III. THE OUTSIDE: DRESSING IN MODESTY
Let's go on a little farther with dress. Paul writes in I Timothy 2:9 "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array." Modesty brings us to another point. First, what is modesty? The Greek word for modesty is kosmios (Strong's 2887) which means well arranged, seemly, modest. Seemly is defined as appropriate and is synonymous with right, proper, and fitting.
Modest, in one sense, is the opposite of arrogance. It is synonymous with humble in our English language. The application here is to the value of the clothing in terms of dollars. That is, the Christian should not be “flashy.” They should not flaunt their wealth by dressing extravagantly. Matthew Henry comments: “Those that profess godliness should, in their dress, as well as other things, act as becomes their profession; instead of laying out their money on fine clothes, they must lay it out in works of piety and charity, which are properly called good works.”
I agree that dressing in “modest apparel” does admonish us not to dress in order to show wealth. The second part of I Timothy 2:9 ends with “gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (I will discuss these topics in a later section concerning adding to the body.) This clearly has a connection back to the beginning of the verse opening with “modest apparel.” There should not be lower class, middle class, or upper class designations in the church. These classifications are of man and have as their purpose to separate people. Christianity has as its purpose to unite people. The Cross of Christ puts us on level ground in terms of wealth. There are many other Scriptures that teach us about the appropriate uses and attitudes of possessing wealth.
There are those who take an extreme position that modesty only applies to the aspects of wealth. However, I think much more is implied here in this Scripture as well as in other Scriptures. Along with simplicity in dress, decency is important as well. Modesty means moderation, sobriety, decency, sensibleness, or sound judgment (NET Notes, Bible Explorer). Noah Webster uses the word decency in his translation: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in decent apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array” (Noah Webster Version 1833).
Thus we see the portion of Scripture concerning “modest apparel” to imply decency and the following portion of the Scripture to make the connection to “shamefacedness and sobriety.” This brings out the remainder of the intended message being conveyed.
The same Greek word (kosmios) is translated as "of good behavior" in I Timothy 3:2 when discussing the qualifications of a bishop. This makes it even clearer that modesty is much more than the value of our clothing, but also applies to additional messages other than wealth that can be conveyed in attire. According to Bill Burkett, in Section XVIII on "Visible Purity" in his book on Principles of Purity (1987), "Modesty in a woman puts a stop to unwholesome erotic enticement. Modesty simply means to disallow the display of sex attraction in or on one's person” (www.actsion.com).
Before I go any farther, I caution that I may get a little explicit for some. However, I find it necessary to define the outside clearly. You must keep in mind that some of the younger generation has never been taught what modesty means. There has been a failure of the "aged (older) women to teach the younger women" as instructed in Scripture so the "word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-5). There has also been a failure of pastors to preach from the pulpit, and enforce within the church offices, standards that are unquestionably modest.
Many will respond simply that a dress is modest apparel for females. But, can a female wear a dress and yet be immodest? Most definitely she can. This is one trick of Satan. Our young "modern" females of today may submit to a dress, but it lacks modesty. How can you distinguish what is modest? Well, as I heard one preacher say, "If there is nothing left to imagine, but all is exposed or outlined, it is immodest." There are two key words in this statement: exposed and outlined. Here is where so many fail. They assume that because they are covered that they are modest. Yet, the body is outlined improperly. We see women every day and occasionally in the church who look like they must pry themselves into and out of their clothing. Sisters please wear a dress that is appropriately sized and not two sizes too small and you will not appear enticing to men. This is a simple definition, but the application of this preacher’s definition would certainly eliminate many dresses from our sisters’ closets.
Modesty in terms of exposure should be easily discerned. If you are showing areas of your body that only the doctor, your husband, and your father when you were a child should see, it is immodest. A dress or skirt that shows the thighs is very much too short. The thighs are certainly sexual in nature. Any time a woman wants to look “sexy” she bares a thigh by a split or by a short skirt, shorts, etc. It has been preached before and should be preached more often, your dress is only as long as the highest split. Therefore, a long dress with a high split can be just as immodest as a short dress. Keep in mind, God called you to be modest not sexy. We should not have to turn our heads if you sit on the platform of the church. I have experienced this in the church and it just shouldn't happen in the church, or out of the church for that matter, with a Christian.
Consider the following: “The problem lies in determining at what point a dress becomes too short, or unquestionably immodest. A dress is unquestionably immodest when you sit down, and it is not long enough to drape down over your knees. The reason for this is rather obvious when you sit across the room from a woman dressed like that. Only a man who likes to lust, or a woman who wants men’s eyes upon her, would argue this point” (Liberty Gospel Tracts, http://www.pathwaynet.com/libertyb/biblecrs/cappear/cappear2.htm).
If you cannot sit comfortably without showing your knees, it is immodest. Cover up! If it has split that allows visibility above the knee, sew it up! If she won't cover up or sew it up, pastors please don’t invite her to the platform or put her in a Sunday School office until she learns the principle and value of modesty.
Too often the men are excluded from the preaching of modesty, but the same goes for males. Pants that look like they might split any moment are immodest. What are you trying to prove? Brother, buy some loose fitting jeans, dress pants, or casual slacks, but don't wear clothes that outline your body in an immodest way. Sitting can be an issue for males as well as females. Brothers, be gentlemen when choosing position or posture upon being seated.
And keep the buttons above the chest. That movie-star look is for Hellywood (Or is that Hollywood?), not the man of God. An unbuttoned or low shirt on men is not a sign of masculinity, but of vanity. Who are you trying to impress?
I would like to just briefly address another factor that I believe may have been introduced to clothing deceptively. It pertains to patterns in clothing material, especially lines. When I took Appreciation of Art in college, I was taught that lines were used in paintings and such to draw one’s attention into the picture to the primary focus point. Just by looking at the object or picture, your brain follows the lines, cornering, etc. toward the focus point. I believe some designers are using this technique to purposely draw visual attention to anatomical parts that are considered sexual and therefore enticing to the casual observer. This could then in turn incite lust in the observer. I don't want to go overboard here, but I wanted to share this observation. This may be something you want to be careful about.
Now let’s consider the neckline for females. I've already said, "Men, button up"! Christians don't want to see your chest. Again, I hope you can cope with my bluntness, but I have met females in the church dressed in such a fashion that I had to turn my head. They especially cannot bend over lest they expose themselves. And, dear God help us if she starts dancing and shouting. The Spirit of God is nowhere near these displays of carnality.
Consider the following: “At what point can we definitely say that a neckline is immodest? Ladies can do a very simple test in the bathroom to find out — simply bend forward in front of a mirror. If you can see a part of your anatomy that a man (or your children and other children) should not see, then you are dressed immodestly. Women try to defend their low tops and say, ‘Well I never bend over that far in front of people!’ But the truth is that they do many times. They do when they bend over to pick up their purses; when they fix their shoes; when they bend over to hug or pick up children, etc. The mirror will tell the truth as to what a multitude of other men, women, and children are seeing all of the time”
(Liberty Gospel Tracts, http://www.pathwaynet.com/libertyb/biblecrs/cappear/cappear2.htm).
Where are the aged women who should be teaching these younger women? Where are the mothers that should govern their daughters’ dressing habits to prevent such lewd fashions? Where are the pastors who with wisdom will cry out against such attire? Concerning a female Christian, this should never be a matter for the public. I said never. If that top is too low, pin it together or cover it up and don't uncover in public. If it can't be made modest, get rid of it. Don't allow it to lay around tempting you during a weak moment in your life. Rest assured weak moments will come and Satan can wait until his opportunity knocks. I understand the difficulty in finding appropriate clothing in this modernistic, flesh-craving world, but it can be done and should be done. Cover up!
Along with the hemline and neckline, the type of fabric the clothing is made from should also be a consideration. It would seem obvious that clothing that can be seen through would be deemed as inappropriate and immodest for anyone who claims the name of Christ and calls themselves Christian, but it isn’t so easy to convince those exposed to modern thinking. Clothing which covers the body appropriately but is made of light-colored or thin fabrics can give the impression of modesty. However, caution should be exercised when purchasing these types of fabrics. Fabric that leaves the skin or undergarments visible is not acceptable under the definition of modesty.
Concerning sleeves, I don't go so far as to say that long-sleeves are a must for male or female. Remember, I said I would present a balanced approach. If you are what I term ultra-conservative, I hope you don't close the book. I am not finished. I have respect for your position of never putting on anything without sleeves. However, I think to put more on the people than they can bear and more than you can prove by Scripture is unwise. We must consider if long sleeves are a requirement or a personal decision. I have not made a connection between the lower arms being uncovered as being "sexy." I have heard of sexy legs, but never sexy arms. Personally, I do not see the lower arm as being neither sexual in nature nor enticing to the opposite sex. Perhaps such temptation does exist, but I have never encountered the comment. I do make the distinction that uncovered shoulders can be considered enticing. I will discuss this below.
Long-sleeves often look very nice on either sex, especially when "dressing up" for worship service. I very rarely attend church wearing short-sleeves, especially when the congregation holds a “long sleeve” standard. I do this in a large part as not to offend a brother. But, I will not go so far as to make it a requirement for myself and certainly I will not make such demands on others that I cannot support by Scripture or logic. It doesn’t even seem reasonable to make such demands. Dressing to the wrist can be a personal conviction if you desire to place yourself under such demands, but I do not find any support for it scripturally or logically.
In fact, I find it illogical to take standards to the extreme just to claim your "Holiness" standard is beyond that of another group or person. If this is so, the females in the Middle East who cannot show anything but their face around the eyes would be considered the most holy women in the world in the aspect of modest dress. However, most of you would agree that the Middle East position is extreme and unnecessary. It is my opinion that requiring long-sleeves is extending the standard beyond what is necessary.
I remember a message that I heard preached. The preacher was obviously sincere. He initiated his message with, and continued to refer back to the statement that, “God has given me this message.” As well, he also reminded the congregation repeatedly that God wanted this particular congregation to move up to a higher level of Holiness standard. The congregation was complimented on their current standard, but exhorted to move on to “perfection.” He named such things as men with facial hair, long sleeves, and other things along these lines. I did not have facial hair, I had on long sleeves and my life measured up for the most part with what the preacher was preaching. There were men with facial hair in the congregation. One left during the preaching. There was a woman insulted in a different matter by the preaching as well. She left with the statement, “That’s enough. I won’t be back.” The service was disturbed when she exited in a flurry. The preacher made a sarcastic comment and continued blasting away.
I left the service wondering about many things. Was the message in fact “from God”? Were these God’s standards or man’s? Did the preacher want me to be more like Christ or more like him? Some of the standards that were preached were in fact Biblical. However, Scripture did not support others. I concluded that the preacher was a bit over zealous. I believe he realized this, but was so deep he couldn’t pull out. It appeared that he was taking the standards that had been handed down to him and felt it was his duty to pass them on to everyone. Yet, he did not supply Biblical support for many of the standards and even lacked the appropriate spirit in which to preach on such delicate issues.
I am not casting stones at this brother. I have hope that he learned from the experience. I believe in Holiness standards, but I am not in favor of propagating standards that are not Biblically supported. Neither do I support the preaching of any message in the wrong spirit. When we submit to non-Biblical standards presented by individuals who say it is required by God, we do become more like them, but do we become more like Him?
These extreme standards can go beyond what God Himself requires and therefore can become a burden which one was never meant to bear. I believe some of our unsupported extreme positions have lead to justified complaints from the world that we are following "traditions of men." Also, I feel that backsliding by some individuals within the church was initiated by, or at least a contributing factor of, the fact that the standard was beyond the Bible. Therefore they “just couldn’t live it” because God was not supporting them in this standard and their will power was not sufficient. When their will power failed, so did their experience in the church that demanded so much by peer pressure. They were then left to themselves (excommunicated), as one who had failed God and the church.
I have seen this happen and it shouldn’t be this way. The church that claimed to love them now scorns them. These situations do happen. Is this what God intends to happen? I appreciate what one preacher, with wisdom beyond his years, said, “I will never take standard over the blood of Jesus Christ.” No, this does not mean that standards go out the window. To me, it means that some standards are not God’s standards. Also, God is more patient with individuals who are truly born-again and living to the best of their knowledge and ability than we are.
When our "Holiness" becomes our salvation, we no longer have salvation, but we now possess only religion. At this point, we have been converted to the works of righteousness alone that is insufficient to justify men before God. Having begun in the Spirit, we now try to attain perfection by finishing in the flesh (Galations 3:3). Please keep these last lines in remembrance as you encounter other cases where I express my concern that we are asking more of our fellow Christians than God is asking.
I do draw the line on sleeves with the sleeveless. Sleeveless attire is inappropriate for either sex. It exposes the chest, shoulders and the sides beneath the arms. This appearance clearly leans toward the sexual attraction arena along the same lines as showing thighs and lowering the neckline. What the world defines as evening gowns, sundresses and the like, often are sleeveless in order to expose the body in a seductive style. We need sanctification in the Body of Christ not seduction. We should concern ourselves with covering the shoulders and down the upper arm toward the elbow.
After all that has been said thus far, it is nearly needless to even address short pants on either sex. Shorts do not distinguish between the sexes. And, they clearly expose the thighs of individuals and thus portray the immodest look. Shorts are very much exposing and therefore enticing to the opposite sex. Again, we are not looking to seduce, but to witness the holiness of Christ and His body. This cannot be accomplished dressing immodestly. Here's a word of advice from Liz Graf to the sisters which summarizes much of what has already been said: "Open, low necklines, sleeveless tops and dresses, short and slit skirts and dresses, tight slinky, form-fitting attire and pants or shorts, have no place in a Christian woman's wardrobe" (www.techplus.com/bkjv1611/bd0044.htm).
And lastly, concerning dress, how can any clear thinking Christian put on swimwear? Brother, if exposing your chest with an unbuttoned shirt is immodest and sleeveless is immodest, how can we even consider going without a shirt and in a pair of swim trunks?
Sister, a one-piece is not even close to modest. You might spare us the bikini, but you are far too exposed in a bathing suit. Would you walk around in your underwear? What's the difference between swimwear and underwear? Oh, swimwear is more colorful and designed to take exposure to water and dry quickly. Underwear, swimwear, they look the same to me.
I can't understand the mentality being exercised for a man or woman to dress appropriately in all, or even almost all, situations and then hit their backyard or a beach with their body exposed. Please listen. I am trying to instruct you in a more perfect way, not bash your lifestyle. Sure, I know, you can go to a crowded beach and not lust after the opposite sex walking all around in their near nakedness. I have heard that excuse before. I really doubt it.
Let’s just pretend you could go to the public swimming pool or beach and not be affected by the nakedness that you see. What is going to prevent some other unregenerate individual from lusting after you? It doesn't matter if you are old or lacking very much in beauty, someone will be looking. You will still become a partaker in sin if you expose yourself in such a way as to lure another to look and lust.
Not only did Paul say to be modest, but also "with shamefacedness." The Greek word for shamefacedness, aidos (Strong's 127), means a sense of shame or honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect. How can you peel off and have any respect for yourself or others? Especially when the swimsuits of today are so near nudity, what Christian can lay it honestly before the Lord and not cleanse the closet of anything resembling such? I shouldn't have to even discuss it. Preachers should not even have to preach it. But, our Neo-Pentecostal (charismatic) generation claims to have the fullness of the Spirit of God along with the operation of the gifts and yet be fully associated with the world. There are those who might claim to meditate on the Lord or even receive prophesy while sunning in their swimsuit on the beach in the middle of numerous near-naked individuals. I don’t believe it for a minute. Such things are not in order and God is not the author of your confusion. The Spirit of God and the Word of God are not in contradiction. The Spirit will not bless what the Word condemns.
I challenge you to seek the Lord in complete honesty about this and other matters that have been discussed thus far as we move on to our next topic of male hairstyle.