A topic I have been dwelling on recently has been the idea of modesty, especially since it is getting into summer and a lot of people are going to start wearing less in the terms of clothing. I sometimes get disappointed when I see good, young, Christian women wearing something that should cover up more or be a little looser. It is very hard in our society today to dress modestly because the standards have drastically dropped in terms of proper dress. So much so that the Christian ends up being the odd one out and often the members of the world do not even realize they are acting improperly. Therefore, I am going to point out some key points that I think young women should really think about before they choose their wardrobe.
What better place to start than in the very beginning, with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve? As we know, in the beginning, God made Adam and Eve perfect without the need for clothing. But after their disobedience and fall, they discovered that they were naked and felt the need to cover themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Depending on the version used, the word used may be covering, apron, or loincloth. The Hebrew word used is hagor and is accurately translated as a loincloth, or waist covering. In other areas of scripture, the same word is used for a belt or girdle. From this description we see that the only place Adam and Eve covered were their private parts from their waists down.
Reading further in Genesis chapter 3, we see that God made clothes of skin for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21. Their self-made clothing was not adequate to cover them up fully so God made a more adequate covering for them. The word we may see, depending on the version used, is coat, tunic or garment. The Hebrew word used here is ketonet and means tunic. Tunics were the preferred form of dress for historical times. The general tunic at that time started at the neck and came down to the knees and was not body tight. There are some forms of tunics that had long sleeves, short sleeves or sometimes no sleeves, but they still covered the shoulders.
We can assume that this is not referring to the long-sleeved version since that is normally fine clothing and not general apparel. Some examples of this are Joseph’s coat in Genesis 37:23 or the tunic of the king’s daughters like Tamar wore in 2 Samuel 13:18. They also have descriptor words in the text to specify the sleeve length. From palms to ankles. The short-sleeved version was the most common form back then, and that was most likely what Adam and Eve were dressed in. It’s interesting to see that they both were covered the same (even though there were differences in men and women’s tunics historically). A tunic would often be woven seamlessly like the one Jesus wore before his crucifixion (John 19:23) and they would often wear another layer of clothing over the top.
Now, keeping the standards that God used to dress Adam and Eve in the Old Testament in mind, we move to the New Testament. A scripture that most people go to in order to talk about modesty is 1 Timothy 2:9-10 which says, “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, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” The Greek word used for modesty is kosmios and can mean well arranged, seemingly, orderly, decorous, and of good behavior or modest. The same word is translated as good behavior in 1 Timothy 3:2 referring to elders. We can see here that the basic idea is not giving us a list of what we should and should not wear but tells us what we should instead be focused on. We should be focused on the inward person of the heart (1 Peter 3:3-4) and an out pouring of good works. If there is a woman with a meek and gentle spirit seeking to serve the Lord and bring glory to His name, there will not have a problem with her wardrobe. She is not seeking to please herself but is taking into account the thoughts of others and how to bring the most praise to God.
Reading about modesty, I’ve come to see that it is not only a way in which one dresses but an outward representation of the inner man. In addition, it is not only referring to what we wear but also what is appropriate at the time. Gardening clothes would not be proper for a funeral and pajamas are not proper apparel for going to the grocery store. Our apparel should reflect the occasion at hand. Being modest encompasses not over dressing or underdressing to draw undue attention to ourselves. Nor should we be obsessed with our clothes and how we look. The attention should be on God and on our character. Being modest also relates to not being a slob. It is a courtesy to us and others to take care of ourselves in how we groom ourselves and dress. We are made in the image of God, a masterpiece, His handiwork, the clay pot He formed, and as so we should hold ourselves to the standard as such and not damage or mar what He has blessed us with. Real modesty is of the inner person with an outward reflection.
As we dwell on the inner thoughts and motives, we also need to consider what women in general should avoid wearing that might be a stumbling block to others. If we think to ourselves that they should not look at us improperly, we are most likely just trying to be comfortable and wear what we want. That is the wrong attitude. That mind set is one of selfishness and not humbling ourselves before God and before our Christian brethren. We should esteem each other higher than ourselves (Phil 2:3). Even Paul said in Corinthians if he was causing a brother to stumble by eating meat sacrificed to idols, then he would do so no more (1 Cor 8:13). How much more should we care about each other in how we dress ourselves! And I’m not talking about those extreme examples when men are attracted by your ankles or the back of your neck; there will always be anomalies. I’m talking about in general; what a young person might consider a stumbling block. As men respect women by treating them honorably, opening doors and carrying things for them, so must women respect men by dressing modestly for them.
Overall, looking at God’s standard He set for clothing in the beginning, we see that knowing for sure we are pleasing in God’s sight involves wearing knee length clothes and covering the shoulders. I am simply presenting what God has said in His Word so we may make an informed decision on this subject. We must reflect on and examine ourselves.
Looking at the New Testament’s mention of modesty, we find that we must change our heart and motives first, and that will have a reflection on the way we present ourselves on the outside and how we bring honor to God. Peter not only talked about modesty but also told women they should dress in an orderly manner, properly, with honor and respect for others (moderation) and in self-control (sobriety). We represent God, so we should dress like it. And finally, since we as Christians are called to prioritize, hold accountability for, and help one another, we should put others above our own comfort and dress to benefit and help our brethren, not cause them hardship. Henceforth ladies, let us represent Christ in our good works and reflect Him on the outside!
By Amanda Boyle
Amanda Boyle was originally born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her dad has been in the military for most of her life, so she has lived in quite a few different states including Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, California and Texas. She has been living in Enid, Oklahoma since 2010 and is the oldest of five siblings, three brothers and two sisters, named Andrew, Alyssa, Alec, Aaron and Anna. She has loved animals from a very young and always knew that she wanted to have a job with animals. This led her to a degree option in wildlife ecology and management which she has graduated from OSU with. In high school she would volunteer at Leonardo’s Children Museum, the Enid SPCA, and the Garriott Road church of Christ, and still does at the latter two, though less frequently. During previous summers she attended Yosemite Bible Camp for eleven years, two of those being a counselor, and was also a junior counselor at Future Teacher Training Camp (FTTC) for two years.