Question:

Question

Answer:

I have read the articles and sermon outlines you provide on modesty. I believe I am clear on how the Bible addresses modesty and feel secure in how I dress as being modest. The question I have is, if the standard of modesty for other Christians in the church is more conservative than mine, should I try to dress according to the more conservative style? Could my dress provide a stumbling block for them? And one more question, do you believe exposure of a woman's shoulders to be immodest?


"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (I Timothy 2:9-10).

When dealing with issues of modest apparel, we often focus on what is minimally acceptable to cover our nakedness. Such is an important issue and Paul addresses it in I Timothy 2:9 when he mentioned "propriety." That word comes from the Greek word aidos, which means having a sense of shame or the ability to blush at inappropriate behavior. Clothing that exposes too much flesh would lack propriety. However, there are two other words Paul uses that are just as important. In I Timothy 2:9, the phrase "modest apparel" comes from the Greek word kosmious. It means clothing that is orderly, well-arranged, and seemly. In other words, it refers to clothing that is need and appropriate for the occasion. The word "moderation" comes from the Greek word sophrosuna. It refers to being of sound mind, self-controlled, having good judgment, or moderate.

For example, I have seen teenagers around town whose clothing shows propriety. They are well covered in a tee-shirt and jeans. Nothing inappropriate is exposed. But the tee-shirt contains a sexually suggestive remark, or a profane statement, or advertises a product not becoming for a Christian to use. Such clothing is not modest because what is printed on the shirt ought to make a Christian embarrassed to see it, let alone wear it.

In every culture, different occasions require a different style of dress. What may be appropriate to wear hiking in the woods becomes an oddity at a wedding. Jesus mentions this in one of his parables. "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:8-14). Even though the wanderers and homeless were invited, they were still expected to dress up for the wedding. Why? Because it showed their attitude. It demonstrated that they thought marriage of the prince was important. Going to a wedding in everyday clothes says you don't care.

Let's reverse the situation. Would most people consider wearing a formal gown to the amusement park? The answer is "no." The outfit is too costly for the situation. It would likely be ruined, but it also would make the wearer standout in the crowd like a sore thumb. It is not moderate for the situation.

Hence, if you find that your attire makes you stand out in a gathering you are attending, you are not modestly dressed. Notice the examples Paul gave: braided hair, gold, jewelry, and expensive clothing. There is nothing wrong with any of these things individually, but can you imagine someone coming to services decked out like they were attending a royal wedding? The clothing would shout, "Look at me! Look at my wealth!" Such is not an appropriate statement for a Christian. Christians should be noticed for the good deeds that they do, not for their attire.

In regards to the exposure of the shoulders, I have seen dresses and shirts that may bear all or part of the shoulder and still be considered modest. So long as the rest of the body is well-covered front and back, it might be fine to wear. Unfortunately, many dresses that expose the shoulders are often designed to see how low they can go and not get the wearer arrested for indecent exposure.

Recently, I received a survey that was done in a teenage class in Pennsylvania. The result below are what the boys wrote. While it is a very small sample, it ought to give women pause to consider that their choice in clothing might be distracting young men from their worship of God. "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

The blue are answers from the boys. The pink are answers from the girls to show the contrast in their view of appropriate clothing.

Q

What does a man feel and think about when he allows himself to look at a young woman in enticing dress?

A

This can lead to immoral thoughts, lust, which is sinful. The man, if he persists in such behavior has spiritual issues and it can lead him further down the road to more immoral sinful thoughts and behavior

All kinds of evil thoughts. Some men imagine morbid things. Men imagine having sex with women and what they look like naked. Men imagine what women look like in certain sexual positions, etc. Enticing dress appeals to the lust of a man's flesh and leads to all kinds of evil thought.

Makes you want to look further or want more.

Perhaps, at times, it is simply an admiration of beauty. However, having been in the world and among the worldly, having been involved in numerous "guy conversations" about women, the norm is thinking about sexual things to do to her.

Q

In your judgment, avoiding such thoughts is a [daily, weekly, monthly, rare] struggle for most men.

A

Daily

Hourly

Daily

Minutely

Q

Do even Christian women sometimes make it difficult for you to keep your mind pure by the way they choose to dress? Do they make it difficult for you to keep your mind pure by the way they dress when they come to assemble with the saints?

A

Yes. A very few Christian women come dressed in an inappropriate manner making it difficult to keep my mind totally focused on worship.

Yes. Yes.

I notice more with Christian young people, rather than adults. Things that are common, such as tight pants and shirts, short skirts, and low-cut shirts.

Yes on both accounts. Revealed cleavage, tight-fitting shirts and pants, skirts revealing the thighs all make it difficult to think about God instead of sex, even during the worship assemblies.

Q

Which of the following do you consider enticing dress on a female? Which of the following do you consider inappropriate dress for a female seeking to be pure and seeking to help her male acquaintances to be pure?

 

Low neckline revealing some breast curve or cleavage

A

All answered "yes"

Most answered "yes"

 

Open back

A

yes

All answered "no"

yes

not really

no

 

Sleeveless shirt

A

yes

All answered "no"

not for me

Must watch for bra showing under arm

I have seen a few that I could say are modest, but most leave too much ability to see inside the shirt from various angles. However, I would prefer women not wear them at all.

 

Spaghetti strap shirt or dress

A

yes

Most answered "no"

yes

yes -- Very

Depends on how the dress is cut, how tight, just spaghetti straps -- no

 

Strapless shirt or dress (nothing covering the shoulders)

A

yes

All answered "no"

yes

yes -- Very

Depends on how the dress is cut, how tight, just spaghetti straps -- no

 

Midriff showing

A

no

Most answered "no"

yes

yes -- Very

On a teenage girl or young woman it is enticing.

 

Pants that reveal waistband of panties

A

Enticing

All answered "yes"

yes

yes

yes

 

Form fitting shirt or pants

A

yes

Most answered "no"

yes

yes

yes

 

Short shorts (how short?)

A

no

Most answered "yes"

I consider hot pants style shorts enticing. Shorts around mid-thigh or just above are not a problem.

yes -- Showing thighs

yes -- A little more lenient here than with the skirts; but not much. Typically, if it is close to the knee while standing, I view it as modest.

 

Undergarments visible through the outer garments

A

Enticing

All answered "yes"

yes

yes

yes -- Over knee and above.

 

One piece swim suit

A

yes

All answered "no"

yes

yes

Depends on the cut of the suit. If it is somewhat modest cut, no problem. I have seen one piece suits that cover little.

Q

Additions to the list?

A

Men are visually stimulated creatures. That is why advertising shows women wearing little or creatively hiding their bodies with the product they are trying to sell.

Under garments visible through arm holes

Shirts with provocative messages on them. Clothes with symbols, pictures, or messages that necessitates looking at sexual areas of the body in order to read them.

Q

Assuming you are unmarried, are you more attracted to a young woman who is careful to dress modestly or to a young woman whose dress excites you? Explain.

A

I prefer a woman who dresses well but is dressed modestly. I would not want my wife or girlfriend flaunting herself to others by showing too much of herself.

More attracted in an honorable way to the modestly dressed. More attracted in a dishonorable and sexual way to the immodest dresser -- MEN ARE EVIL.

More attracted to a woman who is dressed less modest because there is more skin showing which makes you want to see more.

I am somewhat unclear on this question. However, regarding sexual stimulation -- that is clearly greater regarding one who is immodest. That is why you say "dress excites you." But ...

Q

Which woman from the previous question would you rather have as your fiancee or wife? Why?

A

Modestly dressed. Again, she is my wife. I want to be proud of her. Someone who will walk with me through life as a Christian mate and not be influenced by the evils of this world, conforming to the dress and culture. I want a modest wife who can stand by my side and assist me in getting to heaven.

The modest dresser. This is indicative of what is on the inside of a woman and whether this potential mate is very spiritually minded.

I would rather have the modestly dressed woman for a wife. I would have it this way because I know how guys think and what they are looking at.

I would rather have a modest woman as a fiancee or wife. Why? Because I do not want other men stimulated sexually by my wife or fiancee. Secondly, modest says something about what kind of woman she is. Immodesty demonstrates, at best, weak spirituality. At worst, rebellion for God's order and plan in the home.

Q

Is there anything yet unsaid that you would like Christian women to know to help them keep their male acquaintances pure?

A

Males are visually stimulated. If you attract your boyfriend or husband by wearing provocative dress or by provocative behavior, what makes you think that down the road another woman cannot do the same? Read Proverbs 31; this is the kind of woman Christian men want.

Be modest in your heart, and it will show in your actions and dress. Flee fornication. Don't do anything with a guy more than simple kissing before marriage. Keep yourself pure for the sake of your future mate.

I think in today's society you will really have to work to dress modestly. The styles are tight, low cut, and short. So it will take some commitment to do the right thing.

Just some Bible passages: I Peter 3:1-6; Matthew 18:6-9, I Thessalonians 4:7. Do not let the world be your standard. Let God be your standard: Romans 12:1-2.

Some of the surveys included advice about kissing. Summarizing those responses: If you are going to kiss on a date, keep it short. Long kissing can cause lust and can lead to other actions. The more you touch, the more you will want to touch and the harder it will be to stay pure.


See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Clothing
You Can Tell Me How to Dress!
Dress Codes
Modest Apparel