Online Articles

Online Articles

Modest Dress

The perceived extremes regarding any Bible principle do not alter the principle. There really are some Biblical principles that relate to dress. The fact that some well-meaning people have gone to extremes regarding them does not remove them. Whether you admire or disapprove of the veiled women among some religious groups who cover themselves from head to toe or those who wear only the plainest possible garments of black and white, does not change the truth that there really is a sort of dress code that God imposes upon His children.

It is sad that Christians sometimes suppose that the plain garments of the Amish and some other groups are extreme in one direction while seeming not to notice that the clothing worn by so many around us every day of the week is extreme in the other. Television and movies may very well have become the measures by which some have wrongly ascertained the norms, not recognizing that these examples are extremes and often beyond the limits imposed by God's word. If the lines between what is appropriate and what is extreme are not always easily defined, they exist — and the Christian can certainly find a manner of dress that is absolutely within the bounds. There may be a "gray area" between how far one can lean over the side of a high cliff and yet be safe — and how far is too dangerous — but most of us seem to know how to remain on the safe side of that line without claiming that we have found its exact location. If there is an extreme that might be called "excessive modesty" (an oxymoron?) on the one hand, there is a more dangerous extreme that inspiration calls "the attire of a harlot" (Proverbs 7:10).

Paul was not just giving his opinion when he was inspired to write that Christian women ought to "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation … which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9-10). He was simply telling the truth. Modesty is first of all a condition of the heart and it is expressed or, conversely, shown not to exist by outward behavior and dress (Isaiah 3:16-24). The word that Paul used means "orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest" (Vine's). It is a quality that must be possessed and expressed by one who would serve as an elder (1 Timothy 3:2 — translated "good behavior" and not connected with apparel in this case). It follows that a decent person will wear decent clothing and will behave decently. The inner person will be expressed by what is on the outside (1 Peter 3:3-5).

The word for "propriety" (translated "shamefacedness" in the KJV) conveys the idea of "a sense of shame, modest…" (Vine's). It is not the idea of awkwardness that would cause one to become easily embarrassed without cause. It is more a sense of the point at which shame is in order and a keeping of oneself from that which ought to cause shame — in order to remain free from it.

The word for "moderation" (translated "sobriety" in the KJV) "denotes soundness of mind… 'sound judgment' practically expresses the meaning…." (Vine's). These words obviously impart an obligation upon a woman to give careful thought to how her dress might complement her good works in "professing godliness."

While there may be some disagreement as to the exact point at which the line is crossed from acceptable to too tight, too short, too much flesh exposed, too flashy, too inviting of lustful thoughts, there is plenty of room for morally right choices to be made before those lines are approached. These principles can be followed. Maybe a few suggestions will help the process along.

Before leaving home, look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Why am I wearing this?" If your self-learned motive seems to violate any of these (or other) Bible principles, then it is time to change your outfit.

Look in the mirror and ask, "What will be the likely impression that others will have when they see me wearing this?" You might want to picture specific people, — the elderly, the young, the brethren, the opposite sex…. Are you able to foresee any result of wearing what you have on that might hinder your profession of godliness? If so, then it is time to change your clothes. In the end, this is not a matter of merely avoiding criticism from others. It is a matter of really, from the depths of your heart, wanting to live a life that will glorify God. "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation" (Psalm 149:4).