I wrote the following article in 2009 for TEACH magazine. Just recently I’ve once again been exposed to a number of posts and articles on modesty. As I read this again I realized its message is as relevant today as it was in 2009 so I’ve decided to post it here.
I have a young adult son and young adult daughters, so I’ve faced many sides of this issue. Read this article and let me know your thoughts. How are you making this work in your home?
In my next post I will provide you with some online resources about modesty for both men and women.
Can We Truly Claim Ignorance? By Phyllis Sather
Modesty. What could such an old-fashioned word have to do with Christian women of today?
I’m reminded of the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11–12. I’ve heard many sermons about David’s sin, but I’ve never heard one about Bathsheba’s sin. There are differences—David’s was huge, while in comparison Bathsheba’s sin was quite small. David’s was deliberate, while Bathsheba’s was perhaps one of ignorance. Still, I have to wonder; would David have fallen if Bathsheba had been more discrete about where or when she bathed?
It is in this context that my daughters and I have made decisions about how we will dress and present ourselves.
As a first-generation Christian, I was exposed to teaching on modesty at a homeschool conference about 13 years ago. To be honest, I hadn’t really given it much thought before that time. There was a dress code for the conference. Women and girls had to wear below-the-knee dresses or skirts and men and boys were to wear dress pants and dress shirts. Since there were going to be a large number of us in the town where the conference was held, they asked us to give a good impression of homeschoolers by dressing modestly and neatly.
My husband said he was surprised at how shocking it had been for him to walk into a restaurant after spending the entire day with modestly dressed women and girls. He couldn’t believe how much he was acclimated to the immodest dress of today, but after being away from it for just a day, once again it seemed shocking.
One of our daughters was very impressed by wearing dresses for an entire week and later asked us if she could wear dresses more often. This caused us to discuss modesty and we began to make some changes in how we dressed. Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord can use the heart of a child to change the direction of an entire family?
Since our daughters are 20 and 21, I do understand young girls’ desire to be fashionable, but many of today’s fashions are just not meant for godly young girls and women to wear.
First and foremost, modesty begins in your heart. If our heart’s desire is to keep from defrauding young men by the way we dress and act, we will be willing to pass up fashions that entice rather than promote godliness. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with between you and the Lord. If you find yourself struggling here, cry out to the Lord. He is always ready to help us with necessary heart changes. I know—I’ve needed many of them over the years.
Here are some practical suggestions to help you determine if what you are wearing is appropriate.
First, before you wear any article of clothing in public, be sure to look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Bend over. Ask yourself —what shows at the front of your blouse or shirt when you do this? What shows from the back or side when you do this? If you bend over to retrieve a younger sibling, will you be baring your midriff in the front or back? What happens when you sit down? There are many times that clothing looks perfectly fine when you are standing but is very revealing when you bend over or sit down.
Next, ask yourself—what part of my person does this clothing accentuate? As Godly women we should strive to have people look at our countenance rather than at parts of our bodies. To accomplish this, there are several things we can do.
Wear a smile. A smile naturally draws attention to your face. Being modest and attractive has more to do with our heart’s condition before the Lord than it does with what we wear. A smile brightens your face and says, “Hello” before you speak a word. Choose appropriate colors that enhance your skin tones. Choose a hairstyle that complements the shape of your face. Wear special accents near your face. Once again, these will all draw attention to your countenance.
Wear clothing that fits properly and is appropriate to the occasion. Avoid clothing and accessories that attract the observer’s attention to other parts of your person, such as bare skin, and sheer or clinging fabrics that reveal by suggestion rather than by fact. Writing on clothing attracts the observer to the part of the anatomy where the message appears. Avoid fads such as jagged hems, brightly-colored hosiery, or jangling jewelry, which draw the observer’s curiosity and attention.
Consider asking your husband or father. Yes, asking your husband, father, or sometimes even a brother, can be very helpful in determining whether something we want to wear will help us to have the Godly appearance we are striving for or will be a visual trap to some young man.
Ladies, ignorance just cannot be an excuse these days. If we want to have godly young men for our daughters to marry someday, we need to actively participate in helping them to keep themselves pure by training our daughters not to subtly tempt them by the way they dress or act.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is . . .” Ephesians 5:15-18
Finding Joy in the Journey,
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