Girls should start dressing modestly again. Unfortunately, there is currently so much stigma surrounding the word “modesty” that if you advocate for it, some people will declare that you are being too legalistic, that you support oppression, and that you do not believe a man should be held accountable for his actions.
Recent outcry in the media this past summer led Christian singer Matthew West to remove his satire video “Modest is Hottest” from YouTube. Others have accused purity culture of being directly linked to a culture that permits abuse. This opposition has made numerous Christians anxious to bring up concerns of immodesty to the extent that the Church has almost stopped talking about this topic altogether.
Yet cancel culture does not erase the fact that modesty remains a biblical virtue and a crucial issue that many people, particularly women like me, wrestle with. I believe the Church has a duty to start speaking about modesty, but most importantly, each one of us needs to start examining it for ourselves.
This past October, I attended the Life & Liberty Dinner at the Standing for Freedom Center and I found myself deeply impacted by the words of Abby Johnson. She described walking down a dark path during her college years that eventually led to two abortions, saying, “I began to make choices in my life that allowed sin to enter in. And it began to snowball … if I’m honest with you, it really started with immodesty. I don’t just mean immodesty with dress; I do mean that too. But I don’t just mean that. I mean immodesty with my language. The way that I talked, the way that I behaved, and yes, the way that I dressed.”
Where did the immodesty begin?
It began in her heart. Just like Abby, the issue of modesty is the same with all of humanity: It cultivates and blossoms from within each heart’s desire. This beckons the inevitable question that each professing Christian must answer: Who am I striving to please? Who am I seeking to find fulfillment from?
There are only two options: The first is one where we yearn to advance the Kingdom of God, by elevating His name and not our own, one which craves to be respected for how we walk with Him over respect for personal achievements. The other answer is one which pursues our own kingdom, where we are the lord over our lives, where our objective lies in garnering affection not from the God who died for us but from other humans who remain broken, as we are.
How each of us answers that question will determine which actions will follow.
Jesus said that “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we strive to please God by furthering His Kingdom, we will dress differently and present ourselves differently than the world does. Perhaps even more significantly, the action of conducting a modest lifestyle will not merely be a loose consequence of our heart’s desires. Instead, we will possess concern about the issue of modesty because God cares about it. Each choice we make in clothing, social media posts, and actions will therefore be intentional and deliberate because we will have evaluated it beforehand from a biblical perspective.
Conversely, if we seek to spur our own agenda, we will dress in the same way the world is putting on clothes, or rather, the lack thereof. We will continue to post things online and commit actions we know in our conscience that do not honor God’s reputation but solely flatter our own image. At the end of the day, we will be left feeling a void in our lives because we are attempting to fill our hunger for love with things that are the opposite of lovely.
Ultimately, modesty is not just an issue of how short a dress might be or if girls should wear shorts. It goes further to reflect the desires of each heart. In 1 Samuel 16:17, God explains, “The Lord sees not as a man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Still, the core concern of modesty does not negate the necessity to be concerned with what we wear and what we show. Scripture emphasizes the importance of both having a pure heart and reflecting your intentions with how you represent yourself.
1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to dress “with decency and propriety,” while 1 Peter 3:3-4 reminds us that “Beauty should not come from outward adornment…rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” And Jesus promised us in Matthew 7:20 that, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
So Church, how are we being recognized?