The Doctrine of Modesty....

I took this Bible Study from a post I wrote on our old blog some time ago. I hope it will be a blessing to you and that you will examine yourself to see if you are following God's standards for Modesty.

I once read the following definition of modesty "...that we should not with our apparel draw undue attention to ourselves that would distract from what our real purpose in life is."

What does that mean for me? Personal dress is not simply a personal choice. Christian liberty is NOT an excuse to dress as you please.

I would be wrong if I taught you my opinions or preferences. And I would be wrong if I twisted God's Word to suit my standards. It is also wrong for any of us to correct someone else's standards by our own. Clothes do not make the woman. If we rely on clothing to judge someone's spiritual condition, well, it only shows our own lack of spiritual understanding.
God in His infinite knowledge knew that culture and fashion trends would change. And so He laid out clear standards of modesty that transcend time and culture. So what does God's Word actually say about modesty?

I would like to look at four things that together make up the Bible doctrine of modesty:
1. Nakedness
2. Gender
3. Shamefacedness
4. Sobriety

I. Nakedness
What constitutes nakedness as seen in the Bible? Of course, a complete lack of clothing is nakedness, but we all know that. But did you know that uncovering one's thigh is also considered being naked? (Num. 28:42) (Isa. 47:2,3) We used to live near to a Mennonite community in Aylmer. The women of one of these Mennonite groups wore full, pleated, knee-length skirts. Every time one of them would lean over, pastor would have to turn his eyes, because their thighs would be showing halfway up.

We've been in a lot of churches and I can't tell you how many times I've seen a pianist sit at the piano in church only to expose her thigh because her skirt rode up or her slit was too high. Or maybe you could see right past her armholes because her sleeves were too short or too wide.

Another way ladies (including myself) have fallen short is, as mothers of young children. There have been a few times when I have embarrassed myself, because I had a kid on one hip and my purse, Bible bag, and diaper bag in my free hand, when I leaned over I exposed a shoulder or worse. This is unintentional, but also, unnecessary. 

An easy way to test your clothes is to invest in a full-length mirror. Bend over, lift your arms, sit down, lift your leg as if climbing stairs or getting in the van. If these activities show nakedness, layer, lengthen your skirt, or wear a longer one, and be ever mindful of the unintended "oops" keeping a free hand on your shirt when bending over or smoothing out your skirts when sitting. Ask yourself, "Does my clothing cause me to show nakedness?"

Side note: are your clothes so snug, clinging, or sheer so as to show the form of nakedness. Its the same thing!

II. Gender
Again, I will not get into a dispute. It is my personal choice (supported by my husband) not to wear pants. I do not however pass judgment on those who do. North American culture recognizes both feminine and masculine pants. I understand that this was not always so. But, if we are to set our standards based on past cultural ideals of modesty, then I'm afraid we will condemn ourselves. In days gone by, it was considered immodest for a woman to show her ankles and in some time periods even her forearms. In the past, women wore many layers of clothes. It was also considered modest for a woman to wear a hat in church. The blousie shirts men wore in the sixteen hundreds would be considered gay today. So, please do not be guilty of hypocrisy when setting standards of modesty for you and your family.

We as Christian women should dress to please the Lord . God commands that we dress like ladies. (Deut. 22:5) Let's remember that femininity does not equal sexy nor does it mean we have to be frumpy. Be a lady. This applies to all clothing and accessories. "Is what I am wearing decidedly female?"

III. Shamefacedness
(1 Tim. 2:9) Shamefacedness is equal to bashfulness or embarrassment. That is not to say that our clothing should make us feel this way, but neither should our clothing make us feel bold and brash. One of the reasons I stopped wearing pants was because they made me feel bold, comfortable in the world's company. It led me to cutting my hair "boy-short" and spiky. I wore too much make-up and felt more confident around the world. I liked hearing the compliments it brought. Do you rely on your clothing to give you confidence? Does a certain dress give you boldness? Or does your clothing remind you that God gave you the command of submissiveness and the blessing of safety in the Biblical role of womanhood? This standard of modesty can be wrapped up in this question: "How does my clothing make me feel?"

IV. Sobriety or Moderation
Is your dress excessive? Is it bold? Is a lack of propriety causing a distraction? On the other hand, are you excessive in your modesty? What! Yes, I said it. I have known women who dress themselves and their daughters in an excessively modest, drab way on purpose to show their spiritual superiority. Do you dress in such a way as to attract attention, good or bad? It may be unintended in either case, but we should dress in such a way as to NOT attract attention. My dress simply should not be an issue. If it is then I need to make some changes.

Some of you are mothers of teen girls. Have you encouraged your daughters to be so caught up in dressing “pretty” that you have failed to teach sobriety? It is not as important how one looks as how her relationship with God is. When our relationship with God is right and we are growing in faith, we will eventually be challenged in areas of dress and appearance. We will want to draw the attention away from ourselves and draw attention to God. It will not bother us to be a little less fashionable if the fashion of the day is out of God's will. We will be content to dress within our means. We will know that being thin should not be our focus but rather, being healthy. But that is another discussion altogether.

Our purpose is to glorify and honor God. For those still under their father's authority it means honoring his standards. A girl should never dress in such a way as to bring shame or embarrassment to her father.

For those of us under our husbands authority it means honoring not only our husbands standards but also his manhood. Is the attention on me or on my husband? Does the way I dress give my husband cause to feel insecure? Is my dress standards hindering my husband's service? Keep what belongs to your husband for your husband.

Mothers, please, be careful how you dress in front of your children. Your sons ought not to see your nakedness and your daughters need a godly example. At the same time, it is our job to make sure that our daughters do not dress in such a way that would bring embarrassment or shame to their brothers.

If you have any doubts choose in favor of what is best, not what's better for you. 

AGAIN... If you have any doubts, choose in favor of what is best, not what is better for you.

To be sure that our wardrobe pleases God, we should ask these four simple questions:
1. "Is what I'm wearing causing me to show nakedness or the form of nakedness?"
2. "Is what I'm wearing decidedly feminine?"
3. "How does what I'm wearing make me feel?"
4. "Do I stand out? Am I taking attention from God and my husband/father?"

Ask God what He thinks, He'll let you know. (Ps 25:4,5)
God will bless you in your desire to serve God. Remember, none of us have "arrived", but we should all be striving to be Prov. 31 and Titus 2 women.

NOTE: If you are interested in using this as a Bible study, I have included a "fill-in-the-blanks" work sheet below. Feel free to copy and paste it and to make any changes you wish. I just ask that you stay true to God's Word.


Definition of modesty: “...that we should not with our ____________ draw undue attention to _______________ that would distract from what our real ______________ in life is.”

Personal __________ is simply NOT a personal _____________.

It is wrong to teach one's own _____________ or __________________.

It is wrong to ______________ God's Word to suit one's own ________________.

It is wrong to __________________ someone's standards by one's own _____________.

List the four doctrines of modesty:
1. ____________________________
2. ____________________________
3. ____________________________
4. ____________________________

  1. Nakedness
God's Word states that uncovering one's ____________ is a form of nakedness? (Num. 28:42 Isa 47:2,3)
An easy way to test one's clothes is to ____________ in a __________ ____________.
Clothing that is too ____________, ______________, or _____________ can also show the form of nakedness.

  1. Gender
If we set our ________________ based on past ______________ ideals of modesty, then we will ______________ ourselves.
Do not be guilty of _________________ when setting ______________ of _____________.
Feminine does not mean __________________ nor does it mean ________________.
Be a ________________. (Duet. 22:5)

  1. Shamefacedness
Shamefecedness can be likened to _________________ or ____________________.
Our clothing should not make us feel or look ______________ or ________________.
Do you rely on your ____________________ to give you ________________?

  1. Sobriety or Moderation
    (1 Tim. 2:9)
Is your dress _________________?
Is a lack of propriety causing a ____________________?
Some women are excessive in their modesty in order to show their _____________ _______________.
My _____________ simply should not be an ____________. If it is then I need to ____________ some _______________.
It is not as important how one ________________ as how her ___________________ with _________ is.
When our relationship with ___________ is right and we are ________________ in ___________, we will be eventually be _______________ in areas of ____________ and _____________________.
A girl should never ____________ in such a way as to bring ____________ or _________________ to her father.
A wife's dress should honor her husband's ________________ and _______________.
Our ____________ should not see his mother's ______________ and our _______________ need a _________________ __________________.
If you have doubts, choose in favor of what is ______________, NOT what's ____________ for ____________.
The Measure of Biblical Modesty:
  1. Is what I'm wearing causing me to show __________________ or the ___________ of _____________________?
  2. Is what I'm wearing decidedly _____________________?
  3. How does what I'm ________________ make me _______________?
  4. Do I __________ ________? Am I taking _____________ from ___________ and/or my _________________/________________?
Remember, _____________ of us have ________________, but we should all be _______________ to be ___________________ and _________________ women.


Anonymous said...

This is *excellent*!

Shane and Kristy Davis said...

Wonderfully said! May the Lord help me, as I teach others and my daughters to be modest... I think its also an attitude of the heart.

Helen said...

Wonderful. You have said all that I was struggling to put together. I plan to make this available to other ladies.

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