Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Dear Daughter: The Heart of Modesty
Modesty is such a touchy issue to address, especially for young ladies. While the Bible is clear that women are to be modest (few believers would argue this particular point), it does not seem to define it definitively in terms of hem length, necklines, slits, tightness, looseness, straps or no straps, bikinis, undergarments, or anything else. And for good reason...
Modesty is never, NEVER, N.E.V.E.R. just a clothing and style issue. It is always first and foremost a heart issue. And the issue of the heart is usually vanity and pride.
The reality that it's a heart issue may have escaped your notice, but how we dress reveals a lot about the state of our heart at that very moment. In fact, your clothing is an advertisement to everyone who sees you, like a billboard designed to grab one's attention.
A modest attire tells others you value yourself as well as your "neighbor", but more importantly, it reveals that you value your relationship with your Savior.
Immodest clothing announces your focus is clearly on self with little thought of others and that you are seeking attention. And it distinctly communicates that in this particular area you are not seeking to please God, but man.
It may seem harsh for me to make such a bold claim... that an immodest, Christian young lady is being selfish and vain. But to ignore this fact and pretend it's really just her flair for fashion, or a need for self expression, or even her "cluelessness" is really the same as approving of her sin and does nothing to set her back on the right path.
While the responsibility for addressing the sin lies first and foremost with her parents (who should be diligent to instruct her in proper clothing from an early age and certainly before an immodest attire is paraded in public), it does not mean that a young lady is not responsible for her own modesty. With each passing year, she should be gaining wisdom of her own and have less of a need for her parents to "rule over her" with a firm hand.
If her heart is seeking to please the Lord, then a simple study of modesty from the Bible will be sufficient to guide her in proper wisdom and understanding when it comes to her clothing. And because her heart is seeking that which is honoring to God, she will see the instruction as good and for her benefit, not as a "punishment". This is the young lady who will be creative within the boundaries she knows will please her Lord and she will cheerfully find a way to be fashionable and yet modest.
However, a girl who is rebelling against God or perhaps seeking to please her own flesh, when given counsel from her parents or from the Word, will reflect an irritation in her soul that is seen in her attitude and response when confronted. Such a young lady will complain or whine about how restricting the proper clothing is, that it's not fair others can wear the latest fashion, or how ridiculous the modest attire looks on her. Nothing pleases her unless she wins her parents over to allow her to wear what she desires. Life for her is miserable and she will never find joy even if she obeys her parent's wishes to the letter unless she repents of the sin in her heart first.
Many a girl has worn clothing that covered almost her entire body, only to flaunt her figure by walking in a provocative manner while teasing and flirting with every young man who happens to come across her path. Why? Most don't know why they do this. All they know is that it makes them feel good when boys pay attention to them. But the truth of the matter is... by seeking to stir up emotions in the opposite sex, her heart was chasing after their attention and approval in order to flatter her vanity and pride.
So what counsel does God's Word give in terms of the heart of modesty?
• Have you ever hear of the word "shamefacedness"? This word is synonymous with modesty and if you do a word study on it, you'll find that it means "a sense of shame or honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, and respect". Do young ladies parading around in tight fitting, low cut tops or short skirts make you think of any of these character qualities? Probably not! Oh, where are the maidens of our day? This isn't about stepping back into a Victorian Era, but rather obeying 2 Timothy 2:9, "Likewise I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly...".
• We are to put others before ourselves, even in our clothing choices! "Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus..." Philippians 2:3-5. This means that you need to protect not only your own body and heart, but that of your brother in Christ who could very easily stumble when he sees too much of your body.
You need to KNOW that men are created by God to be attracted to women visually (and actually, we like this fact). Often women forget this on a surface level, but truthfully, we think of this a lot more than we may realize. When girls are still single and looking for "Mr. Right" to come along, almost every young lady makes an attempt to look her best when she knows she is going to be in the presence of other young men. So to say "I don't get it" is an excuse and actually closer to an out right lie at times! As girls, we "get it", but we just don't want to acknowledge it because we want to please our own flesh.
• This idea of the opposite sex brings me to another point that you may be thinking... Am I my brother's keeper? To some degree, yes! "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself;" (Romans 15:1-3a). As far as it in your ability to do so, help your brother not to sin and go the extra mile to be modest. Don't worry... he WILL notice. Chaste young women are extremely attractive to young men looking for a wife!
• The saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans" does not apply to things that would be sin. So wearing an item to an "event" that would otherwise be considered inappropriate so as to blend in and "be a witness" doesn't cut it! God never gives us a pass from obeying His Word to win others to Christ. We think too little of our Lord and our fellow man when we think that doing right can not possibly bring others to Christ, even if it seems offensive or silly to them at first. And why would they need a Savior if they already have all that you seem to have? They won't see their need unless they see the righteousness of Christ lovingly and beautifully portrayed, radiating from the believer.
• Sometimes we need to go the extra mile, going even beyond the minimum, and clothe ourselves in such a way as to not give offense to a brother or sister in Christ or another group of people who might struggle with our attire even if our clothing isn't considered immodest according to Biblical standards. Missionaries often find themselves in such situations when living abroad. Is it too much to do the same when visiting a church or family you know has standards different than your own family? As long as we do not become legalistic in setting such standards, we are not forbidden to honor the standards of the weaker brother. Instead, Paul tells us to practice such standards in their presence until God helps them to see the truth. (I Corinthians 8)
• When our heart rebels against what we know to be true, such as the Scriptures above, we need to take note and do some serious introspection and root out the sin in our heart with the help of the Holy Spirit. Don't brush it off and think it's no big deal! It is!! Deal with it prayerfully. Don't ignore it or in time, you won't hear the Holy Spirit at all in this regard and you'll be so deep in your sin, you'll be less likely to repent. Remember Romans 1:18-19!
My dear, I believe the Lord purposefully did not give strong specifics in regards to our clothing for several reasons, but one reason in particular stands out in my mind... if He had given us detailed guidelines, we would probably push the limit right up to the edge and check off modesty as if it were only an outward requirement and never consider the modesty of our heart. I pray that your heart will forever and always be His!