Let’s talk about Modesty,
Let’s talk about you and me,
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be,
Let’s talk about it.
(For those who know, sorry for the earworm.)
My post last week on Modesty (Again!) generated a bit of a discussion on my Facebook page.
This blog post is an attempt to sort out the different opinions on modesty and my thoughts on those opinions.
God’s Word Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It!
On one end of the spectrum, we have men and women who say that we need to dress modestly because God demands it. The most often-quoted verse to support this idea is 1 Timothy 2:9a “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety.” (Actually, as you can see, it’s only part of a verse. The verse should be read/quoted in context. Quoting or highlighting just this part, like I’ve just done, is disingenuous.)
The group would also argue that God clothes his people and he cares about modest clothing. Within this group there is a subset of men and women who go on to say that there are even guidelines to help us know how to dress. This subset likes to quote verses such as Deuteronomy 22:5
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.
Other verses that advocate distinct male and female ‘fashions’ include:
1 Corinthians 11:6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
1 Corinthians 11:14-15a Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?
To this end, this group says clothes should be distinctly masculine or distinctly feminine. No sexually ambiguous clothes. Women should not wear jeans or pants or shorts – nope, not even pink ones with pretty flowers printed on them – but must wear long-flowing skirts or dresses and have long hair. Some advocate head-coverings. Anything else is an abomination.
Anything else is immodest.
Another reason why women should dress modestly, so this group says, is so as not to cause our weaker brothers to stumble.
Apparently, men are hardwired to be visually stimulated, so an immodestly-dressed woman can cause them to be defrauded. Please read here, as to why the word defraud (as often used by this group) is wrong.
But shouldn’t men be responsible for their thoughts and actions?
The first group will readily agree and say that yes, it is the man’s responsibility to control his thoughts and actions. However, they then go on to add, ‘But, women also have a responsibility to make sure they don’t do anything to tempt the men.’
So, are men really responsible for their thoughts and actions? If you have to say, ‘Yes, but…’ the answer is No, not really.
An analogy often used is that of offering a drink to a recovering alcoholic. Just as one would not offer one’s friend a drink, women should not dress immodestly. It is disrespectful and unloving. I’ve shared my thoughts on that on another post, so I won’t rehash it here.
It is my contention that men in these movements are being infantalised and told they can’t be trusted to keep their thoughts pure. Furthermore, there seems to be a very skewed idea of what a ‘pure thought life’ means. Men and women in the first group don’t seem to understand the difference between finding something lovely to look at and lusting. The two are synonymous. This is why young boys who go into Target have to ‘avert their eyes’, and why men can’t go into K-Mart or ride the subway without feeling that they are being unfaithful to their wives! Srsly! This can’t be typical or healthy.
For a group that, generally speaking, denounces many scientific findings (‘It’s not biblical!’), I find it really strange that they are so quick to embrace this particular notion of men’s predilection to visual stimuli.
Secondly, Jesus had some very specific words about what to do if your right eye causes you to sin, and yet for a group that prides itself on taking God’s Word very literally, I don’t see very many one-eyed men. Are these men disobeying Christ’s command? Or, have they got a good handle on controlling their urges?
What Does Modesty Mean, Anyway?
On the other side of the Modesty debate is a group that argues that whenever the Bible talks of modesty, it is referring to behaviours and attitudes – not clothing.
The first group’s response to that argument is: ‘Modesty is about behaviour and clothing.’
One of the definitions of modesty is the quality of being free from boastfulness or vanity, or not drawing attention to oneself. But, a quick look at many proponents of ‘biblical’ modesty shows anything but. Some even have the word ‘Modest’ in their blog title! How can it be modest if you have to point it out?
Many of the sentiments expressed are just variations of ‘Look at me, I’m so modest, ie godly!’
‘I have 5 girls, they have never for one day in their lives worn pants or shorts…(with the exception of my oldest–she was on a mission trip in Venezuela and it was necessary in the jungle for protection from gnats) And even then she called on a ham radio, and said “Mom, I dont know what to do”…I knew that day that it was a conviction for her…she wasn’t afraid of disobeying me, she didn’t want to do anything to disgrace her Lord.’ [You’re so convicted to only wear long skirts that you can’t even wear pants to protect against gnats??]
‘My Dh & my DS tell me how pretty I look (so did an elderly guy at church)’ [I find the parenthetical comment a tad creepy, to be honest!]
My conclusion is that the True Biblical Modesty™ group prides itself very much on outer modesty – which actually defeats the true meaning of modesty.
A Heart Issue
So modesty is a heart issue and lust is a heart issue.
If a brother is weak, then I agree, we should be considerate and not do things that we know would make him stumble. Notice that it is the strong Christian who realises that there is freedom in Christ and willingly defers to the weaker brother; he refrains from flaunting this freedom in front of others who are weaker.
However, it is a mistake to allow that weak brother to continue calling the shots and to remain in his weakness. It is abuse to keep him weak, telling him that he is weak and that he needs protection, telling/reminding others of his weakness and urging them to remember to consider him. He must grow up!
‘Think of our weaker brothers!’ ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children??‘
Finally, although this group seem to acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s power to change sinful hearts, their actions completely speak the opposite. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to reach these men but He is being drowned out by the constant barrage of voices telling them that they are weak and need to be protected.
Two recent articles which I think addresses the issue of modesty in a balanced way:
- What Our Daughters (and Sons) Need to Know about Modesty
- Does God Care What I Wear? (Yes, I realise this is a Creation.com article, and I can honestly say that I never thought I’d agree with a Creation.com article!)
If you read nothing else, please read the first article. A HUGE ‘What she said!’ from me.