Contending for Modesty
“Love not the world, neither the things that
are in the world. If any man love the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.”
We are living in a time of moral confusion, and our generation's immorality
is reflected in many of today's styles. Today's fashion industry has little
regard for modesty, and its products often project a look that is inappropriate
for someone who wants to mirror Christ.
The marvelous grace of God in our hearts compels us to reflect His holiness
in the part of our being that other people see. When a person becomes a
Christian, his experience changes every facet of his life-not just the inward
person but the outward person: “And the very God of peace sanctify you
wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians
A Biblical Principle
The Bible instructs us to wear modest clothing, that is, clothing with a godly
appearance. Of course, our outward appearance cannot substitute for inward
holiness. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after they
sinned, but God found their efforts inadequate. By making clothing of
animal skins for them, He confirmed that they indeed needed modest
clothing, but He also revealed that holiness in appearance must be associated
with God's provision for our sins. Only by the death of Jesus Christ, the
Lamb of God, do we obtain the righteousness of God that we seek to reflect
God instructed Israel's high priest to wear "holy garments," for he
represented a holy God: “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy
brother for glory and for beauty.” (Exodus 28:2). God also ordered the
priests to wear clothing that covered their nakedness and forbad elevated
altars upon which priests would walk and thereby expose their nakedness:
(I John 2:15)
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“Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be
not discovered thereon. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover
their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach.”
(Exodus 20:26; 28:42).
Deuteronomy 22:5 enunciates the moral principle of a clear distinction
between male and female in outward appearance: one sex must not wear
styles of clothing associated with the other: “The woman shall not wear that
which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's
garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Proverbs 7:10 speaks of a woman with "the attire of a harlot." Clearly,
certain garments are associated with sin and are not suitable for godly people
The principle that God wants His people to reflect His holiness applies to the
New Testament church: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye
holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I
am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16). We are called to be living epistles read of all
people, declaring to the world God's holy nature and His abiding presence
(II Corinthians 3:3).
Our outward appearance is one way in which we are an unspoken witness of
the transforming power of Christ.
I Timothy 2:9 admonishes "that women adorn themselves in modest
apparel, with shamedfacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or
gold, or pearls, or costly array." I Peter 3:3 gives similar instructions:
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair,
and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel”.
* Shamedfacedness - downcast eyes; bashfulness, that is, (towards men),
modesty or (towards God) awe: - reverence (Strong Greek and Hebrew
* Sobriety - soundness of mind, that is, (literally) sanity or (figuratively) self
control (Strong Greek and Hebrew Dictionary)
I Corinthians 11:1-16 teaches that a woman should have long hair, for it is
her glory, and that a man should not have long hair. A person's hair serves as
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an important visible symbol of his or her submission to God's plan of
authority and as a distinguishing mark between the sexes.
Revelation 16:15 uses clothing as a symbol to instruct the church to stay
close to God: "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest
he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Clearly, God puts emphasis on the outward appearance of a person. To an
extent, clothing reflects the condition of the heart, and it sends a message to
others about a person's values.
A Response to God's Grace
Advocating modesty of dress and outward dedication does not mean
advocating salvation by works. Wearing godly dress is not a meritorious
work to earn salvation; rather, it is a response to the saving grace of God.
The blood of Jesus is our only righteousness. Our salvation comes from
God, never from our good works. To think that we could earn His marvelous
grace by adhering to dress codes would be a terrible mistake.
But to accept the grace of God and then be indifferent to Christ's
commandment for holy living would discredit His mercy. If the church
preaches Christ and His saving grace without teaching biblical guidelines to
live by, it leaves people open to confusion and failure. Deliberate and
continuous disobedience to God's Word will lead to the loss of saving faith.
Who can view the Cross without wanting to conform to Christ? Who would
want to continue his or her old sinful patterns of living when Jesus Christ
died to bring deliverance from those sins? When people comprehend His
holiness, they desire to become holy. While it is true that the blood of Jesus
cleanses from all sin, it is also true that genuine love for Him restrains a
person from presuming upon His marvelous grace.
In our success-oriented society, no one considers it odd if a corporation
requires its employees to conform to a dress code. Why then should a church
that teaches neatness and modesty for the purpose of honoring the holiness
of God be considered narrow, restrictive, or legalistic?
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If we are to honor God in our hearts, it is consistent to honor Him with an
outward dedication. I John 2:15 instructs us, "Love not the world"; surely,
then, we would be foolish to mirror worldly values in our appearance.
The Protection of Modesty
Adhering to a modest, godly standard of dress and conduct offers protection
from the surge of immorality that plagues our generation. Clothes and
appearance transmit nonverbal signals. Christians who verbalize goodness
and godliness but at the same time nonverbally declare sensuality and
ungodliness destroy the effectiveness of their gospel witness.
The primary purpose of many fashion designs is to exalt the ego, attract
undue attention to the flesh, stir desires, and ignite passion in others, thereby
appealing to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,
which the Bible condemns: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh,
and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of
the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that
doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (1 John 2:16-17). If we are to honor
the holiness of God, we must not dress in such styles and with such motives.
We must not naively ignore the complex causes of immorality and marital
infidelity, but neither should we ignore the influence that sensual dress has
on adultery and fornication. If a man looks with lust upon a women he
commits adultery in his heart: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of
old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That
whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery
with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). If a woman provokes a
lustful look by her appearance is she not partly responsible for the man's sin?
If people would dress in ways that do not provoke lust, the moral fiber of our
society would be strengthened.
The danger of overemphasizing any discipline in the Christian life is that
some people allow the discipline to become a legalistic code. Some people
who harbor unholy attitudes such as hatred, bitterness, envy, and strife
falsely think they are spiritual because they wear modest clothes.
Such distortions are hypocritical and wrong. But we cannot dismiss the need
for modesty in dress because some distort it. The biblical alternative to
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legalism is not permissiveness or license but self-discipline motivated by
grace, faith, love, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit:
Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Paul said I Corinthians 9:24-27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race
run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every
man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it
to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run,
not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep
under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I
have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that
he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also
strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (II
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar,
and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is
the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith
he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1
For the sake of our children, we must teach them to respect the holiness of
God in all areas of life. Allowing or encouraging preteens and teenagers to
dress in many of today's fashions is an invitation to social and spiritual
A dress code will not automatically remedy the decaying moral fiber among
youth, but it does remind them of God's commandments. We must begin
somewhere to teach children and youth moral responsibility, and standards
of modesty in dress offer us this opportunity.
When we honor God and His Word in our hearts and in our outward
appearance He places an umbrella of protection over our families. While
moral decay sweeps modern society and many modern churches, we are able
to remain relatively untouched. The world may scoff at our modesty, but we
dare not lay down our cloak of protection and our obedience to the Word of
If you would like someone to help you learn more about the Bible, or if you would like to
be baptized and get involved in a Bible-believing church in your area, please contact your
nearest Pentecostal Church or e-mail Rev. Homer Looper (SilsbeeFPC.org)
for help in finding one.
Word Aflame Press
8855 Dunn Road
Hazelwood, MO 63042-2299