What Are You Wearing? Part 3: Modest Apparel
“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
In What Are You Wearing? Part 1 and What Are You Wearing? Part 2 we reviewed the spiritual active wear that God desires for us to be clothed in – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, and, above all, love. That’s the kind of clothing God wants our inner man to be bundled up in all the time – no matter what season it is. Now, let’s consider the outerwear that the Lord wants us to sport.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul gives instructions for how the church is to behave during public worship. He includes how men are to pray and how women are to dress themselves. The Bible says that women are to adorn ourselves “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).
It doesn’t mean that women can’t braid their hair or wear jewelry. A look at a parallel passage in 1 Peter shows us that.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.” – 1Peter 3:3-5
There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and making yourself look decent and presentable. The Scripture says that those thing shouldn’t be our main focus. Rather, we should concern ourselves with beautifying our inner person with a meek and quiet spirit. That’s what looks good and is precious in God’s sight.
The same kind of language is used in 1 Peter 3 as in 1 Timothy 2:9. The Lord wants us to dress respectably and modestly when we go to worship with the church. And if that applies in worship, it is also good enough to apply outside of the worship assembly.
It can be tempting to want to wear the latest designs in fashion and to dress like the rest of the world. But Christians are different. We’re sanctified, which means we are set apart from the rest of the world. That includes the way that we dress. I have heard many stories of godly men, who struggle during worship because they see women dressed in low-cut tops, tight, form-fitting clothing, or short skirts and dresses.
Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). So it is the responsibility of the man in worship, or anywhere else, not to lust after the woman. However, it is also the responsibility of each woman to help her brothers in Christ not to lust by being modest in the way that we dress.
The Lord went on to say that “if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). This principle is echoed in the book of Romans: “Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Romans 14:20-21).
If we replaced the word “food” with “wearing immodest clothing” in those verses above (and, for sake of application, I think we can because of the latter part of verse 21 of Romans chapter 14), then it’s easy to see that we shouldn’t wear clothing that might cause a man – especially our brothers in Christ (Galatians 6:10) – to sin.
Men are more visually stimulated than women are, so it might be hard to fully understand as women, since we are not programmed that way. But, all it takes for a man’s mind to start racing to places it shouldn’t be – especially during worship – is the slightest show of curves, skin, or peek of cleavage.
So we should be mindful of the clothing in which we adorn ourselves. A woman doesn’t have to wear tight-fitting or short clothing for a man to notice her. Men will notice true beauty, no matter how long the skirt or dress you are wearing or how fully covered your legs, shoulders, arms, and chest are.
The men who are respectable and respectful are the ones who care more about the inward beauty and the beauty of the heart. If there’s anyone’s attention to get and hold, it’s the attention of those who care about what God says and has laid out in His plans through the Bible. Wives don’t want their husbands struggling to pay attention in worship, nor at their jobs, because of scantily clad women or young women in their midst. Nor do mothers want their sons dealing with that during worship or at school or at any other place.
Wearing modest clothing means not wearing short skirts or dresses that come above the knee when you sit; low-cut tops, v-kneck shirts, and shirts that display mid-drifts; low-rise jeans, and; form-fitting pants or skirts – including tights that are worn as pants and not as undergarments. It also means not wearing bathing suits or bikinis at the beach, but rash guards and shorts that do not expose the body. Just because you go to the beach doesn’t mean all concepts of modesty no longer apply. I think men and young men can be modest in those regards as well. Men can wear shirts at the beach, and they can purposely not wear tight muscle shirts or skinny jeans that are too fitted.
I know that some of us don’t wear those things intentionally. It might just be a matter of hanging on to that old skirt or pair of pants that were your favorite 5 or 6 years ago that you still want to try to fit into but know that you really shouldn’t. Believe me, I understand. As hard as it may be though, we probably just have to let those pieces of clothing go to someone who can better use them.
Clothing is only designed for us to be covered and protected from the cold, heat, and all the other elements in nature (Genesis 3:7, 10, 21). It’s okay to look cute and to feel good about yourself. The Lord just wants us to be modest while doing it and mindful of the impact the way we dress has on others.
And He wants us to be more concerned with dressing ourselves up in righteousness. That includes showing kindness, compassion, forbearance, and love towards our brethren who have a hard time not looking at women who are dressed immodestly and lusting after them.
Let’s strive to adorn ourselves like the holy women of God did – having a gentle and quiet spirit, with hearts dressed up in God’s love and outwardly adorned in modest clothing. Most importantly, let’s wear the name of Jesus.
Have you put on the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 13:11-14)? If not, you can today: believe in Jesus as the Christ, stop doing wrong, confess that Jesus is Lord, and be baptized. Then your garments will be washed as white as snow in the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on Calvary. What are you wearing today?