Everyone wants to write about modesty these days; either leggings are from the devil or modesty isn’t about what you wear at all. I would like to offer up a different perspective that significantly changed my view of modesty, specifically modesty related to the clothes you wear, forever.
Disclaimer: I know some people get roffended at modesty being just a female thing. I’m going to write this directed to girls, because I feel as if mostly girls will read it, and I don’t want to constantly have to put “boys and girls” in every sentence. However, I think modesty applies to both genders, and you can feel free to interchange genders while you read.
Disclaimer 2: I know that biblical modesty was about not showing off your wealth, and that many people are frustrated at Christians using “the modesty verse” to tell them their skirt is too short. Nothing I am about to say has to do with that verse at all, so I really hope you’ll hear me out.
First, three questions:
1. Do you know any girls who are insecure about how they look?
2. Do you know any boys (or girls) who struggle with lust?
3. Do you know anyone who is in a romantic relationship?
If you’re anything like me, you answered yes to all three of those.
Now, two more:
4. Are you able to ever avoid all three of the above groups of people as you go about your day?
5. Can you always identify these traits in the strangers you encounter daily?
I’m going to assume that, like, me, you had to answer no to both of those.
With that groundwork, I would like to introduce you to the verse that I think both leads us towards modesty and helps us determine what modest dress may look like. This command, according to Christ, is a crucial part of following him, and is the second most important commandment we are given as Christians.
And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
I would like to present the idea that, knowing there are people who are insecure, who struggle with lust, who are trying to stay committed in relationships all around us, perhaps dressing modestly is about being loving. Perhaps revealing our bodies for others to compare themselves to, lust after, etc., is breaking one of the main commandments we are given by Christ. For someone insecure, t’s hard to not compare themselves to others. For someone who struggles with lust, it can be hard to look away. For either of those two who are also in a relationship, people dressed in revealing ways can really throw a lot of pain and trouble into the love that they want to share with someone.
And I know that the common mindset is, “Woah, hold up. It’s not my fault if a guy can’t control his mind around me. It’s not my fault if a girl doesn’t like how she looks. If he can’t control his eyes or she can’t can’t be more confident, they weren’t gonna work out anyways. Not my problem.” But I would like to remind you of another verse that we are called to by the apostle Paul:
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:1-2, ESV)
I would like to challenge you to think of modesty as dressing in a way that builds up those around you, and doesn’t tear them down. The next time you get dressed, think of those around you and ask yourself if you think you are being loving to them with what you put on. If you catch yourself trying to justify your outfit, I would like to suggest that perhaps you should think of what Christ gave up out of love for you, and try to remember that he has called us to lay down our lives out of love for those around us. And if he asks you to lay down your life, perhaps it’s not an extreme idea that he may ask you to give up a certain outfit you really like as well.
I believe that there is no area of our lives that isn’t subject to the commandment to love those around us, and that Christian modest dress is one of many of the ways that Christ wants us to love our neighbors. I believe that if we are truly trying to build up those around us with our clothing instead of building up ourselves, there’s no need to make specific modesty “rules” or definitions. I believe that love will define modesty for us, and that dressing modesty will naturally flow as an outpouring of love for your neighbor, translating into all different cultures and journeys of your life.