I liked the jean skirt the moment I saw it on the rack. It was cute and hip. When I put it on, I felt confident about my body and how I looked in it.
Those are good reasons to buy a piece of clothing, right?
But the more I tried it on, the less excited I was about it. The skirt was tight and shorter than what I’d usually wear. Sitting down was a bit of a hazard. Nevertheless, I hung on to the skirt and wore it with a cute outfit for a family outing one day.
As I saw my reflection in the shop windows in town, I felt slightly horrified. Would this be distracting for a guy? Did I really want a man to see this much of my legs, even in a passing glance?
pro-purity or anti-beauty?
Modesty and body-shaming are often paired together. “If you want total confidence in your body, you should be able to express your confidence in any way that you want!” is the common claim today. Modesty is portrayed as a sexist, patriarchal, and unfair burden placed on women.
To be clear, we are not responsible for the lustful and objectifying thoughts of others. However, we are called to promote purity–and we can and should do this by not objectifying ourselves in pursuit of “self-confidence.”
Because, if we are true followers of Christ, self-confidence in how we look should not be our ultimate goal.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
Spiritual worship isn’t some abstract effort or emotional experience: it is literal and practical. It’s about giving every aspect of our life to Him in response of Him giving us everything in Christ.
This verse doesn’t just say to “present your free time” or “your thoughts,” but our literal, physical bodies. They are temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (Romans 6:19b-20).
When we receive Christ through repentance and faith, everything we are and everything we do is for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 12:31). In fact, the context preceding this verse talks about how “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor 10:23-24).
Sure, people might argue that there’s no law in the Bible against wearing certain things–I see no “Thou shalt not wear a bikini” command either–but we have to look at Scripture to see how the Lord calls us to steward our bodies for His glory. And that doesn’t exclude what we wear.
1 Timothy 2:8a,9 says,
I desire then… that 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.
As my English Standard Version Study Bible concurs, it’s not that we aren’t allowed to make an effort to wear nice things and look pretty. We should not be ashamed of the beautiful bodies the Lord has given us, but rather pursue holiness in purity–for the sake of the glory of God–so that we don’t compromise modesty and discretion with our wardrobe.
modest for the glory of God
Exposing or emphasizing certain areas of our bodies can become a self-seeking search for attention or lustful fulfillment. We shouldn’t want to be a distraction for any guy, especially brothers in Christ who are actively trying to pursue purity in their own minds and hearts.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother… let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.Romans 14:13,19
Modesty isn’t about hiding our bodies in shame, but elevating God and glorifying Him. Instead of trying to go as far as we can with modesty (because, yes, we all disagree on exactly how we should dress), we should do our best to not even get close to being a stumbling block as we evaluate necklines, skirt lengths, and sheerness of fabric.
Being modest is not a matter of legalism. Modesty is one of those rubber-meets-the-road matters we face being in the world but not of the world, especially as modern women today.
Modesty is about asking ourselves, “Does this outfit promote purity and glorify God? Will it cause a brother to stumble or help him pursue purity, too?”
If looking good or feeling confident is manifested in a way that does not promote and embrace purity (in ourselves and in the guys around us), we need to reevaluate our wardrobe.
In the end, I returned that skirt. Through the Holy Spirit’s humbling, I realized that having a piece of clothing–as cute as it seemed–to boost my self-confidence wasn’t an excuse to compromise honoring Him and upholding purity.
I HIGHLY recommend reading this article from For the Gospel called, “Does God Care What Women Wear?” It challenged me in even deeper ways than I’d thought about previously. I hope you’ll take just a few minutes of your day to click the link and read this excellent, biblical article written by a woman of God.
Things to think about:
- Am I seeking attention by what I wear? Why do I do this?
- What are trendy styles that I can enjoy without compromising modesty?
- Do you agree or disagree? I encourage you to (graciously!) start a conversation with me about it in the comments below!