Being married and serving with my wife for over 40 years has helped me understand many things better. Plus Elsie and I have read many books on marriage, morality and modesty. And now she has been of great help to me in writing this article.
Most of the women in God's Church are wonderful examples of faith, character and conduct. Coming among godly women who dress and act with modesty, femininity and good taste is like arriving at a refreshing oasis. They have "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:4 1 Peter 3:4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
American King James Version×).
God's design of our minds and bodies is "very good" (Genesis 1:31 Genesis 1:31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
American King James Version×)! Consider God's wondrous design and purpose in making women lovely and men to be magnetically attracted to that loveliness!
It's interesting that the Bible mentions the attractiveness of several women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Abigail, Bathsheba and Esther. So good looks can be an asset for which to thank God and your parents! Or they can be a temptation to vanity as with the "exceedingly beautiful" woman who represented Jerusalem but, God said, "trusted in [her] own beauty" (Ezekiel 16:13 Ezekiel 16:13Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and you were exceeding beautiful, and you did prosper into a kingdom.
American King James Version×, 15).
Outward beauty can be a blessing, but the benefits can be spoiled. "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion" (Proverbs 11:22 Proverbs 11:22As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
American King James Version×).
Chaste feminine character as described in Proverbs 31:10-31 Proverbs 31:10-31  Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
 The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
 She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.
 She is like the merchants' ships; she brings her food from afar.
 She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
 She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
 She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms.
 She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle goes not out by night.
 She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
 She stretches out her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.
 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
 She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
 She makes fine linen, and sells it; and delivers girdles to the merchant.
 Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
 She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
 She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
 Many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel them all.
 Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
American King James Version×is the greatest beauty. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised" (verse 30).
What Is Modesty?
"Modesty" has several meanings that relate to and overlap each other. It can mean humility, moderation or not calling attention to oneself. And when referring to appearance, clothing and actions, modesty also means not being sexually suggestive, erotic or too revealing. In this article, modesty includes all of these meanings.
What is considered modest depends in part on the culture and times in which one lives. It's wise to dress in styles consistent with one's culture, but make very modest choices within that range of styles. Above all, our goal should be to seek God's approval—to dress and act according to His will (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
American King James Version×). How would Jesus advise us? To answer this, we must look at many scriptures.
The apostles Paul and Peter both emphasized that women—especially "women professing godliness"—should dress "in modest apparel," and that their primary concern should be to adorn themselves with good works and righteous character! It's good to read 1 Timothy 2:9-10 1 Timothy 2:9-10  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
 But (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.
American King James Version×and 1 Peter 3:1-6 1 Peter 3:1-6  Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.  Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;  But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands:  Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
American King James Version×in different translations.
God has always been concerned about modesty. While Adam and Eve used flimsy leaves to cover their privates, God made them tunics to cover their bodies (Genesis 3:7 Genesis 3:7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
American King James Version×, 21). Public nakedness is associated with shame throughout the Bible (Revelation 3:18 Revelation 3:18I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
American King James Version×).
"The LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×). But how we voluntarily choose to appear reflects what is in our hearts! People naturally judge us by what they see, and God certainly judges our choices of clothing, makeup, etc. This is so fundamentally important that the Bible often uses clothing to symbolize good or bad spiritual character.
We have a responsibility to be lights to the world! (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×). What kind of first impression is an immodestly dressed Church member making as a representative of Christ and His Church?
God Made Us Different!
God made men to be more visual, with a sex drive that responds immediately to sight and suggestion. Women usually respond more slowly and to romance, relationships and touch. But Satan tempts us to misuse that knowledge for manipulation. Men give intimacy in hopes of getting sex, and women give sex in hopes of getting intimacy and a relationship. Both actions are sinful and foolish.
Never give sex thinking you will win a guy's love! More likely, after the man uses you, he will discard you as a toy that he is bored and disgusted with, as in the true story of Amnon and Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-15 2 Samuel 13:1-15  And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her.
 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtle man.
 And he said to him, Why are you, being the king's son, lean from day to day? will you not tell me? And Amnon said to him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.
 And Jonadab said to him, Lay you down on your bed, and make yourself sick: and when your father comes to see you, say to him, I pray you, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.
 So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said to the king, I pray you, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.
 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to your brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat.
 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.
 And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.
 And Amnon said to Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of your hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.
 And when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, Come lie with me, my sister.
 And she answered him, No, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not you this folly.
 And I, where shall I cause my shame to go? and as for you, you shall be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.
 However, he would not listen to her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, Arise, be gone.
American King James Version×). Put the highest value on your body and sexuality. No man should have access to them until he has patiently courted you, won your love and married you.
To appreciate the magnetic power of feminine allure, consider King David and Bathsheba. The Bible holds David responsible for the adultery (2 Samuel 11:1-4 2 Samuel 11:1-4  And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
 And it came to pass in an evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look on.
 And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned to her house.
American King James Version×). But Bathsheba may have been partly to blame for not making sure her bathing was hidden from anyone's view. Her exposure so ignited David's lust that he jeopardized his reputation and reign.
Some women understand the allure of their sexuality very well and flaunt it to light fires in men. The motive might be money or the power to tantalize, tease, control and manipulate men. Some halfway understand it and are just trying to be popular or to attract boyfriends. But looking and acting "sexy" will not bring you respect, self-respect or the best kind of husband, if any.
And many females are quite naive, not understanding the powerful effects they have by the way they dress and act. It's easy to send unintended signals. For example, if your body is not for sale, you shouldn't appear to be advertising it. What you might think of as "cute" may look like a sexual come-on to a man. Generally, the more skin a man sees, the more he thinks sex, not respect or love.
Virtually every man between the ages of 12 and 112 who has a normal set of male hormones responds to any female immodesty, overt sensuality or suggestiveness! The response may be lust and sexual arousal. What he sees he wants to touch. But he may have another negative response, such as embarrassment, a compulsive curiosity to see more or annoyance at the distraction. If the man is trying to obey God, he may lament or resent the visual temptation that has provoked a mental battle within him. A man often has mixed feelings, being turned on and turned off at the same time.
Also, women are often dismayed at other women for tempting their husbands, boyfriends, sons, etc., or for setting a bad example for their daughters.
So we see, when you dress or act immodestly, you will likely tempt a brother or future brother in Christ to sin, sometimes starting a domino effect, as Christ warned about in Matthew 5:27-30 Matthew 5:27-30  You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
 And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.
 And if your right hand offend you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.
American King James Version×. Paul said, "Resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Romans 14:13 Romans 14:13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
American King James Version×; see also Matthew 18:6 Matthew 18:6But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 1 Corinthians 8:9-13  But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumbling block to them that are weak.  For if any man see you which have knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;  And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you sin so against the brothers, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Why, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
American King James Version×; 10:31-33). Jesus also said, "Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but how terrible it will be for the person who does the tempting" (Matthew 18:7 Matthew 18:7Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
And please remember that when we come before God in a worship service, our clothing should be especially modest and not distracting!
Wise and Unwise Decisions
There is a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. Many women wear clothing that is too low, too high, too tight and/or too transparent. Much of it is way too formfitting, defining every curve exactly. Often clothing, body jewelry and tattoos draw attention to body parts, like printed words across one's breasts or bottom.
We suggest the "sit-down test." Sit in a chair in front of a mirror, see if the hem of your skirt still reaches your knees, and look in the mirror to see what others can see under your skirt. Then lean over to see if you can see down your blouse. Godly character is shown by not compromising even in small ways. "[She] who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10 Luke 16:10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
American King James Version×).
Be aware that women's fashions change frequently to maintain sexual excitement and sales. For example, once the public is thoroughly accustomed to seeing bare midriffs, fashion designers will cover the belly and expose another part.
Total nudity is less erotic than sexy packaging. A woman in skimpy or tight clothes is more exciting and mysterious because she is tantalizing and teasing to a man in a way similar to a striptease show. His appetite is stimulated to see and imagine more.
The peekaboo effect is also erotic. Advertisers know that a split-second sexy image can have as great an impact as a longer scene. Likewise, high slits in skirts are like flashing lights—now you see thigh, now you don't. Also sheer clothes, loose blouses when a woman leans forward and sleeveless tops with loose armholes offer titillating peeks of skin and underwear.
Many psychological factors are involved in how one's dress and appearance affect others, not just the amount of skin showing. A short skirt is more provocative than shorts of the same length because of the obvious possibility of seeing up the skirt. A top with straps is less provocative than a strapless top. Décolletage without showing cleavage is not nearly as erotic as seeing the same neckline with cleavage showing. Outerwear that looks like underwear is risqué.
Modesty involves more than clothing. Your demeanor—the way you talk and walk, your body language, your type of flirtation and teasing—all must be modest and pleasing to God.
Keep in mind that it's wrong to do anything with the motive of looking seductive or that has a seductive effect on others. Examples of women using clothing, jewelry and makeup to be seductive are in 2 Kings 9:30 2 Kings 9:30And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 4:30 Jeremiah 4:30And when you are spoiled, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, though you deck you with ornaments of gold, though you rend your face with painting, in vain shall you make yourself fair; your lovers will despise you, they will seek your life.
American King James Version×; Ezekiel 23:40 Ezekiel 23:40And furthermore, that you have sent for men to come from far, to whom a messenger was sent; and, see, they came: for whom you did wash yourself, painted your eyes, and decked yourself with ornaments,
American King James Version×; Hosea 2:13 Hosea 2:13And I will visit on her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, said the LORD.
American King James Version×; Proverbs 6:25 Proverbs 6:25Lust not after her beauty in your heart; neither let her take you with her eyelids.
American King James Version×; and 7:10.
Wanting to "fit in" with hot new fashions is tempting, but Paul warned "do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×). Don't choose fashion models as role models! To maintain godly values and good judgment, we do well to avoid many TV programs, movies, magazines and romance novels that are riddled with promiscuity and soft porn! Above all, we must be much more concerned about what God thinks of us than what people think. Please see "What in the World Is Going On?"
In many stores it can be difficult to find garments that are modest, feminine and becoming. But pleasing God is worth whatever effort and sacrifices it takes! A woman can be modest with classic styles that are always in fashion.
"Glorify God in your body and in your spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
American King James Version×). How? First, by saving sex, seductiveness and sensuality for marriage. Second, by not putting your body on public exhibition, but keeping your secrets until your wedding night, when your lovely body will begin to enrapture that one special man! (Proverbs 5:19 Proverbs 5:19Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and be you ravished always with her love.
American King James Version×).
At the same time, make sure that the number one love of your life is God through Jesus Christ. The Bible is His love letter to you. Lavish your love on Him. Your Prince will be coming soon. Be ready for Him.
It's extremely important that parents teach their children about sex and modesty. The next article in this series will focus on that subject, and will include a list of recommended books that tie in with all four articles in this series. We also recommend our excellent booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.
What in the World Is Going On?
We are in a culture war fueled by lust and greed. Christian civilization is reverting to heathen nakedness and lewdness. Today, everywhere one looks, there are images of scantily-clad women—to get our attention and money. "Sex sells," so merchandising becomes a type of prostitution. Notice that "greed" is associated with "sexual immorality" and "impurity" (Ephesians 5:3 Ephesians 5:3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints;
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
Society puts extreme emphasis on outward appearance, including looking "sexy" and thin, to make people unhappy with their looks in order to sell them stuff—clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, beauty salons, diets, plastic surgery, etc.! True values and modesty will preserve your money, dignity, contentment and your physical and spiritual health.
As immorality and immodesty gradually get worse, everyone is tempted to accept new definitions of "normal." As necklines plunge, so do our standards of acceptance. What we see today was not so long ago considered "indecent exposure." Often trends get started in a subculture and work their way up into mainstream fashion. Amazingly, the garb and makeup of prostitutes have often inspired new fads!
Then there's swimwear. Bikinis cover less than underwear! The patches of cloth draw more attention to the erotic zones of the body than total nudity would. And skintight suits leave almost nothing to the imagination. The beach is a voyeur's paradise. And daring new fashions in swimwear have typically led to similar revealing fashions in street wear.
Prophecies of the end time foretell shameless immorality and immodesty (Jude 3-16; Jeremiah 23:9-14 Jeremiah 23:9-14  My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourns; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
 For both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in my house have I found their wickedness, said the LORD.
 Why their way shall be to them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil on them, even the year of their visitation, said the LORD.
 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none does return from his wickedness; they are all of them to me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
American King James Version×). People will be "loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts" (2 Timothy 3:6 2 Timothy 3:6For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
American King James Version×). They will "allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness" (2 Peter 2:13-19 2 Peter 2:13-19  And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;  Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:  Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;  But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet.  These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
American King James Version×). God warns that He will administer fitting punishments, using enemies who will humiliate Israelite captives by parading them naked (Isaiah 3:9 Isaiah 3:9The show of their countenance does witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe to their soul! for they have rewarded evil to themselves.
American King James Version×, 16-26; Ezekiel 16:37-39 Ezekiel 16:37-39  Behold, therefore I will gather all your lovers, with whom you have taken pleasure, and all them that you have loved, with all them that you have hated; I will even gather them round about against you, and will discover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.  And I will judge you, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give you blood in fury and jealousy.  And I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your eminent place, and shall break down your high places: they shall strip you also of your clothes, and shall take your fair jewels, and leave you naked and bore.
American King James Version×; 23:28-29). But God has called all of us to "come out" of this world to be God's "sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 2 Corinthians 6:14-18  Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?  And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.  And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×).
When women are promiscuous, they often suffer more consequences than the men, including pregnancy and greater disease complications, heartache and depression. When a woman gets a sexually transmitted disease (STD), she often is made incapable of ever having a child. So don't let the world lead you down destructive paths! Guard your precious body and heart!
If you have made big mistakes, remember that God is quick to forgive anyone who sincerely repents. We will be saved by God's grace. The Bible likens a sinner to a naked person, whom God lovingly covers and clothes with His grace and righteousness (Isaiah 61:10 Isaiah 61:10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
American King James Version×; Psalms 32:1 Psalms 32:1Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
American King James Version×; Revelation 3:18 Revelation 3:18I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
American King James Version×; 16:15; 19:8).