Modesty . . . There’s a word we don’t see often—especially in 2023.
Maybe it makes you cringe.
Maybe you heard it a long time ago but don’t really know what it means.
Maybe you’ve heard it before, but in a hurtful context—where the clothes you were wearing were talked about before anyone talked to you about where your heart was at with Jesus and what He's done for you. If so, I’m really sorry. That’s not the heart of our Savior. He desires to give us all new hearts, and as we follow Him, He makes us more and more like Him—patiently, gently, firmly, truthfully, showing us areas of our lives that we need to surrender to Him. Conforming us to the image of Christ.
OR maybe no one’s ever said anything to you about it because we live in a world that says it’s our body. We do and wear what we alone desire, regardless of how it impacts others, regardless of what it says about our identity, and regardless of whether or not it honors the One we worship.
We know it’s been talked about poorly or hurtfully to some, so we avoid talking about it at all. But, I think this is a disservice to all God's image-bearers. And, if we follow Christ, we care what He says about these things. We trust that His words are good, life-giving, and in line with how we were made.
Instead, we’ve allowed ourselves and others to be discipled by the value the world puts on our bodies rather than the value God has inherently assigned to them.
So, what does God have to say about our clothes? When we go to the Bible, there’s honestly very few passages that detail women’s clothing. 1 Peter is probably the most well known of those passages and even though just one sentence, it is rich in meaning:
“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 ESV)
There’s also no rule book for the clothing items we have today. Most of them didn’t exist. But, the Bible does have a lot to say about our bodies, a lot to say about the posture of our hearts, and a lot to say about exaltation.
Let's begin there.
After all, His Word is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4.12 ESV).
I’m praying God would lead you to read His words. Don’t even read mine afterwards.
Read His first. Read them again. Read them slowly. Take a few days if you need to.
Meditate on them. Pray over them. Talk about them with others.
Ask yourself questions about God’s desire for your heart in this, and ask God to help you submit to His will, holding what you believe about modesty and your body with open hands. Ask Him to give you discernment and ask His Spirit to use the words to bring life to your heart and transformation in your life:
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20 ESV). If you follow Jesus, your body isn’t your own. It’s been bought at a price—the highest price: the blood of a blameless lamb.
“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:12-13 ESV). The body isn’t meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV).Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Your body is temporary—one day you’ll have a new resurrected body. (see 1 Corinthians 15)
What beautiful truths and promises.
We look at the body and outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart (see 1 Samuel 16).
Our hearts are hard and turned against God in their natural state. We’ve turned our worship to created things, instead of the Creator—our worship being what we praise and give our lives to (see Romans 1 & 3).
Our worship and exaltation:
Our bodies are to be offered up as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. That’s our true and proper worship (see Romans 12.1).
We are called to exalt Jesus. Who though He was God didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the very nature of a servant, humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God has exalted Him to the highest place and given Him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in Heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (see Philippians 2).
The one person who could exalt Himself humbled Himself to save us. That’s the Savior we serve. He left the glory of heaven. We don’t exist to draw attention to ourselves. We exist to exalt that humble Servant King.
This post is not exhaustive on the topic of modesty. Modesty touches so many things related to our bodies and to the collective body of Christ—sisters and our brothers, and how we interact with one another. God has specifically been humbling and teaching me that all things belong to Him and that every area of our lives is about exalting Him. That's the place I'm sharing from today. I truly believe that our heart posture in that informs those other things.
That being said, the goal of this post is not to give you a collective list of things we all should or shouldn’t wear. It’s to spark thoughtfulness, intentionality, and conversation, helping us think about the fact that every part of our lives belongs to our Redeemer.
It’s also not about comparison or pointing fingers. (“We’ll at least I don’t wear what she wears.”) Look inward. We all struggle with exalting ourselves. And if we think we don’t, as soon as we point the finger at some other girl wearing something we don’t approve of and think we’re better, we’re guilty of pride.
The only comparison we make is to Christ and we come up short every time. Thank God for the humility of Christ—who could have said “I’m better, I won’t descend from Heaven.” But that's not who He is at all.
It’s also not to make modesty the focus of our lives. Modesty is not the foundation of our faith, but it is a fruit of our faith. It's the belief that our bodies and everything in our lives are under the lordship of Christ. This mindset says: “I’ve been rescued from living for myself and for sin. My body has been redeemed by someone who gave His body in my place. It’s not my own. It’s for His glory, not mine.”
Do you believe that how you dress is ultimately not up to you?
Everyone is going to have different convictions about what this practically means and everyone should be fully convinced in their own minds about these. But, we don't get to be thoughtless about this, just clothing ourselves according to culture's new trends. We submit this—not to ourselves—but to the Lord, because how we dress reflects who we worship and the message we're living to proclaim.
As you submit this to Him, be ready and expectant for Him to do things in your heart. Most of culture's trends are designed to exalt and exhibit our bodies—oftentimes as commodities. This means we might have to look harder for a dress to wear to that wedding. It means we have to be thoughtful about trends that have been normalized. It might mean that guidelines start to form in your mind—convictions like "I'm actually not going to wear that anymore." This might seem weird or extreme to some. But, we're called to be holy, set apart. If we follow Jesus, we will look different from the world.
As part of this, I’d encourage you: In addition to meditating on Scripture and praying, seek wisdom from godly women. Think about what you wear and how you display yourself. (Social media especially is a platform designed for us to display and prop up ourselves.) Think about how much time you spend on your appearance. How much money.
Ultimately, I would challenge all of us in this way: May we press in and ask God to search us and know us, to test us and know our anxious thoughts. We will all find that, as in every area of our lives, there are offensive ways in our hearts. But we don’t end there; we then ask Him to lead us in the way everlasting (see Psalm 139:23-24).
Your body is a beautiful thing, hand-crafted by our wonderful Maker. We don't cover ourselves because we are ashamed of our bodies. We cover them because we are no longer ashamed or condemned. We're redeemed people, living under the gracious, faithful, good, perfect lordship of King Jesus. We do it because we point and draw attention to Him, not ourselves.
Your body was designed to bring glory to Him. It is ultimately satisfied when offered in worship to Him. Your appearance is lovely when you clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, and gentleness. You radiate beauty when the light of Christ shines. The joy of our salvation.
Think about it this way: Models are supposed to point to the designer and what they’ve made. Ambassadors aren’t known by their names but by the country they represent. That’s us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV).
That last sentence—that's the message we live to display.
We are canvases of His grace and one day, our current bodies will be gone and replaced with new, eternal resurrection bodies that we’ll use to do the same thing we're called to do on this earth—praise Him. But those bodies will last for all eternity because of the one who sacrificed His body in our place.
It reminds me of the words of a favorite hymn of mine:
My heart is drawn to self-exalting, Help me seek Your Kingdom first //
Lead us daily in the fight that all the world might see Your glory and Your name be lifted high.
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 30:30 ESV).
I’d love to hear your thoughts as you read and pray! I’m continuing to be challenged and humbled in this area and I’d love to hear how God’s encouraging and challenging you!