In working with youth and young adults the issue of modesty comes up quite a bit. More and more I feel like the stick-in-the mud preaching against playing cards and mixed bathing if I even bring up the topic. However, it is a topic of vast importance. I say this because the bible deals with the issue of modesty.
In thinking through this issue (for ministry and as the father of two daughters) I came across some helpful thoughts. A while back on the Sovereign Grace blog C.J. Mahaney wrote on the topic of modesty. To summarize Mahaney: You need to be modest. Not in the way you dress. But in your heart. When you have a modest attitude it will result in modest actions (and dress). The primary issue, though, is your heart. Mahanney provides some helpful thoughts on how to check our hearts by looking at our actions:
Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality.
Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.
This does not mean that we should let ourselves go and look like “pigpen” all the time. Mahaney’s wife, Carolyn, made this astute observation:
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!
[B]ecause 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.
Additionally, clothes are not the only test of a modest heart. If you are more concerned with what someone else is wearing than your own wardrobe then you are missing the key element of modesty: humility. In fact, no where in Scripture are we told to make sure that other people are dressed modestly. It is unfortunate if someone dresses immodestly and tempts us to sin (This is why Mahaney tells you girls that “You’re truly serving your brothers in Christ by your obedience to God’s Word” through modesty.), but our responsibility is to deal with that temptation in our own hearts rather than in the wardrobe of another person.
This is an important issue for guys and girls alike. It is absoulutely vital that you are working with your children/parents on this issue. It will be difficult and you may hate to get involved/have their involvement on wardrobe, but this is the only way to be modest and serve your brothers in Christ. Be mature enough to realize this (parents you especially), and be humble enough to be modest.
One last thing for the ladies. Ask your dad (or husband if you are married) what he thinks of your outfit. He may have no fashion sense whatsoever, but he will be a big help in keeping your wardrobe modest.