God versus Culture: Modesty (1)

Modesty.jpgIt is a sign of the cultural upheaval of our day that modesty is continually prefaced by “old fashioned.” It apparently is seen as an outdated notion that has no place in our modern society. This is not surprising since cleavage has now become a fashion accessory.
Modesty is commonly referenced in terms of the amount of skin shown in public. Yet, to properly understand the term, the focus of our investigation must be expanded.
Modesty is a mindset and a mode of existence. It is the way we see the world and our place within it. Modesty is more than being tethered to moderation in all things, as if it were founded on timidity and self-loathing. Instead, it is a liberation from cultural conventions and a pronouncement of the exaltation of individuality.
C. S. Lewis once said that the traditional idea that when we are nude our individuality is expressed, is erroneous. On the contrary, he notes, in the nude we are blended together. It is when we are clothed that we are freed from the masses of uniformity.
Summer weather brings the disrobing of society. The false notion that only the “sexual parts,” and then only segments of them, must be covered feeds the continual denigration of modesty. Considering that that which is called modest today would have brought incarceration in previous times evidences the general decline in standards.
Modesty which is prescribed in Scripture encompasses much more than clothing. It is an expression of purity and self-respect. In language, attire and behavior, we exhibit restraint and a higher focus. Jeremiah’s lament that Israel had forgotten how to blush points to the lack of appreciation for the consequences and influences of our actions (Jeremiah 6:15). This focus brings us to weigh our thoughts, words and behavior against the backdrop of God’s Word and its subsequent standards. We realize that we are parts in a whole not simply insignificant dots on a landscape.
Modesty in word means we weigh our words against God’s Word. Remembering that evangelism can happen when least expected, we are careful to pull people to God, rather than driving them away. We live as transformed citizens of the kingdom of God who live and work in the secular world (Ephesians 4:17-19; Romans 12:1-2).
Modesty in behavior means we maintain self-control and employing the Lord’s armor, we wage war against our fleshly passions (Ephesians 6:10-13).
Modesty in behavior, words and deeds will come to bear on modesty in dress. It will not be wildly out of alignment with the remainder of the aspects of modesty. Restraint and godly focus will still be the barometers of our modesty.
In Scripture, modesty refers to being orderly and well-arranged. In 1 Timothy 2:9 we read, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (NKJV). This passage is concerned with the motivations behind what is worn and what it says about the wearer. Does our clothing exhibit a godly attitude? Or, does it portray us as being a fleshly person? Modesty, therefore, will require a transparent honesty and a knowledge of God’s will. And it requires a discipleship devoted to bringing glory to God in all that we do.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

2 thoughts on “God versus Culture: Modesty (1)

  1. It seems that modesty goes both ways. You can “overdress” and that would not be modest, which seems to be the thrust of the Timothy passage. If our apparel reeks of worldliness (which can happen both from being underdress or overdressed) then I would think this is ungodly. We don’t typically hear lessons about overdressing, perhaps it seems too Amish for us.

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