Since this is memorial day weekend, and it marks the beginning of summer for many when they like to dress down and show lots of skin, I decided to preach on modesty this morning.
Different people have different views of what modest dress is. For example, some think wearing tight jeans is immodest while others do not. Some think a dress or skirt that comes above the knee is immodest while others do not. Some think that bare arms are immodest, while others do not.
Determining who is right and who wrong is difficult because the NT Scriptures do not give a precise dress code for Christians. You cannot find a Scripture that says, Thus says the Lord, the men shall wear loose fitting clothes that do not show their form and women shall wear loose fitting clothes that does not expose any of their skin.
Even though we do not have specific instructions on what we are to wear the Bible can help us to determine what is modest and what is immodest based on principle. What is principle?
1. “Ā basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct” (Word Web).
2. “Ā fundamental or general truth” (Collins English Dictionary).
3. “Ā general truth that can be applied in many situations” (Quotes & Things, Definitions, D. Collins).
To help us understand the idea of principle in Scripture, I want to give you two examples:
1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
One of Paul’s main goals was to win as many to Christ as He could and he did it by following the basic principle in these verses, which was to relate to those he was trying to reach. These principles could include many things. For example, Paul said:
1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
In this chapter, Paul is talking about eating meats that had been sacrificed to idols. He was not concerned if all meats were acceptable to eat because he told Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
His concern was for the conscience of the weaker Christian who had not came to fully understand that eating all meats was acceptable. Under this circumstance, he was willing to abstain from eating meat if he thought it would cause a weaker Christian to fall.
If we follow the principle that Paul did, we will do what we can to become like those we want to reach with the good news without violating God’s Law, and under circumstance where a weak Christians might be offended by our actions due to a lack of knowledge even though they are lawful, we will not do those things for the sake of that weaker Christian.
For example, if a person is converted out a religion that forbade certain foods, we would not eat those foods in front of them until we had to teach them those foods are acceptable to eat under the new covenant.
A second example comes from:
1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
The principle is to give each week, but you can search the NT all day long and you will never find a specific amount to give. Instead, we must give based on the principle that if we give little we reap little and if we give bountifully we will reap bountifully. When we give, we must give as we prosper and do so with a cheerful heart.
Now lets examine some Scriptural principles that will help us to determine what is modest or immodest clothing.
NKJ 1 Timothy 2:9 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,
ESV 1 Timothy 2:9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
This verse gives us the principle on how we should dress. While it is talking about how women should dress, the same principle applies to men.
We are told to dress in a modest or respectable clothing. The Greek word behind modest or respectable is defined in the following ways:
BDAG - to having characteristics or qualities that evoke admiration or delight … respectable, honorable
FRIBERG - strictly well-arranged… of dress characterized by respectability modest, sensible
This includes under dressing and over dressing. So, we should dress in such a way that is well arranged and that will be viewed as respectable and honorable in the sight of God.
We are also told to dress with propriety. While the ESV uses the same English word modesty it has a different Greek word behind, which means;
THAYER - a sense of shame or honour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect
The idea is that, we should dress in a way that does not cause a sense of shame within us, and we should be thinking about how our dress will affect those around us. Unfortunately, there are many who wear inappropriate clothing whose conscience does not bother them because their conscience has been trained by the principles of the world. But a Christian’s conscience must be trained by Biblical principles if we want to pleasing to God. When we choose what we are going to wear in public, we need to ask ourselves, is this a shameful outfit? Would I be ashamed if I saw my mother or my children dressed this way?
We are also to dress with moderation or self-control. The Greek word behind these words means:
BDAG - soundness of mind, reasonableness, rationality
FRIBURG - as a quality of life characterized by the ability to restrain passions and impulses self-control, moderation, sensibleness
The idea behind this is that we should not dress according to our impulses or our desire to look like the world. Instead, we should dress ourselves by using good judgment. As I said earlier, we should not under dress or over dress because when we do, we will bring unwanted attention to ourselves. Those who dress from one extreme to the other are usually wanting that kind of attention, but Christians should not do this because we are representatives of Christ. As Paul told Timothy:
Titus 2:6 Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
This is directed at the young men, but the same principle applies to us all. Since every Christian is a representative of Christ, we must set the example of how Christians should behave and how they should dress. When we became a child of God, our old self was put death and we were raised a new creature of Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, we live for God, and we must take the responsibilities we have been given seriously, and we must never underestimate the influence we have on other by the way we act and by the way we dress.
If your brother or sister in Christ comes up to you and tells you what you are wearing is too revealing, don’t take offense at, take it to heart and reexamine yourself in the mirror when you get home and look at yourself from several angles to see if they were right. If they are, then don’t wear that anymore, or if possible add something to it so that its not so revealing.
Consider this next passage:
Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 ¶ And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Do you remember what Adam and Eve did when their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked? They covered themselves with fig leaves. But what did they do when the Lord came to talk with them? They hid themselves. Why did they hide themselves? Adam gives us the answer, but pay close attention to his words:
Genesis 3:10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Even though they were clothed with fig leaves, he still considered himself naked because his covering was not appropriate.
In the New Testament, the Greek word “gumnotes” (goom-not-ace) is often translated nakedness and denotes one who is without adequate clothing (BDAG).
Even though Adam and Eve were clothed, they still felt a sense of shame, and the Lord dressed them more appropriately (Genesis 3:21). From this example, we can conclude that God does not approve of clothing that does not properly cover our bodies. God has given us enough sense to figure out what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.
Notice what Paul wrote in:
Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
It should be obvious that if we dress in a way that arouses lustful thoughts in others, we are violating this Scripture. Sometimes people say, “I am not responsible for what others think.” While that is true to a point, we are responsible if we dress in such a way that exposes parts of our body that should be covered. It is like we are giving an open invitation for wondering eyes and lustful hearts.
Even those in the world understand how we dress can cause others to lust, because one man wrote an article about visiting a youth detention center where he saw a sign that read,
“Visitors must be appropriately dressed, Underwear and bras must be worn. No halter tops; No shorts, No revealing clothing.”
When he asked the guard why this was, he said that such clothing was provocative. (See Gospel Truths, Volume XV, Number 7, page 11).
Keep in mind this was a secular institution not a Christian one. So, deep down, even worldly people know that such clothing is provocative. Paul also says:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
As Christian, we should not allow how we dress be determined by what the world considers to be modest dress because many times their idea of modest dress is immodest many times because it still exposes too much skin. We should not allow ourselves to be sucked into to the latest fashions or designer labels especial when those type of clothes are designed to show off your body either through tightness or by showing more skin.
It wasn’t that long ago when low riding jeans were in style. Since I am not a fashion guy, I cannot remember if they were called hip huggers or low riders, but I think were designed by a plumber if you know what I mean.
Since Memorial Day weekend is when many begin to swim in the lakes and the pool. I want you to keep in mind what you are wearing in public. If you want to dress like the world, then men put on your Speedo and ladies put on your two dots and dash.
It has never ceased to amaze me how we can rename something and it can change our whole outlook. Most people would be horrified if someone saw them running around in their underwear, and if someone knocks on their door while they are dressed that way, they quickly look for some clothes to throw on, but rename a bra and panty to a bikini bathing suite or rename underwear to swimming ware or Speedo and like magic it becomes something that ok to be seen in even though it have coverage as their underwear. When go out to swim, look at what you wearing and ask yourself is this appropriate clothing that will glorify God and show that I am not worldly or do I look like everyone else?
One of the easiest ways for us determine what we should wear as Christians it to ask ourselves, “Would I wear this if I were standing in front of Jesus right now, or would I be ashamed of what I am wearing?
While there are no specific instructions that tell us whether our clothes we are wearing are too tight or if a dress is too short, there are certain principles in the Bible that are sufficient to guide us on how to dress modestly. We should never dress in a way that invites people to lust after our body or in a way that we know is not proper for a Christian to wear. If we study the Scriptures carefully, we can determine whether we are dressed modestly or immodestly. I hope everyone here will do their best to represent Christ by your actions and by how you dress.
Adapted from David Cambridge’s lesson on Modesty http://www.davidsplace.eu/Sermons%20Single/Modesty.htm