Modesty- what’s the real take according to Scripture? 

Alright folks..lets be honest. Somewhere along the way, the idea was put forth that women can’t be godly unless they are fully covered from below the knee to the neck. All displaying of beauty is sin and we need to dress with the mindset that if we reveal any part of our female shape, it will cause men to sin. I think the reason I feel so strongly about this is because there is something glorious about women being women, being feminine, displaying beauty, softness, curves and clothing that accents these differences and it is becoming evident that femininity itself is under attack. Why can’t beauty in women be acknowledged? The common belief is godliness equals plain, frumpy, and loose fitting, unfashionable clothes. The church may not believe that it has bought into Satan’s lies in this area but it clearly has. There is so much out there on the topic of modesty. How can a Christian woman make sense of it? What can help her align with Scripture? I wrote this blog for that purpose. To help give give some clarity to my sisters in Christ. A recent post about this on facebook brought much flack and heated feedback. It can be a touchy subject because everyone has different views. Allow me to start by sharing my personal story with you. Not because it has authority in helping us determine our standard of modesty, but because it will give you an idea as to where my thinking on this topic first originated.

I grew up in a very conservative, Baptist household, though it wasn’t as strict as some of the fundamental Baptist and Pentecostal backgrounds. We were allowed to wear pants, shorts and skirts, even skirts on the cheer team, but they had certain lengths that were appropriate and they had to be almost to the knee to be acceptable. I’m not alluding to the fact that these type of rules were necessarily detrimental, other than the Arminian theology and merit based rules that were put in place along with it, but that there were certain standards in place at an early age. There were certain rules pertaining to our appearance. No earrings or piercings until the age of 12, no double piercings ever, no skirts above the knee, bermuda shorts had to go to a certain length, and no hair dye until the age of 16. Now where, I ask, did the standards come from? Were the standards from within the word of God? Now for clarity, let me add that I’m quite sure my parents had good motives and wanted the best for me when enforcing these rules. However, when laying down these standards and guidelines, the fact of the matter is, none of these were specified within the Scripture. Let’s look at what is specified in the Word of God regarding modesty because man’s opinion has no authority.

Pic of me from highschool hair and bangs 😁

Let’s look at some verses about modesty and break these down. Some verses that mention ”modesty” are 1 Timothy 2:10-11, Peter 3:3-4 and Proverbs 11:22 talks about women and discretion. The Greek word for modest is kosmioi, which means “respectable, honorable.” Definition of modesty- behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency. What is the definition of impropriety? Definition -improper or inappropriate, morally or sexually offensive, dirtiness, filth, impureness. After examining those definitions, let’s move on to break down 1 Timothy. The context is all about a woman adorning herself for worship. Behaviorally, she must receive instruction quietly and with all submission to her elders. She is not to flaunt her wealth, independence, or body in such a way that leads to her glorification, rather than God’s, who is to be the center of our worship and focus. Holy worship is required on the Lord’s day and worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. We’ve established a dress code for days of worship and given a few guidelines according to Scripture in the corporate assembly, now let’s look at every day standards of modesty.

I am under the firm belief that many of the imposed rules on women’s dress are merely based on tradition and not scripture. We must be able to discern between the two. Scripture trumps tradition and man made rules turn into legalism and Pharisaical behavior. I do not believe that every time a woman puts on a pair of leggings her desire is to bring about impropriety and indecency and lure men into a sexual trap. I’m aware I’m probably in the minority here regarding leggings. But the Scripture says where there is no law there is no transgression (Romans 4:15) and there is no law regarding the wearing of leggings. Leggings fully cover the thigh and the whole entire leg but why take such issue with the fact that it may show the outline of a woman’s shape? Where do we get the idea that a woman cannot dress in such a way to accent her natural, feminine features without it being sin? If we were to take first Timothy 2:9 at face value, without studying context, then that would mean all women are forbidden to wear braids or any type of gold. (P.S. There is no mention of leggings in this passage or Scripture whatsoever.) We have to dig deeper into this passage to find out what the braided hair and gold signified. What is the context here?

The whole point of this passage is to have women who demonstrate submission and not flaunting themselves, but instead they are meek, listening, and demonstrating godliness instead of desiring to be sexually attractive and alluring to the men. I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the background and how women in the first century were using these elaborate hairstyles of braids, gold and jewels to draw attention to themselves and were therefore distracting from the preaching of the Word of God. This is actually very similar to the story we are given of those who were at the temple and using it for profit and turned it into a market place. The women were using the corporate assembly of worship as a fashion show instead of demonstrating willingness to come and learn from the elders and men of the church. So what is the logical conclusion here? Should we come to church in burlap sacks and shoes that have holes in them to prove we are poor and not flaunting any wealth? Let’s examine another passage in order to help us reach a solid conclusion.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 – NKJV

So here, Peter is clearly not condemning all external adornment. As John MacArthur puts it “his condemnation is for incessant preoccupation with the outward to the disregard of one’s character.” Purity of life is what to is to be the dominant attribute. Yet somehow the legalists and those who are self righteous have taken it to the extreme, implying we must not wear any jewelry, any make up, and our clothing must be plain and of solid material. So why does Scripture not lay out specific standards? For instance, 2 inches above the knee for a skirt? No abdomen should show and no leggings ever? Or don’t wear any form fitting clothing? ( I, for one, will not wear loose baggy pants that make it virtually impossible to tell if I’m a woman or a man.) Then, we have the absolute double standard of swimsuits. It’s like this- if a body of water is present, you may show your thigh. But if no body of water is present, “make sure your shorts and skirts come below the knee.” This type of inconsistency is so prevalent in the church. One woman is deemed holier for her length of shorts compared to the other one. Honestly, I think it would be helpful if we had more exact guidelines in the Bible because then there would be no gray area. But God, in his infinite wisdom, chose not to lay out specific standards for dress. And even in the context of Scripture, the word “modesty” itself is quite ambiguous. So this brings me to my point..that you must acknowledge there is a subjective nature when it comes to modesty. Unless you are Amish or Mennonite, and have specific guidelines for your dress, along with a specific pattern, then you have to acknowledge it will vary amongst different believers. I can comfortably wear a swimsuit without my conscience condemning me, whereas there may be some who feel the need to wear swimsuits with more coverage or longer shorts.

Me, in my modest swimsuit apparel that was approved by my husband.😁

So, let’s talk about “principles“ versus “regulations” or “standards” that are given in Scripture. Here is a good example- Let’s say I come to you and say “I can make a biblical case that you should cut your grass and take care of your home” then that would be a true statement. I can use Scripture to back that up using the principles of not being slothful and being good stewards of your possessions. If, however, I came to you and say “you should cut your grass every week or that is sinful,” then that would not be scriptural and I would be adding to Scripture. This is the same idea regarding modesty. I cannot go to a woman and tell her she is in sin for wearing a skirt that is 2 inches above the knee. I cannot go to woman and tell her that her shorts are sinful because they are more than 2 inches above the knee. Why? Because there are no set standards regarding short/skirt length in Scripture. Any idea that I have regarding modesty and exact standards are based on my own conscience and if married, based on my husband and what he says is acceptable or a woman who is not married will have guidelines based on her father and his standards.

So how do we examine some standards regarding modesty? There needs to be some type of rule or guiding principles so that we are not all over the place regarding our dress and bringing shame upon the name of Christ. Let’s look at how to evaluate. The first standard we are told in Scripture to use regarding modesty is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit often brings conviction when we are wearing something that may be sinful. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.“ Ephesians 4:30 We should be careful to follow the convictions we have been given and not attempt to demonstrate impropriety or indecency. It’s common knowledge that certain parts of our bodies are to be reserved for our husbands alone. The sexual organs, such as lower reproductive organs/private areas and the breasts are included in this. So a low cut blouse that reveals the breast and skirts that allow men to clearly see all the way up them, should obviously be considered sinful. Also, there are swimsuits in which the rear is completely exposed as well as the breast and I can not see not see how one can wear this in a public setting with a clear conscience. I do believe, regarding most clothing, that it is a Romans 14 issue, where each Christian must go on their own conscience ( Whatever is not of faith is sin Romans 14:23) unless as I specified, private areas that are reserved for your mate are clearly exposed. Should we ask ourselves when choosing an outfit “will this make a guy lust or desire me?” No, there are probably weird perverted men who are turned on by ankles so this isn’t a valid standard. While you should always be considerate of anything that causes a brother to stumble, your question should be more like ”What is my motive for wearing this?” Your motives should always be to glorify Christ with your attire. Men who lust are clearly held responsible for their sin according to Scripture and the blame is not placed on the woman.

The women who I have known that are in trapped by this burden of legalism/tradition and the imaginary standards that are not found in Scripture are many in number. Not to mention, there is almost a double standard for the attractive woman, always being projected as the villain if someone dare gives her a second glance” it must be “because of her outfit” and clearly she is trying to draw attention to herself. Look at the description of Esther-“ He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.“ Esther 2:7 Did you catch that? She had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at..Wow. Bet all of the Baptist fundy’s would have shaken their finger and given her judgement for having such a nice figure and for allowing it to be seen. How in the world would people know she had a nice figure and was lovely to look at if she didn’t somewhat accent and display that beauty?

Somehow it has been assumed that the area of Christian liberty does not pertain to our standard of dress. But I argue that it does. If your conscience condemns you, don’t wear it. There have been many times I’ve put on an outfit only to take it off because I felt it was not glorifying to God. Dress in a manner that honors God and your spouse. This brings me to my second principle for helping us evaluate our clothing.

And that is simply this- Submit to your authority figure. If you are a single woman, this is your father.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“ Ephesians 6:1

If you are a married woman, this is your husband.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.“ Ephesians 5:22

Dress in a way that pleases your husband, knowing the type of clothing that is appropriate for worship vs. casual settings or in the home. Honor your husband’s guidelines. I’m grateful my husband has given me much freedom in this area. He will speak up if he sees something I’m wearing that he deems immodest and it is my duty to submit. I come from a history of fashion modeling and showing off your body and trying to sell your body was hard wired into my brain. The Holy Spirit had to do a major work on my mind and definitely convicted me of much of my wardrobe. I will be the first to admit that the Lord is still sanctifying me in this area.

Dressing up is the norm for me most days and my husband prefers black pants 😁

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.“ Proverbs 11:22

Definition of discretion- not causing offense, deciding what should be done in a particular situation according to one’s own judgement.

A woman should display discretion in her dress, speech and behavior. This is the opposite of a giddy, careless woman who doesn’t think about her words or actions and how they represent Christ. There are certain times we can be more laid back in our dress and speech. The gathering of the saints for corporate worship is not one of them. We should put in effort to look nice for worship on the Lord’s day and not to be a distraction. Obviously, clothing like shorts,gym clothes/ leggings and swimsuits that could be worn in other settings are not appropriate and would demonstrate a lack of discretion if worn for worship. We must use proper clothing in the proper place. I am a runner and often training for long distance races outside. Loose fitting clothing chaffs you and longer shorts slow you down. I dress in a practical way that will enable me to run well which is usually athletic shorts, leggings, and a fitted tank. The setting determines your clothing choice.

When evaluating our own dress, we should not use our own personal convictions to condemn our sisters in Christ who may have slightly different standards. We each are in different stages of sanctification and the Spirit convicts us as He wishes. I firmly believe that the only time another sister in Christ should be rebuked in this area is if she is using her body and dress for sexual sin, fornication/adultery, or she is intentionally dressing in a way that is a distraction during corporate worship.

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For wwe will all stand before xthe judgment seat of God;“ Romans 14:10

I vividly remember being invited to a splash pad with some of my sisters in Christ. At the splash pad I noticed that several of their daughters were wearing two piece swimsuits, as well as some of the moms. I quickly condemned them in my heart out of self righteous judgment. Knowing that these women love the Lord and walked in the spirit, I was still willing to judge them by my own standards. God forbid we treat our brethren in this manner! This is the exact type of self righteousness that the Pharisee’s demonstrated. They ignored the weightier matters, like correct doctrine and a right relationship with Christ, to focus on the external appearance. They sought the approval of men, as many of these self righteous women do, who love to flaunt their modesty as a means to elevate themselves and their holiness. In discipling my four daughters, I know that instilling in them a love for the Word of God is a much more sure way to keep them from the dangers of fornication than teaching them about the dangers of wearing shorts or tank tops. May we grant those around us with grace as the Lord so graciously deals with us. Let us all press on towards knowing Christ and glorifying Him in all things. Display our feminine beauty in a way that brings Him much glory..May we honor Christ with our clothing and go to Scripture alone for our standards. Soli Deo Gloria!

Psalm 119:2-3 ”Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— 3 they do no wrong but follow his ways.“

Author: lauranlou

Teaching women to study Scripture, love theology and to glorify Christ!

3 thoughts on “Modesty- what’s the real take according to Scripture? ”

  1. I’ve never been able to put my biblical interpretations and convictions on modesty into words but I really agree with what your saying here. I’m curious if you went to that splash pad today how you would feel? Are two pieces still against your convictions? Or do you think that was just ingrained in you at the time because that’s how you grew up?
    I live on an island so some of what I wear here I might not wear back in TN. I can’t really explain why.
    I almost always go swimsuit shopping with my husband because it’s kind of our thing so he is fine with what I wear but there are bathing suits I would wear at the beach here that I might not wear at the splash pad in TN. Not because I think there is anything wrong with them but because I think there are moms there that would judge me.
    😂 🤷🏼‍♀️


    1. We have to be considerate of the weaker brethren. (Romans 14) So if I were to wear a swimsuit here vs an island where I didn’t know any other brethren it would be much different. I have no issue with abdomen showing. I do feel a large amount of breast showing should be avoided. That is sort of the sexual element of the bedroom and should be reserved for your husband. It was definitely ingrained in me to not show my stomach but upon further research I believe that’s not sinful in itself. Each person is given convictions from the Spirit and we must not judge others if theirs do not match ours since the Scripture is not specific on the modesty standards.


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