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What is Modesty?

You will get a different answer depending on who you ask.  In the search for answers, I began where everyone in my generation starts… Google.  

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Per Wikipedia, I got this answer “Modesty, sometimes known as demureness, is a mode of dress and deportment which intends to avoid the encouraging of sexual attraction in others. The word "modesty" comes from the Latin word modestus which means "keeping within measure". Standards of modesty are culturally and context-dependent and vary widely.”  

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash Black woman with braided hair reading a book outside

While not encouraging sexual attraction in others is definitely a part of biblical modesty I believe that there is more to it. Unfortunately, most of the time the conversation stays on the sexual attraction part of modesty but there are more aspects which are just as important.  Two of the most popular passages in the Bible which deal with the outward appearance are 1 Pete 3:3-5 & 1Tim 2:9-10.  So let’s take a look and let them tell us about modesty.

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash woman standing in front of a white cross

In 1Tim 2:9-10 the apostle Paul calls women to modesty after declaring that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all—the testimony that was given at just the right time (verse 5 &6).”

These verses which pretty much declare the basics of the Christian faith come prior to the apostle even mentioning his thought on modesty. Which are  “9Likewise, I want the women to adorn themselves with respectable apparel, with modesty, and with self-control, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess to worship God.” Here modesty is not about a list of requirements but as a result of God’s gift of salvation.  


In 1 Pete 3:3-5 Peter goes a step further and describes what actual beauty is and where it comes from.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes,4but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. 5For this is how the holy women of the past adorned themselves.”

What is interesting is that both verses point to the fact that modesty and even beauty are more than just garments and articles of clothing.  There are whys behind everything we do, even what we wear.

Photo by Junko Nakase on Unsplash women's assorted clothes

I believe that an extensive list of do's and don’ts aren’t given because God knows we humans have a way of taking lists and rules and making a mockery of it.  A prime example is how the religious leaders in Israel created additional rules to the God-given laws to get around things that did not like or to draw more self-righteous attention to themselves. (Luke 11:39-42)

Photo by Jessica To'oto'o on Unsplashwoman reading The Rules book

So I will have to disagree with the results from my google search because modesty is something that begins in the heart with the acknowledgment that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash woman sitting on brown bench while reading book

Dressing modestly is the act of revealing to the world what is happening within.  It is a way of saying without words what resides deep within your heart.

Modesty is showing the world that I am a child of God through what I wear. Modesty is reflecting what the Lord has done on the inside on the outside. Modesty is protecting what should be private and giving it a special honor. Modesty is not a desire to draw attention to yourself as the world does but a desire to reflect the goodness of God.

Modesty is knowing the culture you are in and reflecting the Lord appropriately in that setting. In short, modesty is the art of dressing for the occasion in a way that displays a heart of respect, self-control, and love.

Now that we know what modesty is next we will explore what place it has in our modern world.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with me or Google? Maybe you are somewhere in between?

Let me know what you think!

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