As our church studies God’s call to holiness in 1 Peter and we read The Hole In Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, an important topic comes up that we all need to get right, biblically. It is modesty.
My wife is a high school teacher who has frequent conversations with students and observes popular entertainment of teen culture, and adult culture, which leads us to have numerous conversations at home. It is clear, our culture has changed since the 1700’s, right? But it’s also clear that a lot of believers don’t have a clear read on what the Bible says on this important matter.
First, I’d like to point out some common errors to avoid when thinking about modesty. We must reject what the Bible does not teach so that we can then embrace what it does teach. We must reject deadly legalism which surely will take more people to hell than pornography. Legalism is the belief that I make myself right with God and atone for my sins by my good works. No one who believes this will see God. Also, we must reject dumbing down holiness as if wearing the right clothes is all the obedience and worship God desires for me. Let’s strive not to miss that the whole point of holiness is our heart being totally reserved, exclusively for God in passionate worship.
Biblical modesty is not about controlling or condemning how others around us dress or act. Rather it is us, personally, walking in worship before God. We must recognize that we live in a world controlled by the kingdom of darkness and should not expect non-Christians to obey God’s commands. And we certainly must not be hypocritical remembering how God has shown mercy to us in our own sinful deadness so that we show grace to non-believers or new believers who do not live by biblical standards.
Here are some clear biblical directives:
Alluring, suggestive, unbridled, passionate efforts that cause one’s husband or wife’s heart to beat faster leading to sexual intimacy is holy – Song of Solomon 4:9.
God puts sensuality (outside of marriage) in the same list with sorcery saying those who do them will not enter His kingdom – Galatians 5:19.
God tells us not to allow any part of sensual desires in our behavior (that would certainly include how we dress) but rather to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” – Romans 13:13-14.
The Bible commands us to wear “proper clothing” that is modest and discreet – 1 Timothy 2:9.
We are told to make it clear by our appearance and good works that we are godly – 1 Timothy 2:10.
We are commanded to give great attention to the godly content of our heart and spirit so that it is clear we are worshippers of God – 1 Peter 3:1-5.
We are reminded that our bodies don’t belong to us, so how we dress is not a matter of mere personal preference. We were bought by Christ’s blood and belong to God so we must glorify God in our bodies – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
So, parents, there are some obvious actions for us to take with our children. Notice what they see in the stuff they watch. Explain to them how it compares to the above biblical directives. Tell them there are some things they should not watch and be a good example – don’t watch it yourself. Explain what the Bible says about modesty, graphically. If you beat around the bush they will not know that you mean skimpy bikini’s are unacceptable. But also be sure to explain what the Bible says on modesty in the context of the gospel. Modesty is an act of worship not a step of legalistic self-righteousness. Tell them what is ok and what is not ok. Tell them “no” when it needs to be “no” and don’t back down because the godless world says otherwise.
And, amidst all these things, pray for God to conform your heart and mind to that of Jesus.
Here’s more good reading for your growth in this area. The author of the book we’re studying, Kevin DeYoung, has a good article on his blog on modesty. I recommend it for more really great insights. Read it here.