For some time now, I have been using a little booklet that has helped me guide my preteen daughter through her various stages of growth in the light of the Word. I have been able to give her tools to glorify God from her youth, hoping she will know how to use them to help her cultivate her inner self to be a place where God dwells and to know that her inner beauty is reflected in her outer self.
One of the things I really appreciate about this little book is that the authors address the topic of dressing modestly for those of us who are followers of Jesus.
These authors are physicians, and they give a definition of modesty and a list of three categories that can guide women in choosing clothing styles. The authors share with women that “it is possible to influence men by what you wear, what you do, and what you say. Modesty is the heart’s desire to avoid leading others to wrong sexual thoughts.”
The booklet then shares three categories of immodest dress—too much, too little, and too tight.
- “Too much” is when a woman’s way of dressing says, “Look at me.”
- “Too little” is when a woman doesn’t cover body parts that “need special modesty.”
- “Too tight” refers to clothes that reveal too much of the body’s shape.
Yet the authors encourage women that “being modest should not stop you from dressing prettily or looking beautiful.”
I believe there are young girls and even adult Christian women who need to be encouraged to learn the art and ministry of dressing modestly. We need to teach our girls and encourage women in our ministries that the way we dress when we leave the house affects others. Dressing modestly seems to have declined to the point that our generation has forgotten how important modesty is to God. Media’s portrayal of how women should look exerts tremendous influence on girls’ and women’s minds and self-esteem. We need to rescue modesty.
Modesty is a Biblical Mandate
The Word makes us aware that while what is on the inside is most important (Proverbs 4:23), what is on the outside, how we dress and present ourselves, reflects the state of our heart. For some reason, new generations have disconnected glorifying God from outward appearance, but the Bible gives specific instructions for women. Our lifestyle and behavior should glorify God, and that includes how we dress. We need to address this issue and teach our young women that modesty is a biblical mandate. In Titus 2:3-5 we see that we must instruct and teach women to be “self-controlled and pure… so that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Modesty Glorifies God
The apostle Paul addressed the issue of modesty even more directly in 1 Timothy 2:9: “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” In this letter to Timothy, Paul gives instructions on how believers should worship God individually and corporately. In the Greco-Roman context in which this letter was written (unlike today), women did not wear revealing or tight-fitting clothing, so the issue was that they came to the temple with expensive clothes, flashy hairstyles, and jewelry that drew attention to their outward appearance. How does this apply to us today? Paul is not saying that we should stop dressing up or putting on pretty jewelry, but that when we do, we should not be tempted to draw attention to ourselves, but instead keep all the attention on God. Modesty and humility lead us to discretion, moderation, and balance, and the Holy Spirit can guide us to that.
The Calling to Modesty
Let us influence the next generations by example and words. As Paul found it important to address this issue, so should we. Let’s start with ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal where we are not fulfilling this call to modesty. Bring this up with your girls and ladies in your conversations, in Bible study, and at every opportunity because the world (movies, social media, YouTube, and more) teaches them the opposite every day.
It is important that they know how to reject the pressures of sensuality, consumerism, and appearances that they may not even be aware of. Women don’t have to reveal too much to dress fashionably. They don’t have to display their bodies to prove themselves to others or to be praised. They don’t have to be provocative to conquer, much less to impress. The only thing they need is to please God and seek to glorify Him, even if it costs them giving up some things they like for Jesus.
We are not perfect, nor are our young ladies. I had my times as a young girl when I didn’t know how to choose an outfit that glorified God, but I always had the advice of my parents and the example of my mother and church leaders, something that God used to guide me. Our girls may make mistakes, but we should encourage them to evaluate this aspect of their lives, as I once had to do.
Asking ourselves these necessary questions every day before we walk out the door will be the key to glorifying God with our appearance.
- Am I glorifying God with this outfit?
I am not talking about a skirt, pants, or anything specific because some skirts are so tight or short that it is better to wear pants. This is a good time to use the three categories above.
- Could this clothing cause others to have bad thoughts?
Let’s be clear—we are not responsible for what others think and where their minds go, but we can be responsible for not inviting or inciting them to wrong thinking.
- Could this clothing be an obstacle to what God wants to do today? As extreme or fanatical as this may seem to you, I have found myself standing in front of my closet many times asking God what I should wear for an occasion, and I have learned to be intentional about representing Him well at events. There are times to be simple or casual, times to wear something fancy or vibrant, and God can help us be assertive for any occasion or place.
My hope is that you will be encouraged, even if it is only to pray about it, and that God will encourage you to continue to improve, to be attentive to His voice, and to follow Him. I also hope you can begin to take steps to influence other women and girls to glorify God in all areas of their lives, but don’t forget to do it in love and with much grace.
And always remember that while cultivating our inner beauty is a priority, the outside can be a reflection of inner transformation. The modest woman glorifies God.
“Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears (honors, respects, reveres, obeys) the Lord will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).