This topic can be an emotional one which is one reason why it doesn’t often get addressed as it should. However, since Scripture speaks of modesty, we as Christians must be concerned with it.
First, I would like to point out that there is far left and far right on this issue.
There are so many voices and opinions and lines and degrees of what people deem modest, it can get confusing really fast. Since it seems confusing, most just throw up their hands and say forget it, I’ll just dress in what I feel is best. But that also doesn’t work because we will be back to what we each deem as right and everyone’s lines will be different.
So what do we do?
We simply need to go back to Scripture.
Let us forget all the definitions that each one of us were taught and simply go straight to God’s Word for answers. I have done this and found it to be simpler than what I thought. I hope that what I write here will be a help to you in your quest to be modest with simplicity.
“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;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10
The word modest is used not only for clothing but also behavior.
One may be modestly dressed, but be acting in an immodest manner.
In this post, I will only be discussing modest dress, but in the future, I hope to write on modest behavior as well.
Starting at the beginning…
It was because of disobedience sin came into the world and one of the results was that Adam and Eve realized they were naked and God wanted them to be clothed.
What can we learn from that?
Nakedness is a problem and we must wear some type of clothing at least.
Simple, yes, but the truth.
Let’s look at the verses to see what God defines as nakedness.
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”. -Genesis 3:7
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” -Genesis 3:21
We do not know what the fig leaf coverings that Adam and Eve made looked like, but it is certain that whatever it was it was not a proper covering in God’s eyes. This is why He made them coats. So what were the coats?
The Hebrew word used here is, “k’thôneth”.
Strong’s (Hebrew & Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament)
: “k’thôneth” from an unused word: a tunic
One described it as a kind of shirt without sleeves, reaching down to the knees.
Hebrew Word Study (Transliteration-Pronunciation Etymology & Grammar)
1. Tunic, undergarment
la) a long shirt-like garment usually of linen
What can we derive from these definitions?
The covering God gave them was some sort of tunic that would hang down from the shoulders to the knees. This one verse already clears up much for us. What I find interesting is that from these definitions, you could not condemn sleeveless shirts. One could clearly see that since the coats were made out of skins it would have been unlikely to have had set in sleeves.
I would like to look at what God commanded the priests to wear in order to be modest. Because again, we want to follow as close as we can to what God deemed modest and immodest and not what culture deems or certain groups.
Exodus 28:42 is a chapter where God is laying out what He wanted the priests to wear. Verse 28 says something very interesting.
“And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness: from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach.” -Exodus 28:42
The linen breeches described above covered what God Himself called nakedness. So definitely bikini bottoms or short shorts that did not reach to the thighs would not work. And that was just their undergarments. The undergarments were basically underwear and underwear was also covered with outer clothing.
ESV version translates it like this…
“You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs.”
This was God’s own words describing what nakedness was in His eyes and how it should be covered.
You say, “well that was for the priests and I’m not a priest”, then I would encourage you to read Revelation 1:6.
I think from looking at these verses and definitions, a safe, simple line of what is modest could be summed up in one sentence.
“That which hangs from the shoulder down to the thigh/knees.”
I know that this is very simple and the details are left to be worked out, but we can know for sure from this simple definition that bikinis, one-piece suits, crop tops, strapless tops, mini skirts, mini dresses and short shorts would not fit the tunic definition. We as ladies also need to be careful with low necked shirts or blouses. There is no reason for cleavage to be shown. (the tightness of our clothing is something else we should be aware of and be careful with)
Dear sisters, why would you not want to save yourself for your husband’s (or future husband’s) eyes alone? There is no glory or beauty in displaying our bodies for the whole world to see and it’s not honoring to our Holy God. We should not want to try and get away with as little clothing as possible. We should want to live meek and Christ-like with feminine modesty, both in dress and in spirit.
As we desire to please Christ with our modesty in dress this also includes loving our brothers in Christ. No, it’s not the first order of reason why we should care about modesty. But it’s definitely a part of it. We should want to encourage our brothers on in purity and not put temptation for sin in front of them with our carelessness. Just as much as I hope they will do the same for us. (ie. not going shirtless around us women just because they are guys and that’s the norm for our culture to do) We should love and care for each other enough to dress in a way that’s God-honoring and kind to one another.
I think the Scriptures that I have laid out before you would be a great general rule for modesty to build off of. There are plenty of clothing options in our day that would fit this line. It’s actually freeing. You don’t have to define modesty according to a certain time in history you love best. But just return to the Scriptures.
We must let Scripture be our guide in all things.
As I mentioned before, men are called to be modest as well as the women. I do not see, according to the above verses and definitions, that men get a free pass on going shirtless and being immodest in God’s eyes. He made coats for both Adam and Eve, therefore man, or woman, are not allowed to go completely shirtless. God did not give the man a different set of modest lines apart from the woman. I think from the definitions above, God left us a lot of room to dress creatively and femininely. I don’t think He made it hard for us. I’ve known the feelings and the thoughts expressed on how hard it is to define modesty, but I really don’t think it is. I encourage you to search the Scriptures for yourself. I am not a teacher of any kind. I simply want to share what I have found in hopes it will be edifying to others.
I will add that we should do this out of love for Christ with the desire to follow in the way of holiness. If you are dressing modestly to somehow justify yourself before a holy God in a legalist mindset, that is wrong. We are not justified before God by our good works, but by the perfect work of Christ and in the shedding of His blood to atone for our sin. Once we rest in Christ alone for salvation, we now, out of a new heart with new desires, follow Christ and want to walk in His truth. We desire modesty and holiness out of love for Christ, not to be made right with Him. We do it for Him and His glory.
Please, if you have studied this yourself and have any comments, feel free to leave them below