“Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty
and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire
but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” – 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Modesty. It is a word we often associate with discussing how short the length or how low the neckline is on some article of clothing. That is the practical application of those concerns, but modesty is so much more than that. Modesty is a state of mind. Specifically, modesty is a state of self-awareness that is focused on God.
Modesty Focuses on Actions Not Appearance
Our focus should not be on our looks but what we do. Paul admonishes us to adorn ourselves with good works. This is what people should be drawn too when they see us. This is what people should talk about when they speak of us. Not our clothes or our hair, but the gospel impact that we have on others.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.
The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
There was this Saturday Night Live skit from years ago about the height of the presidential candidates. I won’t tell you who they were so that I don’t majorly date myself. Statistically, Americans tend to vote for the taller candidates. Evidently, in preparation for the presidential debate, one candidate was given a small platform to stand on so that his height was not as distinctive as his fellow debater. Of course, SNL expressed all of this with dueling lifts and it was quite funny. The focus should be on a candidate’s policy positions and character, and yet we get caught up in their hair or what they wear.
Humans look at the outward appearance, but God looks at our hearts. We too should focus less on our outward appearance and more on our hearts. Do we judge people too quickly on their appearance? We need to challenge ourselves to discover their hearts.
Modesty is a Heart Issue
Modesty begins with the heart. Our culture is so dominated by visual images. These images are often airbrushed and modified so that even the supermodels don’t look as super as their pictures. It isn’t real. The images are illusions designed to sell us products.
We dress to sell ourselves in a way. I’ll make a good friend because I am dressed in the right brands. You should listen to what I say because the expensive clothes I wear mean that I know quality and what is important. You should date me because I flaunt my physical assets and sex is the focus of relationships.
Appearances change. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 Our eyes can be deceived. When we buy a product we have to look behind the pretty pictures and packaging. We have to ask ourselves about the quality of the product. What are its ingredients? How well is it made? Will it last? What is the true value?
People have eternal, immeasurable value. We are created in the image of God. Is anything more beautiful than being created in the image of God?
Our focus on the surface of others prevents us from seeing their core identity as made in the image of God.
Can We Be Modest & Beautiful?
Should we then put on sackcloth and shave our heads? Should we put no effort into what we look like? Of course not. God created us, every one of us, with a distinct beauty. God values beauty. Look at the world that He created full of color and beautiful designs. Our bodies are beautiful and wonderfully made.
I Timothy instructs us to dress ourselves respectably. Dress that is too plain and unbecoming does not garner respect. People assume we are too out of touch and thus our dress becomes a roadblock to listening to the gospel that we share. Just as lack of clothing can be a distraction, clothing that is too strange can be a distraction as well. We are missionaries regardless of where we live. We have to figure out how to live in the world and not be of it. It is a balancing act of having our clothes attract people to hear our message without distracting them from the message.
Our modern addiction is not to one of asceticism, but rather of over-indulgence. How much time is spent on our appearance that could be spent in pursuits that profit the gospel?
Modesty is really about the heart. Our culture says “Look at me, look at me!” “Notice me!” Any attention is good attention. We have God’s attention. We don’t need to earn it. God is always with us and watching us. God is there is talk to us at any time.
God’s Version of Modesty
How then do we guard our hearts against the messages of the world? How do we set our hearts on the modesty that God desires of us? We let the Bible speak to us.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5-6 ?
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25
“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.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
Humility, grace, strength, dignity, and humor plus a gentle & quiet spirit. Are these not the traits that we want for our children and ourselves? These are qualities that are truly beautiful and attract the best to ourselves. Real relationships are built not on brands but on character. Let us look to please God and see others with the eyes of God.