Home > Christianity (not LDS), Modesty, Purity, Uncategorized > Fine Lines in Modesty

Fine Lines in Modesty

Yes, there was some pun intended in that title.

So, I read this article recently,  http://jeffbethke.com/the-idolatry-of-modesty/.  I mostly liked the article.  While I thought he brought up some good points, I just wanted to divulge a little on some things.

“Because promiscuity is so prevalent today, we in the church have reacted by elevating modesty to unhealthy proportions. We jump too quickly into behavior modification and don’t realize that most of our modesty campaigns are actually borderline legalism.”   Modesty issues have been around for as long as the we know, but so has promiscuity.  There have always been cultural standards.  It comes from an inherent moral gauge.  We all have that inside voice telling us there’s something not quite right with what I’m doing, or in this case, wearing.  It’s called our conscience, which is God-ordained.  Promiscuity has been around since the old testament.  And it has not stopped.  Nay, it has increased with the sign of the times, and especially the women’s feminist movement.  The world’s feminist movement is not a biblical one, but that’s for another blog roll.  I agree that some people have jumped the extreme, but we shouldn’t  dismiss the “guidelines” as a whole given as a principle in pursuing modesty.  When it’s elevated as a test of one’s salvation, then it’s a problem.  As in any situation, we all need practical advice sometimes, for many are clueless.  Writers, teachers, commentators, leaders, etc, have been doing so forever.  That’s part of how we learn anything.  People live, learn and share.  People are afraid to be tagged legalistic or judgmental.  And the cycle continues.  Unfortunately, teaching on this subject is either lost or minimally superficial because it’s such a touchy issue.  We’ve let the culture dictate our biblical convictions.  Only few can get away with being straight out coarse in certain areas.  Based on one’s perspective or reception, some may take it better from a Mark Driscoll type; others from a Greg Laurie type, or the other spectrum: sadly, TBN people.  Not everyone is receptive to confrontation, even if it is in love.  It is telling of one’s heart.  I think it’s just as hypocritical to accuse someone of being legalistic just because they are firm on their standards.  Sure, behavior modification is not the goal but it is part of the process.  All believers are a construction site, constantly a work in progress.  At the heart of it is definitely a heart issue.  But I think the two can be simultaneously taught (bold emphasis mine).  Why do we dress the way we do?  What glory are we seeking?  What does our appearance say about us?  Do we dress because we seek to honor Christ with our bodies?  Love God more than your looks; more than your desire to have people look at you in awe; more than your desire to feel sexy.  Don’t go to extremes.  You can still be stylish and modest.  Amazing, ain’t it?   If anyone says that their appearance, says absolutely nothing about them; they are either unaware, naive, or flat out lying.

The skirt test- paragraph 2.  I admit that I’ve never attended a private school as a student so I don’t have that personal experience.  I taught at one for a brief time and they had uniforms yet I’ve never seen or heard of “the knee test”.  But, oh how I dig uniforms!  It takes all the nonsense out.   I think it’s a huge assumption to say they “like” to do the skirt test.  People go to these schools/universities, etc, knowing that there are rules.  There are rules everywhere.  God has “rules”, and they are good for us.  Rules (or laws, if you will) are set, mainly for our good.  Lists are not always legalistic.  I don’t tell my kids not to run into the street without looking because I’m legalistically looking for ways to set my standards on them.  Not running into the street is not a rule or even a guideline mentioned in the bible, as with many “rules” we’ve set for ourselves.   Let’s not dismiss and be so cynical about practical guidelines that seek our good.  Take it with a grain of salt if you choose.  But don’t jump to the eye roll just because someone is more conservative than you on certain issues.  I don’t think rules like such should be used to embarrass people, but there is a time and place to use certain situations to make an example of either for the good or bad.  Like, if I see a drugee on the street knocked out homeless, I might say something like, “look, that is not where you want to be.”  I don’t think that’s out of line.  It’s real.

In the Body we need to realize using men’s sin and lust issues as the reason why a woman should dress a certain way is actually making her just as much an object than if she were to dress promiscuously.”  This just doesn’t sound right to me.  Maybe some are using “men’s sin and lust issues” as an excuse.  But it’s reality.  It’s not so much ‘using’ those issues as it is realizing those things and every one doing their part.  Men need to check themselves.  And as their sisters in Christ, we need to check ourselves too, in more ways than one.  It’s about considering one another (Phil2:3, Rom12:10, 1Pet1:22) in purity.  Why is it that we want to wear short skirts anyway?  Is it really just because it’s cute?  Why is it cute?  Who says so?  Is it cute because it shows more leg?  More leg exposure is almost always synonymous with more sexy.   Sadly, I even learned that at a young age.  Why do you intentionally want your breast exposed at all?  Is there any other reason?

Every lady should ask herself when getting dressed, “am I getting dressed thinking about God’s gaze upon me or someone else’s?” Because the truth is whether you dress to be looked at modestly, or you dress to be looked at promiscuously, you are still dressing to be looked at by someone other than your Creator, which is idolatry. There is nothing wrong getting dressed or picking clothes because you think others will think they’re cute, what I am saying though is, is that affirmation ultimate in your life?”  Okay, I don’t know the guy; have nothing against him and mean no offense but, I’m kind of a grammar nazi and his written grammar is bad.  Forgiven.  Okay, I had to get that out.  Now then.  I like the way he stated this.  We all need affirmation sometimes in our life.  God has created us with a need for love and affection.  That’s who He is- LOVE.   But we tend to be obsessive in seeking affirmation in places we ought not.  I know this.  I’ve lived this.  I’m a descendent of Eve.  I admit I still struggle with it at times.  Oh, the wretch that I am!  If you wouldn’t want to wear something in company of “church people”, then maybe you need to rethink why.  Is it you or the latter?  If you think, “well, non-believers won’t judge me.”  Well, there’s a reason for that.  But even pagans have standards.  There’s a reason for that, too.

Basic, safe guidelines, if I may.  I know, it’s a list.  Bear with me.

  1. Let not your cleavage show.  If your boobs hang out at all, cover them.  Don’t forget to do the bend-over check.  If your shirt flies wide open and your boobs are totally exposed in that position, who gains a view?  Ladies with bigger bust, you just have a little more challenge, but it’s not impossible.  I’ve seen it done.  If you were covered before bending over, just be sure to suavely catch your shirt before it opens on your way down and while you’re down there.  No biggie.
  2. Belly dance in your bedroom.  This isn’t a deal breaker but if your shirt is short enough to rise when your arms do, maybe it’s better not to wear it in public.  I’m sure your husband would like to see it though.
  3. If you can barely move in it, you should probably either lose weight or move on.  Was that too crass?  No offense.
  4. If it’s in your crotch and you’re constantly tugging at it, it’s too tight.  Not to mention unhealthy.  Did you know that wearing tight-fitting bottoms in your privates can cause bacterial growth?  Ew.  Double whammy.
  5. If you sit down and just can’t seem to pull your skirt or shorts down far enough because you now feel uncomfortable to sit, it’s too short.  You should have some room to move safely in that skirt or dress.  Is your show rated R or G?
  6. If you can’t bend without your bootie showing?  C’mon, it’s too short.
  7. If you can see through it, you might as well be naked.  See #8.
  8. Bikinis- Let’s be honest.  There’s just nothing modest about them.  You might as well go out in your underwear and bra.  Just because it’s got a nice patterned design doesn’t make it fit for public viewing. Those private showings are best saved for the context of marriage (for the Christian).
  9. It’s not that you aren’t pretty, don’t have a great body or that you are being oppressed from being lady-like.  Feminism doesn’t mean you have to forgo modesty.  There’s nothing lady-like about flaunting yourself for the sake of just making yourself feel good because people are gawking at your body.   That’s not what God created your body for.   If you’re hot and you know it, humility wears sexier than arrogance.
  10. Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting,but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

The list does not in any way make you “okay” with God, as in check off this list and you’re good.  It’s just as I said, a “safe guideline.”  That’s it.  A help, if you will.  Lists are good as long as you don’t think you are “saved” by them.  Only Jesus does that.

“Everything caters to men.”  This is somewhat true but I have heard teaching and opinions on both.  We as a whole do need to teach men, especially the youth, about their responsibilities.  But again, you run the risk of being “legalistic” in setting rules and boundaries.  I try to teach both sides.  I have two little girls and one teenage son.  I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, thanks be to God.  I began to teach my first daughter more consistently about modesty as I mature in knowledge of it.  She has a younger sister.  I have been talking to my girls openly about modesty; what’s appropriate and what isn’t; and what’s acceptable in our home.  It’s a process for sure.  They don’t understand quite yet why other Christians dress in what we’d consider immodest.  So, for the last few years, I’ve since been teaching my girls gradually on this issue and they are slowly grasping it, even though they don’t fully understand why.  It’s about trusting me as their God-given parent, caregiver, protector and authority.  My son is down syndrome but functioning high enough to understand appropriateness.  I  continually talk to him about lusting.  He’s a human man.  He is not exempt from this struggle.  I also teach him about his responsibility to look away and protect his eyes as to protect his heart.

Is this idea so lost today?  Is it really that extreme?  Scripture is extreme.  His eyes wander in the very same direction all average men do- the body and any exposed private parts.  True, a man will lust even if she is covered head to toe.  That’s his heart issue.  This is not license to do the opposite.  So, men, make it your responsibility to not make women feel sinful for being pretty.  Protect your sisters by not arousing hormones before it’s time.  Is she yours to gawk at lustfully, caress tenderly, think upon sensually?  Is she committed to you in matrimony?  Then think again.  You have no right until you vow to love her in HOLY matrimony.  God’s glory is the goal.  God-sanctified union is the cure to your heat.  As women, we should do our part.  It goes both ways.

We love rules and regulations…”  Like I said before, the bible gives us lots of “rules” and they are for our good.  “Love God…Children, obey your parents…love one another…be pure, etc”  The list goes on.  Of course, live for Jesus.  But by these things, you will know they are His disciples.  Oh, the Christian life is much more complex than we want to admit.  “Just love Jesus!”  What does that mean exactly???  It means so much more than we even know and sometimes want to ignore.  The Spirit gives us strength to fulfill the law, like Jesus fulfilled it.  He fulfilled it for us, and in turn He works the law through us, perfecting it as we grow in Him.  It’s a mystery how it all works but all praise to Him who is sovereign over it all.

I know opinions on modesty varies.  I realize that some are of the mindset that pants are only for men; long ankle skirts/dresses are the most modest, along with long hair and no make up.  There’s definitely something to be said about the femininity of women in dresses/skirts.  I can appreciate that even though I don’t believe that women are restricted to just that.  And I can also appreciate a desire to remain o’naturale.  I would also encourage it myself.  Minimalistic is my standard policy.  It’s a beautiful thing, so long as it’s not used to condemn others in a spiteful way.  I definitely think the more natural, the better.  But I’m not saying it’s law.  “Everything is good, but not everything is beneficial.” (1Cor10:23-24)

His “solution“.  First paragraph, I like and agree.  Second paragraph, I have to modify to say that you should seek godly counsel from your husband, definitely.  Women, we should honor our husband’s opinion rather than being so quick on the defense.  If you look fat, you look fat.  It’s okay.  You’re not going to look good in everything.  Ain’t that the hard truth?  But it’s okay!  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  There’s always going to be someone we see or think of that’s prettier than us no matter how beautiful you are.  That’s one of the downfalls of living in a sin-cursed world.  But there’s always room for improvement.  Don’t be drenched in your own pity over your shortcomings.  And don’t drag others into your pity party.  Let Jesus cover that.  His grace is sufficient.

Secondly on the second paragraph, just because he’s a Christian brother, or Christian boyfriend, doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about, or will be honest with you.  Peers tend to be just as insecure and may be afraid to be truthful out of embarrassment or pride or immature to know the difference.  Take your pick.  If not your husband, seek out your father, elder, pastor or elder woman; someone wiser and older than you possibly.  This is not to say that your peer may not have good counsel, but generally speaking, it’s likely more “safe” to seek the latter list.  Ask for the straight up  truth and don’t be offended when they give it.

The last 2 lines of the last paragraph is money.

Okay, so I divulged- a lot.  It’s not as easy an issue as it appears to be.  And confronting this issue is awkward and uncomfortable because we want to be so careful not to hurt others.  My intention is not to hurt or vainly judge and criticize for the sake of building myself up (or like-minded persons) or put anyone down.  I’m passionate about purity.  I think this partially stems from my own experience in the loss of purity at a young age.  I was not taught godliness even though my God-given conscience had always told me what’s good and right.  I did things I’m not proud of.  Impure things.  Very impure things.  Long story short, I had a child out of wedlock at 16.  Quite shameful, actually.  And it’s right that I feel shame over them acts, past or not.  But they don’t rule me.  God used my sins and my son to bring me to Himself.  I was such rebellious sinner, won over by the grace of God.   The other reason is that purity is so beautiful.  Our Lord is pure.  The cleanest, holiest, unblemished of all beings.  A pure relationship with Him is such a harmonious song.  It’s hard to describe.  Therefore, earthly relationships based on purity defined by God is a beautiful story.  I wish I had a great love story of purity.  But thank God he is merciful and gracious, faithful to forgive us our transgressions.  I was given a new beginning.  I now have the chance to seek such purity in my marriage.  And that’s a daily construction site.

My intention in speaking out is for the glory of God and for the purity of His name.  I could say more and I know there are things I’ve left out.  It’s not my intent to cover every inch (some pun) of this issue.  Our appearance, as legalistic as it may sound, is important- to an extent.  You would dress appropriately to impress an employer when going for an interview or a date.  Why isn’t it important to “dress” for God?  We are called and commanded to do many things in scripture, but it’s not for our salvation nor our glory, but born out of a desire to please Christ, which in turn brings us the joy of obedience.  It’s for our good.

  1. P Taitt
    August 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    my goodness, thank you! I came here after reading the Bethke blog and I’m glad I did — I think christians like to address extremes (the skirt test) because its “hot” in our culture right now. Thank you for this very balanced post! 🙂

  2. August 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Awesome! Thanks for linking to it on my blog!

  3. Bec
    August 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Sorry for my grammar in advance…:)
    Humorous and thought provoking. This has recently come up as a private issue in our church (private meaning someone was complaining about another woman, and since I’m the pastor’s wife, the complaint came to me) but it was coming from someone with a “legalistic” point of view, and was not expressed to me in loving manner. We do need to teach, and I’m very cautious, sometimes too cautious to not say anything and “let God change the heart”. He can, and DOES, but sometimes guidelines should be lovingly presented.

    • August 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Bec. It’s true that this can be a form of casting people out, which I’m not totally condoning here, But, I do think there is a place where we ought to use discretion in how and how much we interact with people who are careless in their representation of Christ to the world in their appearance. It may be the only or little positive influence they have. I also do believe in praying for changed hearts and not just changed actions. I think both “teaching” via by hearing and living out your witness via actions are needed. Some are just oblivous or uneducated about modesty anymore b/c people don’t want to be labeled “judgmental” or “mean” or the dreaded “legalistic.” It’s a touchy (some pun intended) subject for sure and you risk being labeled legalistic for trying to teach standards on issues like these but I don’t believe that we should be swayed to silence b/c we don’t want to offend. Definitely do it all in love and with wisdom, whom God gives according to his good pleasure when we ask Thanks for sharing. (p.s. i’m a pastor’s wife too. it’s not easy.)

  4. Andrea Masiewicz
    May 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    That was excellent!! I admit I struggle with your modesty rule #1. I am larger on top, wear camis/tshirts under low shirts and make an effort to keep my chest covered but occasionally my methods are just not as effective as I had hoped. I always feel bad because I HAVE actually made an effort to avoid this….but sometimes it’s just challenging. But, with God’s grace and help, I will persevere in the struggle!

    • May 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks. I know it can be challenging but not impossible. And I know you value this as much as I do and I can appreciate that and your efforts. I know this can be a sticky subject but something I am wholeheartedly passionate about in my pursuit of God’s holy and pure name. Love you girl!

  5. May 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Great word!

  1. June 19, 2012 at 6:49 am

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