I heard this phrase recently when we were on a vacation. A mother with teenage daughters, noticing the modest bathing suits of our daughters, told us that she often uses the phrase “modest is hottest” to encourage her daughters in modesty.
When I heard her say this, I smiled uneasily, not so sure I wanted to put it this way with my own five daughters. It certainly has a nice ring to it. But is this statement true?
Let’s leave this catchy phrase for a moment and focus on what Scripture says about modesty and apparel. According to the Scriptures, modesty is attractive. Modest young women should be the most attractive women to the young men in the church. Modesty is the kind of attractiveness that young women of the church should aim for. Paul teaches inthat modest clothing is attractive when he says, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
Modesty is more than attractiveness. God’s Word teaches us that the gospel of Jesus Christ touches every aspect of our lives. When we are gripped by the gospel, no part of our lives remains untouched, which includes what we wear. Interesting, is it not, that one of the first issues that Adam and Eve faced after their sin was clothing. After they tried to cover themselves with leaves, God covered them with coats of skins, as a picture of the Redeemer whose blood would be shed for His people.
Implied also inis the purpose of clothing. Clothing was designed in the beginning to cover our bodies. But fashion in our age attempts to uncover the body and show as much as possible without complete nudity.
Modesty in clothing is a sensitive subject. Not everyone has the same standards of modesty. Without falling into the dangers of legalism, I want to set before young men and young women the biblical truth of modesty because of its importance in our immodest society. This is an important topic for the young men and women of the church. It is important for the young women of the church especially as they choose what to wear. It is important for the young men that they encourage modesty and look for modesty in a future spouse.
What is modesty in clothing? Modesty is humility expressed in wardrobe for the glory of God. Modest clothing’s opposite, immodest clothing, is apparel that is sexually enticing and revealing. It draws attention to self and says, “Look at me!” In contrast, modest clothing does not draw attention to self. Therefore it is an expression of humility. Modest clothing for women is an expression of love for the male neighbor, desiring to save men from being enticed to sexual lust. Men take notice of the visual. Maybe you young women do not understand this, but it is true. Clothing that reveals too much skin or is figure-hugging provokes men to sensuality and lust.
Modesty is not first an issue of the hemline, but of the heart., teaches that modesty is driven by godliness. A woman who professes godliness is concerned about modesty because she is devoted to God. The term “godliness” is made up of two words: God and reverence. Godliness is to revere or be in awe of God. A godly woman is in awe of the majesty and greatness of the Holy God. She is gripped by the excellency and majesty of a God who so loves her that He sent His Son to die for her sins. She is in awe of this because she knows how undeserving she is. Young women and men, are you in awe of Him?
Where this godliness exists there is a zeal for obedient living. There is a burning desire to serve and obey
God in everything we do. This means that a young woman in the church desires, with all godly women, that her attire display godliness. Deciding what clothes to wear is not first a matter of what is available, what looks good, or what others are wearing, but it is determined by her relationship with God. Clothing for school, church, the Junior/Senior Banquet, the mall, and even the beach must be governed by your relationship with God. God sees what we wear and why we wear it. What does your clothing say about your relationship with God? Is your clothing a profession of godliness? When you go to Kohl’s, JCPenney, Marshall’s or any other store in the mall, do you take God with you? When you pick out jeans, dresses, and bathing suits, are your choices governed by godliness or getting attention for yourself? What does your clothing say about your heart? Modesty in clothing is about your relationship to God.
How do we determine before God what is modest clothing? In, modest apparel means respectable apparel. In this passage, Paul’s concern was that the clothing of many women of the church was a distraction in their worship. Some of the women of the church would wear the fancy clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles of the worldly women so that others would take notice how they looked. This distracted the other women who could not afford to dress that way and the men who took notice of this physical beauty. For some, the focus of worship became self-glorification, with clothing, hair, and makeup, instead of God’s glory.
When Paul says in, “not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,” he is not saying that women should not dress in a beautiful way. He is not saying they should be disheveled or frumpy. He is not forbidding the braiding of hair, jewelry, or nice clothing. We know this because the woman clothed herself fashionably in silk and purple. The issue with what women wear is: what inspires it? Who inspires your hairstyle and clothing? Is it Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, or Katy Perry? Or is what you wear consistent with modesty and self-control? The idea is that apparel should not be identified with our sinful culture that calls attention to self by exposing or accentuating intimate parts of the body, but with godliness.
There are a few things I would like to say personally to the women of the church. First, I am thankful that the majority of women in the church dress modestly. May this article be an encouragement to continue to do so.
Second, I believe that many who dress immodestly are ignorant of the fact that they are doing so. In addition, young ladies often do not understand the effect immodest dress has upon men. But now no one can claim ignorance about the effect of immodest dress on men. May part of your motivation for modesty be your concern for the men of the church, that they not be enticed to lust. Remember that this is part of what the Heidelberg Catechism says is forbidden by the seventh commandment: “unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever can entice men thereto” (Lord’s Day 41—emphasis mine).
Third, because of the importance of modesty, the other members of the church should be helping to guide the young women of the church. Young men, you must learn to look away from and not show attention to those who dress immodestly.
I would encourage the older women of the church to put your arm around some of the young women who are dressing immodestly and talk to them in love about this issue. Young women, if an older woman in the church does this, listen attentively to her concerns.
Fathers, where are we in all of this? Do we care enough about our daughters that we will protect them from immodest clothing? Do we care enough about the young men of the church that we will guard them from sexual lust? I would encourage fathers to be the final say in what your daughters wear to church, to school, to the beach, to their wedding, and to the banquets, beginning when they are young. As men, we know what kind of clothing is a sinful attraction for young men and we must teach our daughters about this.
Paul encourages inthat women be clothed with good works. We live in an age in which women are preoccupied with their fashion, hair, and looks. What about you? What drives your life? Are you focused on yourself and your looks? Paul explains that godly women are driven by a desire for good works and not good looks. Godly women are concerned about their spiritual lives and how they live their lives before God.
Modesty in apparel is driven by a love for the gospel. In, Paul is concerned about modesty in dress because of its connection to the gospel. In verse 9, Paul says, “In like manner….” Paul ties the passage to the beginning verses of the chapter in which he speaks of the gospel. The gospel motivates Paul to address modesty. For him all aspects of the Christian life proceed from and are related to the gospel. Paul is not laying down legalistic rules, but he is speaking of the Christian life that flows out of the gospel.
Godly women love the gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ. What a precious gospel we know. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior, who ransomed us from our sin with His precious blood. This gospel touches every part of our lives. When we understand this, we do not want to reflect poorly on the gospel. Immodest clothing does that. It dishonors the gospel and Jesus Christ. The women of the church represent the gospel in the church and in the world in their conduct and in what they wear. This is why modesty is so important. The way we dress for the beach, the banquets, and weddings should reflect our love for the gospel as much as the way we dress for church. When we dress modestly we are declaring before all the world that we love Jesus Christ, and the power of the gospel rules our hearts. What does your clothing choices say about what is most important in your hearts?
When clothing choices are governed by the gospel, the world and other Christians will notice at the beach, at the mall, at school. The world may call it frumpy and old-fashioned (not modest is hottest). But godly young men will notice and give thanks to God for modestly dressed young ladies. Younger girls of the church will learn what it means to dress modestly. And maybe another Christian mother notices our daughters at the beach or pool and says, “Modest is hottest!” because bathing suits were chosen in the light of the gospel. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Most importantly, when you choose modest clothing, God says, “Beautiful!” because He is glorified!