Monday, June 11, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Modesty

Modesty (n.)
  1. The quality of being modest; freedom from vanity and boastfulness.
  2. Regard for decency of behavior, speech, and dress
  3. Simplicity; moderation
This would probably the world’s easiest post if modesty was a black and white issue. I could give everyone a list of what’s acceptable and unacceptable and be done with it. But if I did, all I would be doing is inviting an argument. Modesty (of dress) is one of those topics that everyone has different views on, but I shall do my best.

Modesty isn’t usually a term that people use outside of church, unless they’re referring to a school uniform. In fact, unless there are extreme cases of immodest dress, the issue is overlooked almost entirely. To be blunt, as long as a girl isn’t dressed like a prostitute, she’s free to wear almost anything.

On the flip side of the coin, religious groups (Christianity in particular) tend to swing toward the more conservative end of the issue; some churches even encouraging against shorts or two piece bathing suits, and embrace ties and floor length skirts.

So is there a happy medium?

I think there is definitely a happy medium between prostitutes and the Amish. But just like anything else, it’s open to interpretation. In an attempt to get some perspective on majority opinions, Alex and Brett Harris did a survey study of people’s opinions on what is and isn’t a modesty stumbling block for girls to wear. They didn’t do this to set up dress codes, more as guidelines. And even though I personally feel like it is fairly conservative, you guys can judge for yourselves and/or just get somewhat of an understanding where some guys stand on this issue.  You can find the results here:

I did find it a bit interesting that the survey was not only about articles of clothing, but also addressed makeup, jewelry, and behavior. It shows us that attitude and intentions along with what we wear and how we carry ourselves are all important factors.
So what’s with all the fuss about modesty? Why should it matter?
Well first of all, it matters because God says that it matters. Saw that one coming a mile away didn’t you? Secondly, it matters because according to Romans 14:21, we are not to do anything that causes our brothers to stumble. Immodest clothing can easily cause others to lust (to stumble), so modesty is just a good way to help out the guys (and girls) in guarding against lusts and impure thoughts.
Now, I feel like it’s important to make it clear that there should be no double standard for modesty based on gender. It’s just as important for guys to be modest because girls can stumble and lust just as easily.

I think someone put it very well in his response to the question on the modesty survey when he said:
“The ultimate responsibility is absolutely my own. No matter how a woman is dressed, it is my responsibility to treat both her and myself with respect and to honor God with all my actions. If I ever feel that I may not be able to control myself or my thoughts, it is my responsibility to leave the situation. Guys who blame women for their own bad behavior are a major problem. Furthermore, it is my responsibility to dress and act modestly as well; women have their own God-given sexuality as well, and if I ask them to help control my libido, I am honor-bound to do the same to help my sisters in Christ.”
So this really isn’t a call to invest in loose fitting turtle necks, floor length skirts, and parkas, so you don’t need any spur of the moment trips to your nearest Target. Modesty has a lot to do with the intentions of your heart and mind. It’s about helping to guard others’ hearts and minds against lust. Modesty should be a personal conviction and if you have any questions about what is or isn’t appropriate, you can always talk with your parents, friends, or pastors about it.

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