Uncovering The Truth About Modesty

By Melody Green

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Modesty  "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness." (I Tim 2:940)

This simple little Scripture certainly covers a lot of ground if we look at it closely. It especially becomes more clear when we consider the dictionary definitions of some of the key words (see box) that Paul uses. How many of us can say we are really living up to the light of this passage in I Timothy? The purpose of this article is to put a searchlight on our hearts and on our motives for the way that we choose to dress - and why. This is a subject that gets whispered or giggled about a lot, but rarely is someone directly confronted about their lack of modesty. It is a very delicate subject. . . but that's all the more reason to talk about it openly and honestly.

Are You Making A Claim To Godliness?

Essentially, the Scripture in I Timothy says that it's all right to dress however you want to, unless you are making a claim to godliness. In that case, the way that you dress (along with the rest of your life) must be subject to the guidelines and control of the Holy Spirit.

Our bodies are precious because they are a gift from God. They are attractive because God made us in His image for His pleasure (and if we are married, to please our mates as well). But God never intended us to flaunt ourselves or exhibit our bodies in an immodest way. He wants our bodies consecrated to him. "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Rom. 12:1) It surely must grieve the Lord to see the thoughtless way so many "modern" Christians dress. It's true that their bodies may be a living sacrifice-but to which god?

Modest-Having a regard for decencies of behavior or dress; quiet and humble in appearance, style, etc.; not displaying one's body; not boastful or vain; unassuming; virtuous; shy or reserved; chaste.
Proper-Specially adapted or suitable; appropriate; conforming to an accepted standard; correct; fitting; right; decent.
Discreet-Lacking ostentation or pretension; "showing good judgment"; prudent; cautious; careful about what one says or does.


It might seem to many of us that modesty is a thing of the past. I know before I became a Christian I didn't have the slightest idea of what it meant to dress properly. Looking back, it's hard to believe I even left the house in some of the things I used to wear (and not wear!), let alone that I wore them without even a blush! (Jer. 6:15)

The Bible in very clear terms tells us not to be conformed to the world, but instead, to be transformed. (Rom. 12:2) Webster's Dictionary tells us that to be transformed means a change of outward appearance or inner nature. I guess that's why it amazes me to see young Christian girls (and even more mature women) in church or at outdoor gatherings, hands uplifted in praise to God, while dressed in clothes that definitely do not give Him the glory.

In the summertime especially, we have our biggest opportunity to test our consecration to Jesus. Sheer blouses, halter-tops, "short" shorts, and skimpy bathing-suits are the norm for many careless Christian women. They use the rationalization that "it's hot" or "I'm swimming" to excuse their lack of modesty. Clothes that fit too tightly, tops that are cut too low, and skirts that are cut too short are not only a distraction to those around us-but the wearers show an unloving lack of concern for their responsibility as a representative of Jesus.

Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians are lost in their own selfish little world-either oblivious or uncaring about the affect they have on others. They may even appear to have a real excitement and love for the Lord-however, their body is sending out a totally different message. I know, because as I said before, I have done it-partly in ignorance, but mostly in rebellion. I can remember thinking, "Well, it's not my fault if they can't keep their eyes off of me and on the Lord. They just aren't spiritual enough. Why should I have to change just because they are weak?"

But the Lord showed me that it was my fault. I was responsible for causing my brother to stumble and it had to change. Once I really saw the damage my selfishness was doing to others and to the Lord, I was really ashamed of myself and embarrassed that I had been representing Jesus in such an unbecoming way. "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:1-2)

The Fashion Queen

Worldly dress is quite revealing. First and foremost it reveals a worldly heart It also reveals wrong priorities and areas that are not yielded to God. Being dressed in a worldly manner does not always mean that you are dressed immodestly. It may simply mean that your style is flashy or overdone-generally speaking, just "too much. " If your perfume arrives at church five minutes before you do, who are you trying to kid? Did you put it on for Jesus? If you are drawing attention to yourself, then you are drawing attention away from God and stealing His glory.

Here are some simple questions. Are you considered a trendsetter-usually the first to buy the latest style? Do you spend a lot of time and money shopping for new clothes? Are you always thinking about what you're going to wear? Do heads turn to see your newest outfit-and do you enjoy turning heads? If you can answer yes to even one of those questions, it's quite possible that you are seeking man's attention instead of God's. As a famous evangelist once said, "Be honest about it, would you take all this pain about your looks if every person were blind?"

Pretty...Not Painted

I believe that too many Christian women overdo it when it comes to putting on their make-up. They arrive to fellowship with the world's "come and get me" look painted on their face. They look like showgirls on their way to a nightclub, instead of someone coming in meekness and humility to meet their Lord. Their faces are prepared, but their hearts aren't! And if the Lord should really move in the meeting so as to bring some to tears of joy or repentance, they would have to fight back the tears for fear they would "ruin their face." How can you be open to a touch from God when you're so concerned about your outward appearance? It's very simple . . . you can't be!

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)

Sheep In Wolves Clothing

I would also like to include a brief word to the fellows in this article, for you are not always exempt from the sin of vanity and the desire to be noticed. Sadly enough, I have seen many of my Christian brothers drawing attention to themselves by wearing immodestly tight clothing and looking "just like the world." Many thoughtless Christian men unbutton their shirts halfway down their chest, surround themselves in a potent cloud of after shave-and don't really care that they may be causing others to take their eyes off of Jesus. You too must be sensitive to others and give the Holy Spirit control of your life. You are responsible to surrender this whole area to Jesus and make sure that you are not causing those around you to stumble and fall.

Acting the Harlot?

God does not think beauty is evil-how could He, He invented it in the first place! But beauty corrupted becomes harlotry. In Ezekiel 16:14-15, God says, "Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you. But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passerby who might be willing." Here God is speaking to Jerusalem about her abominations. He compares her to a harlot to make His point, since everyone is familiar with how a harlot acts. How many of you are acting like harlots-parading yourselves, seducing with your eyes and trusting in your looks to bring you love and acceptance instead of trusting in God and putting your confidence in Him? You have heard it said that "beauty is only skin deep"-and it's true. But God can see through to the inside, and the things that are beautiful to Him are not always apparent to the common eye.

Perfume, Powder, And Prayer (A Challenge)

The world teaches us that in order to be loved we must be beautiful, sensual, and alluring. We are assaulted daily by billboards, books, television programs, movies, and magazines that teach us "a different gospel." Sure, everyone wants to be loved . . . but why and by whom? All that is supposed to change when we meet Jesus.

I think we will all agree that God is most concerned with the Inner man . . . the heart. But I don't think we can say, "Well, I may look worldly, but Jesus knows that in my heart I'm not." It is true that Jesus knows our heart, but I believe in most instances our outward appearance reflects our inward condition. Remember, He called the Pharisees "white-washed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead mens bones and all uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27)

God tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16), but many will spend more time in the morning preparing their "outward selves" than they do preparing themselves inwardly for the warfare of the day by seeking God in prayer and His Word. Sometimes we can spend so much time fixing up the outer man that the Spirit inside shrivels up and dies.

I want to present my brothers and sisters in the Lord with a challenge. Measure the time you spend "fixing yourself up" on a daily basis. Then give at least equal time to God in prayer and Bible reading every day. We all know He deserves so much more, but if you just start there, you can let it grow as you do.

The Other Extreme

I think it is important to make it clear that I don't think pretty clothes or a little bit of make-up is wrong. In fact, I don't necessarily think that the most godly way to dress is in a bland and unattractive manner. To be quite honest with you, I have seen many people go to the other extreme and try to draw attention to themselves by being untidy, unclean, and uncaring about themselves. They try to prove to others that they are spiritual because of their lack of concern about the way that they look This too can be another form of pride and self-righteousness-and I believe it is all equally grievous to the Lord. He wants us to find a balance and seek to glorify Him in everything we do. Humility and moderation are principles that the Bible clearly teaches.

Marriage Is No Excuse!

There are many husbands and wives who encourage (and sometimes even demand) their mates to "look sexy." They feel that since they're already married, it won't really hurt to "turn each other on" in the way that they look and dress. I don't think there is anything wrong with dressing to please your husband or wife, in fact I think it's important that you do, but not at the expense of others. We must stay within the boundaries of the Holy Spirit, putting Jesus and His pleasure first in all we do.

One newlywed in our ministry held up a bare little summer dress to her husband, and shaking her head said, "This has got to go." He said, "But . . that's one of my favorite dresses!" She said, "Yes, but why do you like it so much?" He slowly smiled and agreed-and out it went!

Closet Cleaning

Many of you may really feel convicted to change and wonder what you should do now, so I would like to give you a few words of simple advice before I close. First of all, go through your closets and drawers and pull out all of the clothing that obviously has to go-and get rid of it! Next, get in front of a full-length mirror, and try on the things that are questionable. Look at yourself from all angles using a hand-held mirror. Look at yourself close up and from far away and see what you "really look like" in the clothes you have been wearing. View yourself objectively, as if you were looking at someone else-and note what your first impressions are of "this person." Check for fit and transparency and get rid of anything that doesn't pass the test-this is no time to be sentimental! Finally, each day before you leave the house, do the "mirror check" on anything that hasn't previously been checked or if you have gained weight since last taking a look. You will be surprised to find that some of the things you were sure about won't pass the test. This will help you weed out your wardrobe as you go. Some of you may be afraid that if you do this, you'll end up with nothing left to wear! But just remember that the most important thing is to be obedient to God, even if it means having a very limited wardrobe. Besides, when you are all done with this project, you will become a much more careful shopper and end up being a better steward over God's money than you ever were before!

True Beauty

True beauty is Jesus and Him alone. Letting that love flow through us to others is the beauty that is pleasing to God. Paul says we are to adorn ourselves with good works. . . as servants of the Lord, vessels through which others can feel His touch on their lives. Why would we want to substitute the world's counterfeit for the real thing?

True beauty radiates from the face of a godly man or woman. You won't notice much what they really look like because you are too busy noticing Jesus in them. Shouldn't that be our goal? Let's allow Jesus to so fully indwell us that we would never do or say anything that would bring shame to His name . . . yielding our whole lives to Him and serving Him in the inner courts of His holiness. Let's not forget that we are His Bride-and so dress accordingly as we fully divorce ourselves from the world and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of God! (Isaiah 61:10)

May God bless you as you seek Him about what all this might mean to you personally. Please take the whole matter to heart (and prayer) and then be obedient to change the things in your life that you find are displeasing to God.

"Give unto the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." (I Chron. 16:29)

Melody Green, 2/22/2007

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Anna (Guest) 07/02/2010 22:32
I recently led a similar discussion with some girls in our High School youth group at church. I have to say that Melody is right on in the scriptures that she uses and her interpretation of it. I agree with the comments that were made stating that our outward appearance is a reflection of our inward hearts and great care needs to be taken to be sure we are reflecting a life lived for Jesus. Another comment was made that some men will find a woman attractive (and thus lust after her) regardless of what she wears. I have found this to be true with some men but certainly not all, and for me the conclusion I came up with is this. I would be so grieved to know that I had caused a brother to sin simply by what I was wearing, so I am going to do my part to be blameless by dressing appropriately and pray/trust that the Lord does His part to work on the hearts of those men that have difficulties with lust. As Christians we have a responsibility, a command really, to love one another (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul later told the Corinthians that as followers of Christ, they were no longer in bondage to the law for free from it, further stating that they were "free" to do as they pleased (1 Cor. 6:12). But, and this is a huge point that often gets overlooked, Paul later states in his letter to the Corinthians, that their love for each other needs to be stronger than their desire for their own liberty and that if something they are doing is causing someone else to stumble that it needs not to be done (1 Cor. 8:9). Referring back to Jesus' command to us that we love one another, it can't be argued with these scriptures that we do in fact have responsibility as Christian women to rightly represent Christ to others as well as do our part to guard our brothers. This is not to say that men don't also have responsibility as well. But as a woman, my concern is in what I can do and not what I think others should be doing so I don't have to. In closing, I love that Melody used Romans 12:1,2 in this article. So often, without even realizing it, Christians look too much like the world. We are called to be sanctified, which literally means to be set apart. We need to be able to make a bold declaration for the Lord by being set apart from those who don't know Him; to be transformed by the Lord, not conformed to the world. I am so thankful to the Lord that sanctification is a process (Philippians 1:1-8). That we are daily learning and growing in the Lord. Every year I look back amazed at how much I have grown in the Lord and excited to see what new areas He will work on in me in the years to come. I encourage all women to be in prayer over this topic (James 1:5-8). He will reveal different things to different people but He has one common purpose for us all and that is to bring glory to His name through us. Be blessed and may the Lord work mighty things through you all.
Julie O (Guest) 11/17/2010 14:59
I personally started wearing makeup in 7th grade and quickly became a makeup queen by 9th grade and still am one... I'm 43. I have never worn makeup because I wanted to, infact I hate wearing it. But... I was born with the not so pretty face and from the time I was small, everyone including my mother let me know I was no very pretty. Kids were horrible at school, the rejection was enormous. So my face became my daily canvas, and still is. It was so much easier to have kids make fun of a mask than the real thing and as a adult, I still get "are you feeling ok?" when I don't have any makeup on so I think I will always be a slave to this horribly, man-made substance that I feel I must put on to be accepted ESPECIALLY at church were women tend to be more prideful than even the grocery store! No changing churches has not been the answer to that one, every church suffers from this same sickness that Melody is describing. We have bought the lie from the enemy that we as women need makeup to be truly beautiful. Please Lord, either strike me beautiful or make my fellow man blind to my bland features that scream ugly at me in the mirror every day.
Blessings to you all and Melody for being brave enough to tackle this subject!
Naomi M (Guest) 01/14/2011 14:39
I really like Melody's article. I lost my job and I found that I wasnt the person I thought I was. I didnt have the kudos and respect from a good job. The choices I used to make in what I bought with money I couldnt make any more. But the L-rd showed me that what I still had was morality in the way I lived my life on a day to day basis. I found inspiration in a jewish approach to the scriptures. I make sure my skirts are at least 4 inches below my knees, I dont wear slits in my skirts and I dont wear tops that show any part of my breasts. If I wear trousers, I make sure my bottom is covered and I look like a woman. I scoured charity shops and I found skirts that were acceptable for very little money. I have felt totally empowered in choosing to cover my body in a way that proclaims my life choice to follow G-d and glorify him. Amidst the humiliation of losing my job and my life style I felt as if I had become a princess! Now I have my old job back again and I have been given a lovely fiance who values me for the woman I became during that period. I thank
G-d for opening my eyes to the freedom that lies in him.
patricia (Guest) 07/27/2011 14:41
I am in wholehearted support of this article. I just have to comment on the posting by Krissy that is so obviously influenced by feminism. Nowhere did Melody say or imply that men are free to rape and blame it on a woman if she is immodestly dressed. I do agree with Krissy's point about the men and Melody addresses that. I had a pastor once who came to church dressed in the sexist GQ clothing and smelling of the most aphrodisac aftershave; another fellow wore tight pants and an open collar the revealed his chest hiar. This behaviour was coming from their wounded sense of masculinity, shame and a surface understanding of what true manhood is about; they thought it was about being a stud muffin. However, the ladies who did not know what the real roots of the problem were, were wrongly drawn to these men. They were evrery bit a stumbling block to the women who had unhealed wounds and weaeknesses in thier lives as any immodestly dressed woman was to the men.

The focus of this article is on our responsiblity to act in considerate grace and merciful responsiblty by being aware of the struggles we all share with the flesh. Feminists want to pretend there is no differences other than plumbing between genders. A woman who is dressing in such a way as to display her sexual parts, ie, plunging neckline showing her breasts or tight pants and tops that accentuate the contours of her bust, crotch and buttucks is dressing in a way that creates sexual arousal, which is the whole point of tight jeans and low neckliines, is it not? We are instructed in scripture not to defraud one another, which includes drawing someone to want something they cannot righteously pursue. The husband whose wife wore a barely there summer dress liked the dress precisely because it created sexual arousal when he was able to view her exposed curves; a man who wants his wife to appear in public this way is putting his wife on display in an unrighteous way and failing to protect her purity and honor. Hardly an honor! If he wanted her to wear it in the privacy of their boudoir as part of their lovemaking that's fine but inviting other men to view her almost nakedness in a way meant only for him is inviting them to lust after another man's wife and exposing her to scrutiny. The argument about being hit on even when dressed in the husband's baggy track clothing is no argument for such wordly silliness. The fact is, if you are out from under cover, ie, not submitted to Gods order, or there are any other spiritual boundary breaches in your life, ie, unhealed sexual abuse, you could dress in a paper sack and still have trouble with improper advances. I've seen women with the demeeanor of an uptight librarian and similar dress, who seem to attract every perv on the block and in each case, the woman in question had some undealt with sexual abuse issues that created wounds and reactions in her life that cause her to be unwittingly in agreement with a wrong spirit! Spiritual ignorance doesn't justify sin and worldiness. Scripture says that the enemy goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he MAY devoour; in other words he is looking for openings that will give him an inroad. Women, guard your honor and your purity! Even if up til now, you have been engaging in this sort of sin and self destruction, you can choose to close the door on such dangerous worldliess and choose the rewards of godliness instead.
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Onasanya Michael in Nigeria (Guest) 08/21/2013 09:36
May the Lord bless the writer the more, the writer wrote the mind of God. Adeilade from Australia that had an encounter with the lord Jesus on Sunday service said a lot about how we suppose to be dressing as a Christian by our lord Jesus and this writer confirmed all that. HE WHO HAVE EAR LET HIM/HER HEAR WHAT THE LORD IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH AND REPENT BEFORE IT WILL BE TOO LATE!
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