GLORY IN THEIR SHAME (Part 3: Immodesty)

Does anyone really know God’s standard on modesty? Just looking out at the Christian world, one might say, “No.” Many Christians disagree on this subject in a variety of ways. The same Christians who forbid mixed swimming allow their daughters to wear revealing bridesmaids’ dresses in a wedding. The same Christians who refuse to let their sons go to the public beaches because of immodesty will allow them to go half naked (shirtless) in a basketball scrimmage. The main issue resides with the inconsistency and mixed messages to the youth and non-Christians who watch the church’s practices.

Some Christians embrace this concept of situational modesty and say that wearing bathing suits that reveal most of the skin on the body at the beach should be fine while such appearances at church services would be wrong; they see nothing wrong with this teaching. If no universal standard of modesty exists, then immodesty appears subjective and the church seems to base their practices around opinions, scruples, and traditions, none of which can be binding on anyone. Christians must be able to give biblical authority for their standards on modesty or stop trying to enforce it on other people!

Paul’s teachings on the head veils to Corinth in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 imply that culture does play a part in WHAT a person wears, but God determines HOW much of a person’s body can be revealed! Fashions change with time and people don’t wear the same thing to church services that they would to the gym. However, God does demand modesty at all times implying that no matter where Christians go, certain parts of their bodies need to be covered (1 Tim. 2:9-10).

The American culture, however, witnesses so many revealing fashions that most people do not see any difference between cultural styles and immodesty; they have grown numb to immodesty. Even Christians will sometimes defend immodesty by saying, “Well, it is just the style that people are wearing now.” During the times of the year when the weather warms, America commonly observes girls with miniskirts, bikinis, short shorts, mid-drift shirt, spaghetti-strapped shirts, and low-cut shirts both in back and front. It is not uncommon to see boys with no shirts, and pants with holes in inappropriate places. The Western culture not only endorses such attire but defends and encourages young people to wear such apparel. Christians must remember that not all popular fashions befit the godly image described in the Bible. If Christians must wear clothes that may seem odd or strange, then so be it, because Christians dress to a higher standard of modesty than most of the Western world.

The Bible mentions two forms of immodesty that Christians need to understand, immodesty of flamboyance and immodesty of nakedness. In addressing the form of flamboyance recall 1 Tim. 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” Some people dress up to receive preeminence or to seduce others. How Christians dress will affect how people treat them (James 2:1-4). One needs to be honest and ask, “Do I dress for God, or do I dress to impress the people that see me?” Overdressing for the purpose of drawing attention to oneself in all the wrong ways is immodest.

The other form of immodesty is the most obvious and common, nakedness. God warns His followers not to dress in a way that would expose their nakedness mentioned in Romans 8:35, 2 Corinthians 11:27, and Revelation 3:18. God never defines the term “nakedness” directly in the New Testament. Why would God tell Christians not to do something but then fail to tell them what it is? It is because God already explains what nakedness is in the Old Testament. The only reason to go back to a definition in the Old Testament is when there is no definition in the New Testament, implying that the meaning of the word has not changed (Rom. 15:4).

In Genesis 3:21, God made Adam and Eve “coats of skin.” The aprons they made themselves in verse 7 still exposed their nakedness because they were never called “clothed” until God made them coats of skin. God would not have needed to have clothed them if what they made were sufficient. Clearly, humanity does not have an inherent ability to cloth themselves properly; they must be taught by God. This standard for being clothed was for both Adam and Eve; Adam and Eve received the same style of coat, implying that men and women have the same standard of modesty. The word “coats” in Hebrew means to cover; the shoulder, the part where the garment hangs, to cover the undersetting (Strong’s). In God’s eyes, humanity was not clothed until the shoulders and undersetting of where the garment hangs off the shoulder, under the arm was covered. This would exclude spaghetti straps, sleeve openings that do not cover the body, strapless dresses, and being shirtless.

In Exodus 28:42, God explained that to cover nakedness “breeches” must cover the waist and thighs. If the clothes did not cover the waist or the shorts did not cover most of the thigh, then it did not meet God’s standard. Isaiah explained likewise that to reveal the thigh was to expose one’s nakedness (Is. 47:2-3). This would exclude the modern miniskirts and short shorts.

While such guidelines come from the old law, such instructions should give Christians a better standard of godly modesty than popular fashion trends or personal opinions. God’s people must not wear clothes that would intentionally cause others to lust or have impure thoughts, they would become a stumbling block to those around them (Rom. 14:21). One cannot take immodesty lightly, better to have a godly standard that can be seen in Scripture, than one that can’t be found anywhere in Scripture. Ask yourself when you dress if the clothes fit God’s standard of modesty according to what has been written?

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