Emotional Modesty

June 25th, 2012 | | No Comments
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The first in a short series on the biblical virtue of modesty. Despite the Church’s lax stance on the issue today, Scripture nevertheless commands and expects modesty from those who follow Christ. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).


Whether we choose to listen or not, the Bible has much to say on the issue of modesty. Our whole lives, really, should reflect the modesty of our meek and mighty Savior. We are to have his attitude: not drawing attention to ourselves, but rather humbly serving others in love (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Of course, modest dress is but one expression of a modest heart. A person who cannot help but shade every story he tells so that others will be impressed by his accomplishments struggles with immodesty as much as any girl who wears tight-fitting, body-revealing clothing. Both seek idolatrous attention through illicit means; both lack faith in God and need a greater understanding of who they are in Christ.


Nevertheless, I plan to focus in this series on modesty as it relates to clothing specifically. In so doing, I will address women exclusively (though I would recommend men read and internalize the information too). Some will protest that this is a double-standard, sexism, discrimination, and a host of other dirty words in contemporary culture. If by these words my opponents mean to suggest that I treat men and women as fundamentally different, having different struggles and needs, then I accept the charge unabashedly. God made us very different and we would be fools to minimize that difference in the name of a misguided tolerance. Title IX has no relevance when it comes to the essentials of gender.


It should come as no surprise, then, that Scripture addresses the issue of modesty very differently for men and women. When discussing proper adornment, modest dress, the writers of Scripture address women exclusively. They understood the fundamental differences between the genders. Paul, for example, says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10, emphasis added). Peter, while not using the word modesty outright, still raises the issue for women specifically (1 Peter 3:1-6). When “discrimination” simply means making God-created distinctions, we should have no reservations.


Of course, this doesn’t mean modesty has no relevance for men at all; quite the contrary, really. While I will aim the rest of this series at women, it is worth addressing men briefly now. Women need to clothe themselves modestly in part because men are attracted visually primarily. Thus, an indecently dressed woman may cause a man to stumble, to have lustful, illicitly sexual thoughts about her. Women, however, are attracted emotionally primarily. Thus, a man must keep himself emotionally modest. A man may cause a woman to stumble—perhaps even by compromising herself sexually—by speaking to her with falsely intimate words, trying to arouse emotions that have no place outside of marriage (and perhaps the final stages of courtship). Men who flirt shamelessly are as immodest (emotionally) as women who reveal their bodies to every passing male. (I don’t think we go too far to call them emotionally promiscuous, in truth.)


Men, if this description fits you, it is time to examine your lives and make the necessary changes in the light of God’s grace and by the power of the Spirit. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

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