What God Says About Modesty

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July 13, 2021

If you missed it, head to Part 1 of this 2-part series for a foundation on the difference between seeking approval from others and finding it in God.

First things first, we need to define “modesty.” Because I don’t think you’re thinking what I’m thinking.

The biblical meaning of modesty is much deeper and broader than women’s clothing, which it’s often simplified to today. (First of all, it also includes men’s clothing.) But more importantly, it includes way more than our wardrobes.

The decision to live modestly (or not) is made up of all the ways we portray ourselves, including our speech, actions, and appearance. Whether or not you’re modest isn’t limited to what’s hanging in your closet or folded in your drawers but is defined by your heart posture toward yourself and others — reflected in the three areas we just listed.

Let’s look at a few examples:

📢 Speech: Making sure your coworkers know the boss chose you for a special assignment.

🚘 Action: Leasing a shiny new sports car when you can barely afford your mortgage.

🏄🏻 Appearance: Showing off your “beach bod” at the waterfront — and on social, of course.

Each of these situations is born out of an attempt to portray ourselves in a certain way (favored, wealthy, attractive). And, when we do a little digging, we’ll find the motivating force behind each in one of two things: pride or insecurity.

Whether we’re puffing ourselves up because we honestly think we deserve it or striving for approval out of a lack of self-worth, the ugly result is (you guessed it) immodesty.

So, what’s the solution to the pride and insecurity that breed immodesty in our hearts? I’ll give you two.

Confidence in God

If you’re struggling to see your worth, you’re looking in the wrong places.

When we look to our loving Father for validation, we discover we don’t need to look anywhere else. He knows just how important, purposed, unique, gifted, and beautiful we are because He made us that way.

Scripture teaches us that God made us in His own image (Genesis 1:27). And as one crafted in the likeness of Creator God, you have immutable, inviolable, and undeniable worth. Worth that isn’t subject to what others think of you; it’s who you are because of who He is.

And this Creator doesn’t mindlessly crank out humans by the masses (currently picturing the multitudes of troopers cloned in Star Wars Ep. II). On the contrary, He lovingly, intimately patterned and purposed you:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. — Psalm 139:13–16

What a love the Father has for us! When we come to understand our identity as that of an image-bearer of the God of the universe and that that God handmade us, His perfect love drives out our insecurities (1 John 4:18).

The truth is, the failures, weaknesses, and shame we so desperately try to hide have already been redeemed, healed by the cross of Christ (Isaiah 53:5), where Jesus reconciled us to experience the fullness of God’s love in who we are.

When we realize this, when we finally see what God sees when He looks at us, there’s no longer a need to show off, brag, win, or to impress. We simply rest, secure in the person God made us to be.

Humility of Self

Our second answer lies in this admonishment from the Apostle Paul:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! —  Philippians 2:5–8

The cure for the arrogance that enslaves us to immodesty is utter humility, of which Jesus Christ is the perfect example. Jesus — God in the flesh, in whom all things were created (John 1:1–3) — didn’t spend His short time on earth seeking wealth, esteem, or powerful friends, but dining with rejects and washing feet.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. — John 13:12–15

So, what does it look like to do as Jesus has done? Consider the words of His apostles, Peter and Paul:

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

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, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness — with good works. — 1 Timothy 2:9–10

And before we start to think men are off the hook here, take a look at God’s rebuke of Samuel when he went searching for Israel’s king among the handsome, tall, and strong:

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7

Over and over again, Scripture shows us the answer to living like Jesus is to clothe ourselves not with “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16), but “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

So, if you’re battling pride, look to Christ. Look to the towel around His waist and the basin of water at His feet. Look to Him hanging on the cross, blameless yet willingly slaughtered for your sake. And pray! Pray He would replace your arrogant heart with His gentle, lowly spirit.

Ponder these Scriptures in your heart and pray earnestly for the confidence in God and humility of self that cultivates the modesty Jesus models.