Christian modesty: is there a biblical dress standard?
- Freedom from vanity, boastfulness, ostentation or showy extravagance.
- Regard for decency of behaviour, speech and dress.
- Unassuming. Unpretentious. Unobtrusive. Moderate. Simple.
My pre-adolescent son recently asked my thoughts on modesty as it relates to attire. The specific context was in regard skimpy swimwear. He was wondering whether men and women should share a common standard or be treated differently.
And this got me thinking
Of course, modesty encompasses dress, but goes far deeper than that.
Yet, as it relates to dress, modesty is an indefinite term with myriad interpretations. Like so many morally enmeshed issues, it's complexity correlates with the diversity of ones society, culture and perceptions.
That said, though consensus may never be reached as to what is modest attire and what is not, there are still considerations that may help in coming to a satisfactory -biblical- conclusion.
In a broad brush stroke statement, it might be said that the closer the link between clothing and sexual titillation (within mainstream society), the more deliberation Christians need pay to modest dress etiquette.
Keeping in mind, of course, that Christians, as members of a given society, are also products of ever-changing cultural attitudes linking clothing and sexuality.
It bares emphasising again that modesty is more than how we dress and deeper than simply human sexuality. However, it is because these two dimensions so often get neglected in the equation of modesty, that they warrant some focused attention.
What does this mean for Christians seeking to dress modestly?
Well, it establishes a cultural/sexual context. If you're a missionary to a tribal village where semi nudity is the norm and unrelated to sexual deviance, than what you wear is possibly less of an issue than if you're attending a typical american high school where body image and clothing are closely associated with sexuality.
As we travel across the globe, we see what constitutes modest varies from place to place...
...we must recognize this cultural context for how we perceive what's appropriate. A fixation on our own definition of modesty threatens to warp our perceptions and hurt our interactions with others—particularly as we venture outside our own culture.
Of course, this raises its own hornets nest of difficulties, not least of which is HOW FAR DO WE TAKE THIS, as the cartoon below cleverly portrays.
However, for the Christian, we're not here to resolve all the problems that sin created, we're here to be lights for Christ. Therefore christian modesty begins with simple submission. It aims to point no finger, but rather says 'I want my entire life to be an influence for good.
Good, as common sense as well as the bible declare, begins with how we think. As with anything worth doing well, it takes well deliberated intent. in other words: WE'VE GOTTA THINK ABOUT IT FIRST.
Some thoughts come naturally to us when selecting attire, e.g. Do I look ok?
Yet deeper considerations are often easier to suppress. Especially where strong external influences exist, such as advertising media or cultural pressures (including religious). In such cases there oft prevails a mental disconnect from the deeper issues regarding our choices toward a more cavalier going with the flow; or fearful-what's safest; or shallow-what's "fashionable".
Below is a thread of thought regarding modest dress that could be considered mature or well-rounded. It begins with base considerations revolving around us, and moves on to the more significant:
- What do I think about the way I dress? e.g.: It's comfortable... attractive... sexy... alluring?
- What would [are] others think[ing] about the way I dress? e.g.: Will they find it attractive... thoughtful... sexually appealing... offensive?
- Upon what or whom am I modelling my attire and why? e.g.: Friends... media... peer pressure... insecurity... faith?
- Does my attire reinforce the message I most want communicated about me? e.g.: Does this choice align with my message... someone elses message... the wrong message?
What is your message?
Media's manipulative influence over your morals
- Celebrity Photo Hack 2014: Selfies Aren't Empowering—Modesty Isn't Bad
Pressure on girls to take sexy selfies comes out of a culture that equates modesty with shame, instead of seeing what it really is
© 2013 Richard Parr
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