Have you ever been at a gathering when a gorgeous, stunningly dressed female walks in the room? (Maybe she was you.) Heads turn and it isn’t just male attention that is captured. There is power in how we dress. That power can be used for good or for bad, so the Creator who made us male and female has given us principles to help us use it rightly. He gives us answers if we are truly seeking to love Him and link our decisions to Him. Many of the Ten Commandments apply to this subject—a subject often called modesty.
But modesty is often openly ridiculed today. It is definitely not in vogue . The world of Hollywood, fashion designers, the music industry, advertising and many publications promote vulgarities, sexual promiscuity and even violence as the norm. “Free” expression is worshiped at a great cost to us. Those who choose to behave differently are considered “inhibited”—implying there is something wrong with them. Maybe we need to recapture a few inhibitions and apply God’s commandments to this subject.
Obedience to the first of God’s Ten Commandments means we recognize God as God and that we respect His views on how we live. Looking deeper into God’s Word we’ll find that such respect includes modesty.
Placing value on decency in our dress and behavior enhances our lives in ways many do not realize. Modesty is more than what meets the eye; it is a virtue that comes from within.
Modesty may be more than skin deep but, let’s face it, most of us, especially females, are very interested in what does or doesn’t cover our skin! That covering is symbolic and tells the world much about us. Clothing can send powerful messages: “I’m cool.” “I want attention.” “I’m a slob.” “I don’t like authority.” “I have a sense of dignity and I respect others.”
How we clothe ourselves usually consumes much of the attention given to the topic of modesty, and rightly so. I must admit that I’m interested in clothing and all the accessories that go with it. I even confess to a fashion faux pas or two hidden in my large closet. The articles that went into my closet are a reflection of my personality. Whether conscious or subconscious, those purchases were a product of personal feelings, thoughts and motivations just as what comes out of my closet reflects those things to the world, for better or worse.
In effect, I can’t escape personal responsibility for what I wear. Liking appropriate fashion is OK and fun; letting it control or consume us is not. For some it becomes an idol. So we must also consider the possibility that if our attire reflects our self-absorption, we might be worshiping at the altar of self. Anything that separates us from God is not good for us. It won’t bring happiness. The Second Commandment teaches us not to place anything above God.
We live in a culture whose influences separate us from God. Vulgarities and disrespect for God’s name flow off many people’s tongues without thought. Such actions break the Third Commandment. Have you ever considered that the way we dress can be equally vulgar, only in a nonverbal way?
Observance of the Sabbath, the Fourth Commandment, is rare in this world. Part of our Sabbath observance is how we dress. Those of us who congregate on the Sabbath are to make a conscious effort in our behavior and dress to respect God and the opinions and traditions of those He has placed in authority.
Relationships with parents
Modesty affects our sense of dignity and our most important relationships—thus, our happiness. How does modesty affect our relationships? A good example is that of typical parent/teen relationships. Honoring our parents is a command from God (the Fifth Commandment). A fundamental principle from this commandment is to respect parental guidelines in our behavior and dress.
Disagreements in this regard are not rare and often result in strained relationships. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if pursuing self-gratification is worth the fallout—both with parents and with God? What happens when you go to school? Do you hike your skirt up or adjust your clothes in some other way so you can “be cool” in the eyes of some at school rather than respect your parents’ wishes? In other words, do we sneak or lie (a violation of the Ninth Commandment) to avoid conflict— skirting the issue? Dress is one way we express ourselves and we should never allow self-expression to become more important than love for God and love and respect for our parents.
The power of dress
Back to the gathering when a stunningly dressed female walks in the room. Heads turn and everyone pays attention. There is power in how we dress. But the female craving to be an object of desire sells females short. Such a woman is asking to be treated as an object rather than a person and all that she is. In fact, craving this type of attention is devaluing yourself, whether you are male or female.
Girls should ask themselves if they want to be taken seriously. Provocative dress can inspire lust. It is an inescapable fact that males are sexually stimulated by sight. An insatiable need for reassurance that manifests itself by advertising physical assets to the world is not a sign of confidence, nor does it inspire a healthy relationship.
Secure, godly women
The truly secure woman is often the most modestly dressed one. The lust that, wittingly or unwittingly, women all too often inspire in males may cause them to stumble. Christ, in the New Testament, expounds on the Seventh Commandment saying that a man who looks at a woman and lusts has sinned (Matthew 5:27-28 Matthew 5:27-28 27 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
American King James Version×).
We are reminded by many New Testament writers not to cause anyone to stumble. Don’t forget that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×)! We must be careful not to sin ourselves or cause others to sin.
Have you ever considered that we may create feelings of jealousy or covetousness in others of the same sex by the way we dress? The Tenth Commandment tells us to avoid covetousness. So we need to consider not only the significance of peer pressure when we dress, but also the element of competition. Sadly, there are those in our society who give in to the temptation to steal and even murder for items of clothing (breaking the Eighth and Sixth Commandments). Are we living life as though it were a fashion competition?
Modesty protects others as mentioned above, and it protects us! It is an awesome task to teach men to be gentle, protective and honorable in their dealings with women when the world around us sends the opposite message. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes, but not the same. The boundaries that value the uniqueness of the sexes have become blurred, much to our Creator’s disappointment.
Secure women have no compulsion to flaunt themselves. And women who value their worth are more likely to inspire men to value and honor them. On the other hand, is it fair for women to expect men to be honorable when the women’s behavior sends the message that they don’t have to be? Modesty battles the crude and vulgar in our society. Modesty gives us a base of reference regarding how we view and interact with one another.
Modesty is a fascinating and revealing topic. If you are interested in an insightful indictment on modern society’s lack of this virtue and the subsequent fallout, I highly recommend Wendy Shalit’s book, A Return to Modesty . The book of Esther in the Old Testament is also inspirational. Esther had great outward beauty, but it was her inward beauty (her courage and obedience to God) that left a legacy affecting an entire nation. When it comes to modesty, remember the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20). These laws are not just physical, but spiritual and should be written on our hearts. YU
Reference: Shalit, Wendy, A Return to Modesty , New York, Touchstone, 2000.