to dress, and what He does not expect.


Are you ready to grow? I know I am!

(Read Part II HERE.)

10 comments:

Natasa said...

What is modest for one person isn't modest at all for other... for some this girl above is modest, for me - I don't like her clothes, it is to short and tight... but on other hand I don't want to be dressed like Mennonite and Amish, which style prefer women who want to be modest... sometime is hard to find right measure...

Tammy said...

Those are exactly the thoughts I have had. Is modesty just relative? Am I modest just because I cover more of my body than my neighbor does?

I don't think Christian modesty should be relative to what is currently thought of as immodest. Nor do I think we must submit to man-made rules and cover ourselves with what amounts to a tent!

We should not measure ourselves by the world, but by the Word.

After all, in the end, it is by God's Word that we will be judged, and not by the fashions of our day.

Tammy said...

Modest doesn't just mean covering because you can cover and it be so tight that it draws much attention. I also believe that immodest could also be the wearing of expensive clothing in the midst of a population where money is scarce and much of the area lives on welfare. The point is also to NOT draw undue attention to ourselves. It is often a struggle because we hear many preachers preach about modest dress and then awhile later (often in the same message) we hear them tell us to "put some paint on the old barn door" and to be attractive to our mates. But, the wearing of makeup helps us to look more attractive and may also draw more attention. For me, I leave my dress code up to God and then second to Bob. If he doesn't feel there is a problem with what I am wearing then I will wear it. He is careful to tell me when he feels something is not appropriate. However, there have been a couple of outfits that Bob likes but I decided I felt uncomfortable in just because of the material. It might slide up farther when I sit than I prefer and while it doesn't become a mini skirt it is shorter than I am used to.

Vera Prince said...

This is a really interesting post. I'm still learning about modesty and I have yet to make any decisions about my wardrobe. Just naturally, even before I became a Christian, I dressed considerably more modestly than most women today. I don't like wearing sleeveless/strapless or short short skirts. I like looking respectable. I find that I feel more secure and attractive when I'm wearing a tea length dress and jacket where if I'm wearing a more "hot" outfit I feel attractive, but also vulnerable. I never liked that feeling. I've also noticed, as I've added more dresses and skirts and other comparatively modest clothing to my wardrobe I get more respect. I have no trouble controlling my class, whereas my colleague who wears the latest fashions and looks "cool" and "hot" while she teaches, is always losing control. It's an interesting observation.

Anonymous said...

What is modesty? A good question with unlimited answers. But for me an easy answer. Will I be content and unashamed to face my Lord in what I am wearing if he were to call me now. My answer is a resounding YES. Most days you will find me wearing a cape dress , pinafore style apron and some form of covering, hanging veil, bonnet or scarf. So, in the presence of our Lord, which we are allways, yes, I feel I am modestly attired.

Blessings ,
Grace.

Tammy said...

Grace,

You ask yourself a very good question that we all should ask ourselves:

"Will I be content and unashamed to face my Lord in what I am wearing if he were to call me now?"

In the discussion here, I am going to address apparel, but also the issues of the heart & attitude. I have met ladies who dress "modest to the T", but who are so proud of it that their heart is not right.

I think that pride displeases the Lord just as much as dressing immodestly.

Anonymous said...

Tammy,
You are right about pride. Pride in oneself is a sin, but it can be very hard not to feel some pride. What do you feel when your husband compliments you on dinner or how nice the house looks? It is hard not to feel a little proud of your achievement. I do have a sense of pride, not for myself but for others. I am proud of my husband and family and those who care for others,the list too long for here.

1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Back to modesty, you said one should dress as to NOT draw attention to ourselves. While I agree with that I find sometimes if I were to wear a short sleeve, low cut,knee length floral dress no one would even bat an eyelid. However my long sleeve,high round neckline, ankle length cape dress, apron and covering attracts more attention and questions and assumptions than I care to think about. So, by default, dressing modestly, and in my case plain, does draw (even though unwanted)attention upon me.
It is right that your husband has a say in your dress code. As wives we are to submit to our husbands as to the Lord as they have headship over us. I have never purchased a dress without first seeking my husbands permission.

Blessings,
Grace.

kristinsdottir said...

good post. If you click on the link for my blog, you can see some of my modest clothing choices. Brighter than some would choose :-), but definitely covering ...

Best wishes and God bless!

MarksGirl said...

I once read a quote from a godly woman who said, "I wear my clothing tight enough to show I am a woman, but loose enough to show I am a lady." I think of this often when choosing clothing, although to be honest, since my marriage 3 years ago, my husband has selected almost all of my clothing. I'm blessed to have a man who enjoys shopping with me-and he has more taste than I do. I often get compliments on what he picks. Besides, he ends up purchasing far more expensive clothing (that tends to last longer and not wear out) than I ever would! This way I don't have to wonder if it's modest or not. He is very protective of my body, as I am of his, by the way. Thanks for bringing up a relevant discussion to our day!

Tammy said...

MarksGirl, that is a good idea, to have your husband choose your clothing for you. A godly husband will make godly choices. :o)

As for the above quote, it was Mae West who said that. I hear that quote a lot and somewhat agree. However, I would not quite call Mae West a godly woman. Read some more of her quotes here: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/mae_west.htm