Christian Views on Modesty
A male and female give their views on modesty in their respective genders, and how it relates to our Christian Faith
The Male Perspective
A Serving of Modest Tea
By: Andrew Whitehead
Coming to college out of a youth group called Fusion (such scientific names for church groups), I often heard sayings along the lines of “modest is the hottest.” Of course, lines like these were never directed towards me, because the only limitations on what I could/could not wear to events were 1) no speedos and 2) no nudity. Not extraordinarily hard rules to follow, but this was not the case with my female counterparts. Whereas the guys have two rules, it seems like ladies always have 200 rules with points, sub-points, and appendices. I once saw a diagram for the ladies. This all makes me wonder: why? Who makes these rules, and who are these rules really for?
I have one answer that I think covers all three of those questions: boys. Like all things, the answer is more complex than that. My theory is that rather than dealing with teaching boys about how to react when they see the female body, the powers that be told girls to stop wearing what they wanted to and to start covering themselves up – in the name of the Lord.
I must pause here to say, that I am in no way advocating for the world to become a nudist colony. I think clothing serves a proper purpose of everyday protection from the elements. My argument is that males should never use the statement, “What she is wearing made me stumble.” Man up, take credit for your mistakes and shortcomings. Do not force rules upon other people that you do not make for yourself.
I have heard it said that women also admire parts of the body (shocker). The most common of which being the shoulders, back, and abs. If this is the case, then should not guys also have to cover up these parts of the body. As I said, do not force rules upon others that you are not making for yourself as well.
So what do we do in our fallen world? Do we all wear snowsuits to the beach? Do we turn Eastern into a nudist colony? No. I say, dress as you feel comfortable. Women, take ownership of your bodies (they are yours after all). Let us create a new generation of people that are okay with their bodies and with the bodies of others. Let us have respect for each other and differing values and principles.
The Female Perspective
Oh springtime, when the birds are singing, the grass is green…and Christian bloggers and preachers everywhere tell women to cover up their bodies so as not to cause their brothers to stumble. For some reason, there are still numerous conferences, sermons, and books still being produced on this topic, despite the adverse affects of slut-shaming and body image issues produced by the Christian church as a result of the modesty discussions.
I have chosen to address three common questions asked by Christian women and men about the modesty issue. For more in-depth coverage of the modesty issue, check out rachelheldevans.com.
“If Paul told women to dress modestly in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, then isn’t it important that Christian women be required to dress modestly?”
Oh, the amount of times I have heard this verse. And yet, no one stops to think about its implications. Take a look: “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” (NIV). This verse is more about materialism than sexuality. Modesty, here, is not about dress hemlines or cleavage; it’s about wearing a $300 jacket when your neighbor is starving. Also, the Greek word for modesty used in this passage (kosmios) is used only one other time in the New Testament, and it is used for men without reference to clothing choices (check out 1 Timothy 3:2).
“Shouldn’t we be concerned, though, with women dressing to attract attention to themselves? Doesn’t that violate the meaning of modesty as humbleness, as this verse could also be implying?”
Well, if it does, then why aren’t we also talking about modesty for men, and how men’s clothing likewise can be used to bring attention? If the Church insists on having sermons and conferences focused only on women’s choice of clothing, with no attention to how men need to be held to the same rules, then the Church has a double standard.
“What if a woman is causing a man to stumble with what she is wearing?”
Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29a, NIV). Jesus did not say that if a woman causes you to stumble, you should approach her, tell her that her yoga pants are sinful, and then continue on your way feeling morally superior. Jesus put the responsibility of lust (not attraction; there is a difference) on the individual doing the lusting.
I would rather practice my faith, not by monitoring the cut of a skirt, or worse, passing judgment on another woman’s skirt, but by how I treat my fellow human beings. People will not know us by the amount of skin we can cover, but by our good deeds. Men, don’t judge a woman’s morality by the clothing that makes her feel confident. Talk to her about her deepest convictions and passions instead. Women, don’t spend time staring at your shoes during a meeting when you realize that maybe this shirt is tighter compared to the other girls’. Keep your heads held high, and be proud of your bodies. Dress in what makes you feel good about yourself.