Have most young women today ever heard of the word “modesty?” Truly? If you were to stop the average 12 or 13 year-old girl on the street and ask her for a definition of the word “modesty,” what do you think she would say?
I’ll tell you. She’d say, “Huh?”
Looking back, I realize that before even becoming a Christian, I had a certain level of modesty about me. When friends chose to wear more provocative or sexy clothing, I declined. I never really felt comfortable in bikinis and often tried to cover myself.
But, now I know that modesty extends so far beyond what we wear. Modesty isn’t solely about mini-skirts and push-up bras. It is a state of being, a quality one holds. Modesty encompasses more than we assume, but even much of what we assume is wrong.
Our distorted definition of modesty can be blamed on lots of things…things like Facebook, television, popular music, movies, and of course, us. Mostly, we are to blame for not defining modesty in the correct terms.
For starters, I mentioned that modesty extends far beyond fashion. One definition says modesty is “having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.” I like that. Regard for decencies.
Decency. Yet another word that far too many people cannot accurately define, let alone model.
Which brings me to my second point. If we acknowledge that modesty is not limited to one’s clothing, but also applies to our behavior and speech, it would follow that modesty is not a requirement of only women.
That’s right. The need for modesty applies to both men and women. How do you like them apples?
I have to admit, I don’t think of men as being modest or needing to be. However, I do think of men, especially my brothers in Christ, needing to display a certain level of respect, self-control, and integrity. In other words, a regard for decencies.
I expect a Godly man to be aware of his speech and his actions, to be able to control his tongue and reflect Christ. Strange though that we never think of this as modesty, per se.
When the church talks about modesty, we tell young women to pull up their necklines, lower their hemlines, and not to bother packing that two-piece swimsuit for the college retreat. No navels. Ever.
We criticize girls for posting their vacation photos on Facebook. We mumble under our breath, “Harlot, heathen, minx.” I’m totally kidding because I really hope no one is actively using the word “harlot,” but you get the idea.
We do what so many of us are really good at doing: We judge. We judge the outer (wo)man. We judge her clothing…or lack thereof.
But, to be fair, God judges the heart and that is what He is interested in. If our definition of modesty has to change, well then, the Bible is a good place to start. The Bible never directly addresses the issue of modesty, but makes all kinds of references, including 1Peter 3:3-5:
” Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”
Right there the Word tells us that it is the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” that God finds most attractive. Now, I wouldn’t say I have a “gentle and quiet spirit” exactly, but these words are also translated as “humble” and “pure.”
And shouldn’t all of our Christian brethren be desirous of a humble spirit and a pure heart, whether male or female? Do we honestly believe that we can get away with foul language, indecent behavior, and judgement of others and still preach “modesty?”
Modesty outwardly reflects what is hidden in the heart. To quote author Hannah Farver, the pursuit of modesty forces us to ask ourselves,”Am I an example of Christ-centeredness? Or have I just gotten comfortable in the “Christian routine” and forgotten why I’ve chosen to live this way?”
How do you feel about modesty? Do you think it need apply to both men and women? How can we encourage modesty–a humble spirit and a pure heart?