Uncovering Modesty: Introduction

Uncovering Modesty: Introduction Modesty… Preachers preach about it, writers write about it, and people argue about it. Why am I adding my thoughts to the multitudes of thoughts that have already been voiced on this topic? What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already?

To answer those questions, I’ll need to share my relationship with modesty.

I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, and modesty has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Long skirts, no sleeveless blouses or dresses, no pants or shorts, no tight-fitting garments, long hair – check, check, check, check, and check. At one point when I was quite young, perhaps 6 or 7, Mom even made us girls wear kerchiefs tied around our head. I was ever so thankful when she decided that covered hair was required for women, not little girls. I’ve heard many preachers wax eloquent on the topic of modesty. I’ve been told that if I want to be modest God requires that:

  • my hem line must be no shorter than [X marks the spot].
  • my neckline must be no lower than [X marks the spot].
  • my hair must be no shorter than [specific length].
  • my shoulders must be covered.
  • etc, etc, etc

I also learned that:

  • makeup is something the “strange woman” in Proverbs wore to entice men to become her lovers.
  • pants are men’s attire so wearing them would be an abomination to God.
  • if a male lusts after me in his thoughts, I bear responsibility for making him stumble.

I believed everything I absorbed or was explicitly taught.

I wanted to please God. I certainly didn’t want to cause some poor guy to sin because of the way I dressed. Sure, I wished that I could paint my nails, play with makeup, dress more stylishly. But for the most part, I wanted to do right more than I wanted what had been forbidden me. I’m 36 now. Over the past couple of years and especially over the past couple of months, I’ve realized several facts.

  1. Modesty as I heard it taught specifically, almost exclusively, applies to female dress.
  2. The list of “God’s requirements for a woman to be modest” changes from preacher to preacher, from school to school, from church to church.
  3. Always holding the female responsible for a male’s lustful thoughts about her puts us in a no-win situation. After all, men have varying tastes in women. While some men lust after women in skimpy outfits, others lust after women wearing floor-length dresses. How can we females possibly avoid sinning if a man’s lust is always our responsibility?

Those thoughts and revelations led me to begin questioning what I’d been taught.

  1. Does modesty in the Bible always and only refer to clothing, particularly female clothing?
  2. Why does every preacher, church, and school have a different standard for modesty?
  3. Does God always hold the female responsible for a male’s lustful thoughts toward her?

Instead of turning to respected Christians for answers to these questions, I am determined to conduct my own study, seeking to understand what God truly has said about modesty in the Bible.

I can’t promise what I’ll find.

I’m going to follow wherever this journey takes me. I will be using the Bible, Strong’s Concordance, and a Hebrew or Greek lexicon as needed. I’ll be sharing my findings here so that anyone who wishes can journey virtually with me. Thanks for your interest. I look forward to learning with you.

If you intend to follow along and don’t want to miss any part in this series, scroll to the top of the sidebar on the right and subscribe to receive blog posts by email. Links to all published parts of this series can be found at the Uncovering Modesty index page.

Comments

  1. Different tastes, indeed. My husband gets more riled up, the more modest I’m dressed. I guess it has to do with what’s underneath being only for him.

    We can’t be responsible for other people’s behaviors. We can be responsible for whether or not we are a stepping stone or a stumbling block, though.

    This is my first visit to your blog. I am definitely bookmarking it.

    • April, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts. I loved hearing about your husband’s response to how you dress.

      I agree that we aren’t responsible for other people’s choices. Each one of us is held personally responsible for our own actions. And I think the rest of your comment is correct as well: we can be a stepping stone or a stumbling block to others. I’m interested to see if my study reveals anything about that aspect.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to seeing you here again.

  2. My husband was the first to refute the idea of modesty determines how a woman is treated. “You are laying the choices of a man on your attire?” or something like that. He grew up being taught, as a man, he is responsible for his own thoughts and actions not based on another woman’s appearance, but her heart. 1 Corinthians 10:2-12 is a good basis to start. “7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.”
    Then there is always this passage, which I’m sure those who are rigid on modesty would not have understood if God had commanded them to do this.
    Isaiah 20:2 -4
    At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying , Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so , walking naked and barefoot.
    And the LORD said , Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered , to the shame of Egypt.

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