Ever since I was a four year old, strutting around our tiny house in my mother’s oversized shirt and high heels, clothes and fashion have been fascinating to me. What little girl hasn’t dressed up in her finery and stared into that mirror, wondering, Is it pretty? Am I beautiful?
Beyond these questions, as a young lady who is a Christian, there’s something else important to ask whenever I look into that mirror: Am I honoring God with what I wear? How can I know?
It’s a question I’ve struggled with before, especially as I often find myself eyeing those jean-jumper clad homeschool girls and wondering if perhaps they’ve got their act together more than I. What is Biblical modesty, and what does it mean for each and every one of us as we look into our wardrobes and decide on what our images will be? In this post I hope to offer some reflections on what true Biblical modesty is, and how it applies to our choices, in the hope that it may encourage you as well.
First thing’s first: what does the Bible say about modesty? Yes, I know – it says women should be modest. But what kind of modesty? 1 Timothy 2 gives a helpful reminder: “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire..” At first glance, it looks as if the Amish might have it right – perhaps true modesty involves long hair that falls to our knees and no jewelry whatsoever. But that’s not what Paul is saying. He’s pointing out the folly of relying on external ornaments, rather than internal traits – like modesty and self control. Ultimately, true modesty is about something internal – it’s about an attitude. As 1 Peter 3 says, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
You see, true modesty isn’t necessarily wearing turtlenecks (although that can play a role). True modesty is about having an attitude of meekness, of gentleness. True modesty is not about looking in our mirrors and priding ourselves on the length of our skirts – simply a veiled form of vanity. True modesty comes when we look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Why am I wearing this? Am I trying to flaunt my charms? Am I overly proud of my choice of clothing? Will this outfit cause me or another brother or sister to stumble?” These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked, and there is no one size fits all model. Some girls can wear shorter dresses and jeans in a perfectly modest way, while others garbed in the same apparel seek only to show off themselves – the opposite of modesty. In the same way, long, flowing skirts and headcoverings work perfectly for some young ladies – while for others, they simply represent a different kind of vanity and pride in one’s appearance.
What kind of clothing is right for you? There is no strict answer, but asking yourself some questions about your attitude can help. Your mother and father can also be vital in helping you make this decision – each family has its own standards. But whatever you choose – whether your go-to outfit is skinny jeans and a t-shirt or a jean jumper – know this: “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” After all, isn’t that what true modesty’s all about?