I usually steer clear of what we call the “gray areas” in the Christian life. But sometimes, something has just got to be said. This is one of those times.
I have been a part of youth ministry in some way or another for the last 12 years. This means I have spent quite a bit of time around teen girls. Without a doubt, there have always been girls who dressed provocatively, but something has changed in the last couple years. What was once a few bold girls “pushing the limits,” is now how about 80% of the teens (and young adults) dress.
I won’t pretend I know God’s opinion on how many inches the inseam of girl’s shorts should be, or how much skin should be showing. I recognize clothing rules are not laid out in Scripture, and the opinions of thoughtful Christians vary widely. But what I do think needs to be said is modesty itself is not a gray area. Modesty is expected of godly women. For that reason, it is our job, as mothers, to thoughtfully consider how to guide our daughters to obey God in this matter.
What is Modesty?
The clearest text that ought to inform our stance on clothing (for ourselves and our daughters) is 1 Timothy 2:9-10. This passage says,
…women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
Contextually, Paul is instructing Timothy on what he ought to teach the church. In verse 9, Paul tells Timothy what he specifically needs to teach the women. To which he says, women should make themselves beautiful (“adorn themselves”) with respectable clothing, with modesty and with what displays self-control. If you were to do a biblical word study you would notice those words relate to both outward dress and inward demeanor.
Paul’s specific prohibitions add another layer to our understanding of modesty. Back in those days, women would wear these up-do’s that involved huge decorated braids twisted on the top of their head. This particular type of hair style, along with costly attire, was for those who were flaunting their wealth and beauty.
In summary, Paul was speaking against an outward appearance that was showy, provocative, or purposefully drawing attention to one’s self.
Why be Modest?
Paul’s words to Timothy might convince you enough to jump on the modesty train. But with so much of our culture belittling modesty, a further argument for modesty might be appropriate.
First, let’s consider that these are not merely Paul’s words. The Bible contains the very words of God. The God who made us knows the best way to live, and he instructs accordingly. God’s instructions are not downer demands; God’s wisdom is what we need to do life well.
Secondly, to embrace modesty, we must remember that life is not about us. Our goal as Christians is not to gather attention for ourselves, make people notice us, or ensure we look good. Our life’s aim is to point people to Jesus. It’s when we truly embrace this fact that we can embrace modesty.
Lastly, we are not loving our brother’s in Christ (or men in general, for that matter), by provocatively flaunting our bodies. It shouldn’t be all that surprising that sexy or revealing clothing would make people think of us in a way they should not. Lust is sin (Matthew 5:28-30), and dressing in a way that makes lust hard to fight is just wrong.
All in all, modesty is a must. God said we should dress modestly, and that should close the deal (If God said we should dress in a banana costume, it would be logically appropriate to comply!). Thankfully, God has good reasons for his instructions to women – thus we can joyfully comply, while teaching our daughters to do the same.
“But I Can’t Force My Daughter”
With such a sensitive and important topic, I first needed to cover the “Why?” of modesty. But the real question is “How?” — How do we help our daughters become modest young women? Though “forcing” them may be impossible (however, I imagine that is up for debate), we can likely do more than we choose to.
Depending on the age of your daughter, there are a variety of strategic ways to help her embrace God’s view on how to dress. So make sure to check out part 2 next week: 5 Tips to Help Your Daughter Embrace Modesty…