Fashion and Following the Saviour

Monday, February 18, 2008

Modesty – It’s an old fashioned word, but for the Christian woman it should never go out of style. Yet, as today’s fashions get sexier with each season, women may feel they are caught between pleasing GOD and looking good. The contributor to this article who is a wife, mother and author dove into this very important topic not long ago with her three grown daughters. Here they share their thoughts…(edited by our Pastor)

It's that time of year again. The fashion magazines are touting the newest and hottest clothing trends for spring and summer. And because fashion is so fickle, a woman is sure to find that what was popular last season, must not see the light of day this season. But more than just the latest style, spring and summer (in particular) usher in a vast array of immodest and indecent clothing. Thus the racks and shelves at the nearest mall are crammed full of body-revealing attire.

So, What’s a Christian woman to do?We must consult God’s Word rather than the fashion magazines. We must take God with us when we go shopping. And what’s interesting – and freeing, I might add – is that God’s clothing style for women doesn’t change from season to season. He presents his fashion standard to us in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

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; but (which becometh women professing goldliness) with good works.

Over the next few articles we will be talking about this verse and what it means for our 2008 spring and summer wardrobes. We hope you will join us as we deal with the subject: Fashion and Following the Saviour.

Modesty – A Matter of the HeartWe are going to hang out on three main points:

  1. The attitude of a modest woman
  2. The appearance of a modest woman
  3. The allegiance of a modest woman

Soon after my daughter was born, I packed away all of my maternity clothes and eagerly dug out my “regular” clothes. I was excited. I thought it would feel like shopping, but without spending any money. When I pulled out my storage bags from under the bed, however, there wasn’t much there. What happened to all of my clothes? What was I wearing before I got pregnant? I still haven’t figured that one out. Anyway, I’m currently borrowing some things from my mom and planning a little “wardrobe rebuilding” trip soon.

But before my trip to the mall, something far more important must take place. I must first evaluate my heart. Dad says it this way, “Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline.” So what is this heart we’re supposed to have? 1 Timothy 2:9-10 makes it clear. It says that “Women should adorn themselves in modest (respectable) apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” These two qualities are to inform the way that I dress. Let’s check these definitions.

SHAMEFACEDNESS: A virtue that causes one to be ashamed to exceed the limits of decency. It is the fear of shame which restrains a person’s behavior, dress or speech. Defined as exceeding the limit’s which are expected or required. The emphasis is upon spirituality rather than style. It is the avoidance of clothing and adornment that is extravagant, showy, and sexually enticing.”

SOBRIETY: “Seriousness of mind. To be sensible or temperate, not extreme or extravagant.”

Maybe modesty is a word you don’t really want to think about. Perhaps you’ve had a vague idea that it means “ugly” or “out of style.” It may not have occurred to you that GOD has something to say about the clothes you wear.

As do all Spiritual commands, this command for modesty and self-control has broader implications than merely externals, what we wear. It goes right to the heart of WHY we wear what we wear. Our clothes, whether we realize it or not, say something. They give us away. They reveal the heart behind the clothes we wear. A modest heart comes before modest dress.

So what do your clothes say about your heart? What would we discover if we met your closet before we met you? Do your clothes reveal a heart of modesty and self-control?

Modesty – What It’s Not.Thanks for sticking with us on this very important topic of modesty. In a world where modesty is anything but popular, your eagerness to please God by your dress testifies to His work of grace in your heart.

Please know that the topic on modest clothing is not about imposing some kind of absurd clothing standard. It’s about applying God’s standard and wisdom to the area of our dress. Ultimately, its about our hearts; for a modest heart comes before a modest dress.

You see, immodest dress is more than simply wearing skimpy clothing. Often it’s an expression of pride, the opposite of humility. Simply put, immodest clothes are pride on display. In his book Humility: True Greatness, my dad explains that “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.” In other words, the immodest girl seeks to dress in a way that draws attention to herself and to her body, instead of serving others and bringing glory to the Saviour.

How can we know if pride is our fashion style of choice? By considering our motives: why do we wear what we wear? Here are three arrogant desires that can motivate the way we dress. I know because I’m familiar with all of them.

1. A desire to be selfish.I simply don’t want to invest the time and effort required to find modest clothing. I mean, lets face it – it’s not easy to be modest these days! I have to try on three times as many clothes as the girl who isn’t concerned about modesty. I might as well go on an archeological dig – it’s that hard to find a stylish, attractive shirt or dress that’s modest. Not to mention that I have to leave hanging on the rack many things that I think would look really great on me! However, when I grumble and complain or make excuses for immodesty, I’m putting my selfish desires above serving others and glorifying Christ. That’s pride.

2. A desire to show off.I want people to think I’m trendy. I want them to include me because of how I dress. I worry they’ll reject me if I don’t dress a certain way. This is a common temptation. But really, it’s just another campaign for my won glory. I want the attention from others that I should be directing to God instead.

3. A desire to seduce.This is the most serious of the three. While many women who choose immodest clothing aren’t literally trying to seduce a guy, in it’s infancy, there can be a desire for that lustful attention. We want to feel attractive and desirable. However, this is sinful, and a particularly virulent form of pride. It says: I’m worthy of the kind of attention that’s forbidden in GOD’S Word. It says: I am not overly concerned about whether my appearance tempts men to sin against God’s holiness. It says: I have a better grasp of what I should do, than does GOD. You see, that’s the course of thought which pride will take you. Pride is an exaggerated viewpoint, of a person’s own opinion, or sense of importance. Matter of fact, pride allows for no admission of being wrong.

If these three proud desires – to be selfish, to show off and seduce – are lurking in our hearts, we must first admit to the ugly truth. Then we must repent and receive the forgiveness that comes only through Christ. And we must purpose to put on humility – first in our hearts, and then in our dress. For if immodesty is an expression of pride, then modesty is humility expressed in dress. So how about you? Are you wearing humility today?

“…be clothed with humility: for GOD resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

A Biblical Look At Feminine Modesty

In our last study, we discussed the finer points of having a modest and pure heart. But does modesty leave room for the outward beauty we all desire? Lets see what word of GOD has to say….

Now that we’ve established that modesty begins in the heart, it’s time to consider what it means for our wardrobe. What’s a modest girl to wear? Once again, let’s turn to our 1 Timothy 2:9 passage. Here Paul instructs the women to clothe themselves in “modest apparel.”

Now let me set your mind at ease. Adorning ourselves in “modest apparel” does not mean that we must restrict ourselves exclusively to cheap, out of style, unattractive clothing. Paul is not saying that gold or pearls or braiding are forbidden. In fact, you will find other places in Scripture where godly women wore fine clothing and jewelry.

For example, the Proverbs 31 woman – who is put forth in the Bible as a model for Biblical womanhood – wore colorful, high quality clothing (Proverbs 31:22). We read where the bride in Song of Solomon adorned her appearance with jewelry (Song of Solomon 1:10). We are told that Esther underwent 12 months of beauty treatments – 6 months with oil of myrrh and 6 with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12).

So we are not to take this verse to mean that godly women should try as hard as they can to be out of style and unattractive. No! Quite the opposite. God is the creator of beauty. God delights in beauty. All we need to verify this fact is to consider the beauty He created all around us: whether it is an elegant flower, or towering trees, or a meandering river, or billowy clouds or the majestic night sky.

Every time we stop to take in one of these breathtaking scenes on display in God’s creation, we can’t help but be convinced that He delights in beauty! And because we are created in the image of our Creator, each of us has this propensity to make things beautiful. That means, when we decorate our homes, or plant a lovely flower garden, or seek to add some form of beauty to our surroundings, even when we attempt to enhance our personal appearance – we are actually imitating and delighting in the works of our Great Creator.

Now granted, these activities can be sinfully implemented; but still, we must not overlook the fact that the essence of our desire to beautify comes from God. John Angell James in his book, Female Piety (first published in 1860) offers this helpful thought:

"This taste (for beauty), however in many cases it may be altogether corrupted in its object, wrong in its principle, or excessive in its degree, is in its own nature an imitation of the workmanship of God, who, “by his Spirit has garnished the heavens,” and covered the earth with beauty.

Now hopefully we have convincing proof that our desire to enhance our appearance isn’t wrong, that “modest apparel” does not have to be dowdy or out of style. So what exactly does Paul mean by “modest apparel”?

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul insists that the women “adorn themselves with modest apparel” “not with braided hair, or gold or pearls or costly array.” If Paul was not forbidding stylish clothing or banning jewelry, what was he getting at? To the women of this first century church, Paul writes to warn them against imitating the dress and adornment of the ladies of the Roman court and the prostitutes. These women were known for their extremely expensive, showy clothes and ridiculously elaborate hairstyles. They dressed, not only to attract attention, but to seduce as well. Paul does not want the women of the church to dress in this manner and thus be a distraction during the church service, or at any other time.

What he is condemning is not the attractive attire, but the association with worldly and ungodly values. Women who profess godliness, he says, should not dress in such a way that resembles those who are extravagant, or worse, intent on being seductive or sexy. Simply put, we are not to identify with our sinful, worldly culture through our dress.

So, the question for us is this: Who are we seeking to imitate or be like in our dress? Who inspires our wardrobe? Are we preoccupied with looking like the latest American Idol winner or the actresses and music stars on magazine covers, or the immodest woman next door?

A while back, I saw a few minutes of one of the innumerable makeover stories on television (I’m surprised we haven’t all been “made over” by now!). Two women were going to receive a new look. One of them wanted to look exactly like Jennifer Anniston, and the other like Jennifer Garner as I recall. These two ladies (who, I’m sorry to say, didn’t look a bit like the actresses they so admired) were just gushing about how much they admired everything about these glamorous stars – their style, their way of walking, their clothing, their hair. It might have been comical if it wasn’t so sad.

Most of us are not trying to look exactly like a famous actress – we know it’s a lost cause! However, if we are seeking to imitate the sexually enticing clothing of the women in our culture, we are no different than these two wannabes. That is why Paul’s message is urgent – not just for the original recipients of his letter, but for us today. He doesn’t want the women in the church looking exactly like the ungodly, seductive women in the world.

Women in the church are to be different from the world. We should be standouts – not because of our revealing clothing, but because of our distinctly modest heart and dress.

What Do Men Think of Modesty

We began our series from 1 Timothy 2:9-10 by considering the attitude behind the clothes we wear. Fashion that honors God comes from a heart of modesty and self-control,” and modesty is humility expressed in dress.

As for the appearance of the goldy woman, we learned that she is to “adorn (herself) with modest apparel.” Not that it is wrong to look attractive! We learned that the essence of our desire to beautify actually comes from God. However, seductive, ostentatious dress is dishonoring to the Saviour.

In this article, we continue to focus on the appearance of the modest woman and one reason why it is so significant: Give heed to this thought… because it protects our brothers in Christ from temptation and sin. Carefully ponder the following statement:

“Women are sometimes ignorant of the effect of their bodies on the eyes and hearts of men. But, for the most part, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we know exactly what we’re doing. We enjoy the attention of guys. As a pastor-friend of ours once remarked, “Guys lust and girls want to be lusted after.”

To instruct all those who might be ignorant, and to remind the rest of us, I want you to hear from the guys themselves. Here are two young men sharing their struggle with lust. Lets call them “Kevin” and “Jack.” I know they speak for the majority of godly men today.

Kevin: “Each and every day is a battle….a battle against my sin, a battle against temptation, a battle against my depraved mind. Every morning I have to cry out for mercy, strength and a renewed conviction to flee youthful lusts. The Spirit is faithful to bring me the renewal I need to prepare me to do war against my sin, yet the temptation still exists.

Sometimes when I see a girl provocatively dressed, I’ll say to myself, “She probably doesn’t know what a hundred and one guys are doing to devour her in their minds today. But then again, maybe she does.” To be honest, I don’t know the truth…the truth of why she chooses to dress the way she does. All I know is that the way she presents herself to the world is bait for my sinful mind to latch onto and I need to avoid it at all costs.

For the most part, the church serves as a sanctuary from the continual barrage of temptation towards sin. However, the church’s members are not free from sin yet, and there are girls and women who are both ignorant and knowledgeable of men’s sinful tendencies. I must confess that even church can have several mines scattered about.”

Jack: “The one place where I might think I wouldn’t have to face as much temptation is at church, but this is not always the case. When ladies whom I’m friends with dress immodestly, it definitely has a negative effect on our friendship. When a woman dresses immodestly it makes it difficult to see her as a sister in Christ. There is a constant battle going on as I’m talking with her. Communication becomes more difficult as I’m trying to listen to her, because I’m trying to fight temptation.”

Here’s what these young men say about women who do dress modestly. Hear the appreciation in their words:

Jack: “I am so grateful for the friendships that God has given me with the ladies in my church. I am so appreciative of the sacrifices that these ladies make to glorify God and to serve and care for the guys. I heard of one girl who went shopping and really liked the shirt she was trying on. But then she thought, “No, I can’t do this to the guys.” That was the first time I had ever heard of anything like that and it made me so grateful. It is such a blessing to have friends who care for me enough to be selfless and sacrifice what might look attractive in order to help me and other guys with sexual lust. When ladies dress modestly, it is attractive and makes me want to hang out with them more. I think modesty is so attractive in friendships because it makes it easier for the friendship to be centered around God and for fellowship to be unhindered.”

Kevin: “To the girls who don’t follow the pattern of the world: thank you a million times over. You are following Scripture’s commands and helping your brothers in the process. Despite all that godly men are doing to defeat the sin of lust, they still need help, and they need you to provide it.”

The appeals of these young men striving for holiness pierce my heart in a unique way. Perhaps it’s because I’m the mother of three young boys – boys who will become men someday and will undoubtedly face the same temptations to lust. So, ladies, let’s take to heart the temptations and pleas for help from Jack and Kevin….to serve the Christian men of our day, and the young boys who hopefully will become the Christian men of tomorrow.