Thoughts on Modesty

by Karen Elizabeth Ray


What's in Her Heart

Some say, "It doesn't matter what a woman wears, it matters what's in her heart." But I believe that what a woman wears reflects what's in her heart.

The Bible links a woman's dress with her attitude, mentioning an adulterous wife "with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart" (Proverbs 7:10-20); rich women who wear ostentatious attire and are "haughty" (Isaiah 3:16-23); and Christian women who are to dress "in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety" (1 Timothy 2:8-9, KJV). In all three cases, dress and attitude are obviously intertwined.

Bible concepts taken out of context to justify the idea that immodest dress doesn't matter are: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7); "You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:27-28); "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24); "Those who glory in appearance and not in heart" (2 Corinthians 5:12); and "Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?" (2 Corinthians 10:7).

These verses are addressing the issue of leadership qualifications for men. They teach us not to judge a man by a handsome appearance, physical stature, speaking ability, or facade of righteousness, but by what's actually in his heart and teaching. They are not intended to excuse immodest dress.


Sexy or Modest, Not Both

Many women today think it's not only acceptable, but desirable to dress and behave in public in a sexy way. Meanwhile, the Bible admonishes Christian women to dress and behave in a modest way. Is there a conflict between the two? Or can a woman's dress and behavior be both sexy and modest, as some professing Christians believe?

TheFreeDictionary defines sexy as "arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire or interest." It defines modest as "not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance."

So, by definition, "sexy" women stir up sexually impure thoughts in men, while "modest" women do not. It's not possible to be both at the same time.

The world revels in sexiness, but among Christians "there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people" (Ephesians 5:3, NIV).


Girl Watching

Our society takes girl watching for granted, but the Bible calls it a sin worthy of death.

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:27-29).

Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?" (Job 31:1-3).

Women should dress in a modest way to avoid tempting men to girl watch. It truly is a matter of life and death.


"That's His Problem"

Often, women who dress immodestly will say, "If a man lusts when he looks at me, that's his problem, not mine." But the Bible does not support this unloving and inconsiderate attitude. Rather, it tells us the exact opposite.

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:6-7).

"Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

"Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:32-33).

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).

"In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10).


The Manners of a Pig

I've been thinking about manners and how they relate to modesty.

I looked up the word manners in TheFreeDictionary and had to laugh when I read the phrase it gave to illustrate its usage — "he has the manners of a pig."

Sometimes it seems that the only thing considered bad manners anymore is to find fault with someone's manners. That seems to be considered highly insulting.

For instance, many would consider it rude to even say that someone has the manners of a pig. It would be considered rude to compare someone to a pig. But that's how God characterizes an immodest woman.

"As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion" (Proverbs 11:22).

TheFreeDictionary says discretion means "the quality of being discreet," and that discreet means "marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint."

So a woman who "lacks discretion" lacks modesty. She may be beautiful, but she has the manners of a pig.


The Fashions of This World

Where do the fashions of this world come from? Are the people who design them inspired by God or Satan?

The Bible says that Satan is "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4, KJV). It says that Satan the Devil "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9) and that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (I John 5:19). And it says that he uses his power of deception to influence "the course of this world" as "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).

The end result is a world filled with the darkness of Satan's ways — a world very far from the light of God's ways — as many, many other scriptures attest.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

Satan the Devil is indeed inspiring the perverted fashions of this world.


The Attitude of an Adulteress

Most women who dress immodestly react to criticism of their attire with what the Bible characterizes as the attitude of an adulteress.

They become "loud and rebellious" (Proverbs 7:10-20); they "refuse to be ashamed" (Jeremiah 3:1-3); they declare they "have done no wickedness" (Proverbs 30:20); and they begin to persecute those who corrected them (Revelation 17:1-6).

In doing so, they are siding with the world in its wicked ways.

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).


Be a Prude

A prude is someone who is prudent. A prudent person is "discreet or cautious in managing one's activities; circumspect" (TheFreeDictionary). "A prudent wife is from the LORD" (Proverbs 19:14).

What about being called a "prude" — is that a bad thing? "The wise in heart will be called prudent" (Proverbs 16:21) — so, no, being called a "prude" is not a bad thing.

What is God's exhortation to a person who is not a prude? "O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart" (Proverbs 8:5).

What is God's admonition to a person who is a prude? "Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them" (Hosea 14:9).


Wearing Pants

Dresses and skirts, not pants, have been the longstanding, traditional garments for women. Why? Because it is considered inappropriate in a chaste society for certain parts of the female form to be put on public display.

We no longer live in a society that values chastity, but the Bible instructs Christian women to be chaste regardless of what the world does.

"Admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:4).

"Wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (1 Peter 3:1-2).

"Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).


An Ignorant Lack of Inhibition

Speaking of the human body, the Bible says "the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment" (1 Corinthians 12:23-24, NIV).

Ignorance of that concept — the concept of private parts that require "special modesty" — is responsible for the increasing lack of inhibition in exposing the human body in our society.

"They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:18-19, NIV).

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint" (Proverbs 29:18, NKJV).

"Without a Vision is a people made naked" (Proverbs 29:18, YLT).


Be Transformed, Not Conformed

Hollywood calls them "starlets," but the Bible calls them "harlots."

Why do women look up to them and want to imitate how they dress?

"Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God" (3 John 1:11).

"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" (Romans 12:2).


To be continued....



Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2009-2015 Karen Elizabeth Ray


Topical Bible Studies > Personal Commentary > Thoughts on Modesty