“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel … which becometh women professing godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10).
“And behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart” (Prov. 7:10).
Immodesty, lust, adultery, deceit, drunkenness, murder. Not a very nice list of words, is it? You might wonder why immodesty is listed with the others. The reason is that all of the words listed belong to the same narrative, and are listed in the progressive order of events, beginning with immodesty and ending with murder. The incident concerns David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12:25).
Many women apparently do not realize the power they exercise over the thinking and actions of men, by the way they dress. Who could have believed this woman would have ever been able to make David do the things he did after she displayed herself immodestly within his view?
There was a time when immodesty was limited to such haunts of unrespectability as houses of prostitution, bars and night clubs. The circus has often displayed women in costumes which “hesitated to begin and ended almost immediately,” as one Kentucky preacher complained in the Apostolic Times, May 6,1875.
No longer do we need to look in such places of ill repute to find immodest dress. Any public gathering place will suffice, or even observing people walk down the street. The sad reality of this situation is that in many places church members are going along with the modem trends and practices of the day in this regard. Some even claim there are no standards or biblical guidelines in such matters, and that dress is a matter of self determination For this reason, it would be good for us to remind ourselves of some very basic Bible principles:
1. Matthew 5:13-16 Christians are to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.”
2. Romans 12:1-2 teaches we are not to “be conformed to this world.”
3. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says we that are to “abstain from every form (appearance) of evil.”
4. 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1 says that we are to “come out from their midst and be separate.”
5. Exodus 23:2 warns “you shall not follow a multitude to do evil.”
6. Matthew 7:13-14 reminds us that “everybody is doing it” is no reason for doing something wrong.
7. 1 John 2:15-17 admonishes “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.”
These passages should serve to warn each of us about our responsibility to the world and other Christians and the way we live before them.
Bible Teaching On Inadequate Clothing
Early on in the Bible we have certain principles set forth that relate to the matter of human adornment specifically clothing. After God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, the Scripture says “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). The clear implication is that at some future time they would be “naked and ashamed.” Throughout Scripture nakedness is connected with things not being what they should be. When Adam and Eve sinned they gained a knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. They realized that it was wrong (under usual circumstances) to be naked. So they sewed “fig leaves” together, and made themselves aprons (Gen 3:7). Evidently these aprons only partially covered their bodies, because when God came into the garden they tried to hide. God called out “Adam, where are you?” Trembling, Adam came into the presence of God and said “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Gen 3:10).
Even though Adam was wearing his girdle of fig leaves, he knew instinctively that this was inadequate and he was still naked. It is noteworthy that God did not deny that Adam was naked, but rather asked “who told you that you were naked?” (Gen. 3:11). After this, “The Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21).
Lessons From The Genesis Incident
1. Under usual circumstances, nakedness is shameful and if self imposed, sinful. The exception would be the marriage relationship 0 Cor. 7:4). But in the normal circumstances of day-to-day life nudity is not right. In the case of Adam and Eve, who were tending their garden responsibilities, it was not fitting (see also Gen 9:21-27 and Lev. 18:6-9).
In Luke 8:26-27, we read of a man possessed by demons who was naked. After the demon left, the Bible says he was “clothed and in his right mind.”
Revelation 3:18 ties together nakedness and shame, and is followed by Revelation 16:15 that implies the same.
In Exodus 28:42, Moses tells the priests how they should conduct themselves when they offer sacrifices:
And you shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. And they shall be on Aaron, and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the alter to minister in the holy place, so that they do no incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute for ever to him and to his descendants after him.
Some make the argument that it is cooler to wear shorts. The logical answer to that argument is that it would be even cooler to wear nothing. The point is, every argument made to justify intentional wearing of insufficient clothing will also justify nudity, if carried to its logical conclusion.
2. Inadequate clothing, in God’s sight, is the same as nakedness. Adam and Eve realized they were naked, even though they were wearing fig leaf girdles. God did not say “Oh, no, you are not naked, because you have covered a few key spots on your body.” God even acknowledged their nakedness by making them coats of skins.
In view of this basic truth, it should be noted that inadequate or skimpy clothing can actually be more seductive than no clothing at an. Even though the Bible does not state that a garment can be two inches above the knee and no higher, it does provide us with guidelines to help us in such matters. We have already seen that Adam and Eve were wearing clothing that was insufficient. The priests had to wear linen britches to cover their loins and thighs, in addition to their robes. Passages such as 2 Samuel 10:4 and 1 Chronicles 19:4 tell us that part of the shame of being a slave or captive was to wear cut-off garments. The most important guideline of all, is that our clothing must be reflection of the Christian heart. It is extremely difficult to imagine anyone dressed in the modem costumes of the day, with bare legs, bare middles bare backs and sometimes even more and say that they reflect Christian values.
Another principle that women need to take to heart is given in Matthew 5:28, i.e., it is a sin for a man to lust after a woman in his heart. But 2 John 11 teaches that if one encourages sin, he/she becomes a partaker in that sin. If the way a woman dresses encourages a man to sin she is as guilty as he.
3. These truths have some application to both men and women. When Adam was inadequately clothed, he was just as “naked” as Eve. Both he and God recognized this fact. Matthew 5:28 speaks of a man lusting after a woman, and 1 Timothy 2:9 says that it is women who should adorn themselves in modest apparel. These verses seem to imply that the major thrust should be to encourage women to dress properly. One would miss the mark, however, if he did not recognize that men can also dress or undress immodestly. Modern swim suits and tight trousers, worn by many men today, can by no stretch of the imagination be declared modest.
The Meaning of Important Words
Orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest (akin to kosmos, in its primary sense as harmonious arrangement, adornment, cp. kosmikos, of the world, which is related to kosmos in its secondary sense as the world) used in 1 Tim. 2:9 of the apparel with which Christian women are to adorn themselves” (W. E. Vine). Thayer says, “well-arranged, seemly, modest.” “The well ordering is not of dress and demeanor only, but of the inner life” (Trench). “Well-arranged, becoming” (A. T. Robertson). “Well ordered, moderate, orderly, well-behaved, discreet, modest decorum, decently” (Liddell and Scott).
“Restrained by sense of propriety; not forward or bold; not presumptuous or arrogant; not boastful; unobtrusive; in a somewhat stronger sense, retiring; bashful; dissident-free from anything suggestive of sexual impurity; free from indecency; showing such reserve or decorum as is associated with a chaste mid, moderate; not excessive or extreme; not extravagant; as a modest computation” (Webster).
These definitions indicate that one can dress in style with clothing that is well-arranged and still be modest.
“A sense of shame, modesty, is used regarding the demeanor of women in the church. Shamefastness is that modesty which is fast or rooted in the character” (Vine). “A sense of shame, modesty” (Thayer). “Shamefast that which was established and made fast by (an honorable) shame” (Trench).
“Denotes soundness of mind, Acts 26:25, soberness, 1 Tim. 2:9-15, sobriety sound judgment practically expresses the meaning; it is that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires which would hinder the temptation to these from arising . . .” (Vine). “Soundness of mind, words of sobriety, (A.V. soberness) self control, sobriety” (Thayer). “The word is compounded of safe, sound and mind. It signifies entire command of the passions and desires; a self-control which holds the rein over these” (Vincent).
“To announce, i.e., this word is in the middle voice and means to announce concerning one’s self. So in effect, you announce what you are by what you wear” (Vine).
Relevance of Bible Teaching Today
Is the Bible teaching on modest apparel relevant to this age? I believe it is. An all-wise, all-knowing God had the ability to design laws and commandments and principles suited to all men of all nations of all time. (Mt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23)
The idea that modesty is relative, i.e., what is modest now was very immodest fifty years ago, misses the point entirely. The teaching of the Scripture regarding any garment in any age is simply: however a woman may dress that causes or invites sexual interest in her on the part of the male observer, or which calls attention to herself as a result of overdressing, is immodest, and what does not cause it and does not invite it is modest.
While it is true that the physical aspects of modesty change from generation to generation, it must be remembered that the principles governing what is modest and immodest do not change.
Common sense will help here. If a bikini bathing suit is modest, what would it take to be immodest?
Immodest dress can take in a variety of dress styles. In the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 the writers are concerned with overdressing, i.e., being ostentatious in dress and appearance. Immodest clothing can be too tight, too low, too thin, too revealing, too short, too little, too costly, too ostentatious, or too anything that calls attention to oneself in the wrong way.
Someone is ready to say regarding a certain garment, “It’s more modest in that situation.” I submit to you that immodest clothing is never appropriate regardless of the activity. If an activity cannot be indulged in without wearing an immodest garment, then, the activity should be left off, be it skating, skiing, boating, horseback riding, gardening, picking apples or blackberries, whatever, it makes no difference. The Christian woman should not participate in an activity if she cannot dress modestly when so doing.
An important principle is advanced by Peter in 1 Peter 3:3-4: ‘Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart.”
The idea advanced is simply that Christian women emphasize, by the way they dress, the inner beauty of godliness, rather than call attention to their outward attire. He is not saying that it is wrong for women to wear their hair a certain way, or that it is wrong to wear gold, or apparel, but that emphasis should not be placed here. Let it not be, but let it be this, etc. A parallel is given by Jesus when He said, “Labor not for that meat which perisheth, but for that meat that endureth unto everlasting life.” It is certainly not wrong to work for a living, but that is not where the real emphasis should be. If Christian women today were as concerned about their inner beauty and godly spirit as they are their outward appearance, immodesty would be no problem.
Why Do Women Dress Immodestly?
If women are fully aware that their outward clothing should be a representation of their inner spirit, why then would anyone wear a garment that is immodest? There are perhaps several reasons:
1. Ignorance – a failure to realize the import or results of what they wear. Some may underestimate their power over other people.
2. A failure to think about the impression we are making on the world. How could a Christian woman wear something that would degrade her religion, or cause a man to sin?
3. A desire to tempt and receive attention. It is evident that many garments are not only designed to reveal, but are bought and worn with that specific intent in mind. Let us never forget that the world is taking a good look at us, and they may be seeing more than we realize.
More than ever before in the church, women and young girls are wearing garments that reveal, tempt, and expose. The casual attitude of society is creeping into the body of our Lord. Even at socials for young people, garments that would not have been tolerated a few years back are now in vogue. Such should not be.
Who is Responsible?
Who is responsible for public nudity today? The answer is husbands, fathers, church leaders and preachers. Any husband who allows his wife to appear in public in attire that is immodest and suggestive must share in the responsibility for her sin. Any father who allows his daughters to wear scanty attire must share some of the responsibility for the results of such undressing. Fathers may not pay much attention to what their daughters wear, but they should never forget that the eyes of young male friends will not overlook what he has. Every church leader and teacher should ask themselves have I taught and preached on this as I should? Every preacher should consistently and continually make such teaching a part of his exhortation.