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What the Bible Does and Does Not Say about Modesty

Vivian Bricker

Modesty is defined as “the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities.” Over the years and into modern times, people have equated modesty with the way a person dresses; however, the Bible equates modesty with the right heart attitude, not the way a person dresses. It is important to dress in a way that brings God glory, but modesty does not only deal with clothing.

Are There Really Do’s and Don’ts?

Modesty is a very important trait for Christians to cultivate and develop in his or her own life. All people, whether male or female, need to have the character trait of being modest. If we go back to the definition of modesty provided by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we are not told modesty has anything to do with clothing.

Despite the world equating modesty with clothing, the word modesty goes back to your attitude. This is exactly the same way the Bible describes modesty. Modesty is the right heart attitude, which will affect every area of your life.

In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul tells us, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

Paul is not telling women that they must never wear braids, nice clothes, or pearls. Rather, Paul is telling all people to dress “modestly, with decency and propriety.” When a woman wears braids, nice clothes, or pearls, it does not mean she is being immodest in her heart.

Likewise, in the modern-day, if a woman or a man wears shorts, a tank top, or a swimsuit, it does not mean that they are being immodest. Now, if a person is wearing shorts, a tank top, a swimsuit, a half-shirt, or another type of clothing with the intention of trying to get attention, then they are being immodest.

Believers should never seek out sexual attention by the way they dress (Proverbs 7:10). The way a person dresses stems back to their heart motive. In the summertime, many people wear shorts, tank tops, or bikinis because it is hot weather or because they are going to spend a day at the pool.

There is nothing immodest about wearing these articles of clothing if you are wearing them at face value. If you are wearing clothing to draw attention to yourself, then you are being immodest.

However, if you live in the south and you exercise, you know at some point you are going to have to wear shorts or a tank top in order to not overheat. At the same time, believers should never wear something with the purpose of drawing attention to certain body parts.

The Bible tells us we should always be modest and exercise self-control (1 Timothy 2:9). Similarly, the Bible tells us our bodies are temples of the Lord.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

As Christians, we are called to a higher moral standard because we know God. Jesus tells us we are lights to the dark world (Matthew 5:14-16). If we behave, act, and look the same way as the world, how would anybody be able to tell us apart? It is fine to wear the clothes you like, but you must exercise discretion and you must examine your attitude.

As previously stated, modesty is a heart attitude, and it will reflect in your outward behavior. Being modest stretches beyond your clothing choices or the way you wear your hair. Modesty involves the way you behave at work, how you drive or the way you act around others.

A person with modesty does not think too highly of themselves. In Romans 12:3, Paul tells us directly, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

An immodest person tends to think highly of themselves and will treat others as inferior to themselves. Modest people love others out of a pure heart and want the best for others. As believers, we need to strive after modesty in order to glorify God throughout our lives. All Christians are representatives of Jesus on earth, and we must represent Him correctly in our daily lives.

What Are Our Heart Motives?

We all have freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1); however, we are also warned not to use our freedom as a cover-up for evil (1 Peter 2:16). Believers can wear the clothing they choose, but everything should be done in a spirit-filled manner. Believers need to abstain from presenting themself in the same way as the world does.

We have been redeemed by Christ and we should honor God with our bodies. We should never wear something or do something that will hinder the gospel. God wants us to have self-respect and respect for others too.

Paul tells us not to place any stumbling block in another believer’s path for it could make them fall. “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

Paul also cautions us, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). As Christians, we need to cultivate self-respect and understand that God does tell us that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16). God does not make mistakes as each person is a wonderful creation.

Modesty is a heart attitude and digs deeper into our soul than just our clothing. In everything, we need to examine our motives. When you are deciding on what to wear or how to be, ask yourself, “Will this bring God glory?”

A modest heart attitude will bring God glory; however, an immodest attitude will bring God despair. Therefore, examine yourself and hold on to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Ask for God to help you cultivate a heart of modesty. The Lord delights to help His children and He will help you too.

Why Does Modesty Matter?

In everything we do, we need to do it to the glory of God whether that be in the way we dress, behave, or communicate with others. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

A heart of earnest modesty will bring great joy to God’s heart, yet an immodest heart will bring grief to God’s heart. You have the choice today if you are going to be modest or immodest. Search deep into your heart today and choose modesty.

For further reading:

What Are the Dangers of Purity Culture?

What Makes Pride a Sin?

Why Is Shame Connected to the Church?

What Does ‘Your Body Is a Temple’ Really Mean?

Is there a Good Motivation for Modesty that Doesn’t Shame Women?

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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.