Sunday, April 6, 2008

"That Which Becometh Women Professing Godliness"
By Jennifer M. McBride
Aug 9, 2005 - 10:33:00 AM

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. ~ I Timothy 2:9,10

Under the influence of the culture surrounding us, it is easy for the lines of distinction between Christians and the world to be blurred if we are not on guard. That thing that seemed so shocking at first glance now doesn't look so bad, and before we know it, we are participating in it quite cheerfully! This can happen to all of us in a myriad of ways. Since this is such a real and present danger (a danger which grows all the deadlier as our culture grows ever more evil and races faster and farther from anything remotely resembling Scriptural principles) it is vitally important that we exhort and encourage each other to continually examine ourselves, and our lives, in the light of God's Word.

Immodesty and cross-dressing are not new. Even a brief look at fashion history shows that, when people and nations reject God's standards, their "fashions" tend toward exploitation or gender-neutral designs. Truly, "there is nothing new under the sun."

For women, especially young women, clothing is one such area that can be greatly affected by our culture. As the world around us grows bolder and barer in its fashions, we can begin to lose perspective as to what is appropriate and what is not. Over the last several years, I have watched with increasing dismay as the clothing of many young Christian women has become more and more immodest, revealing, and like that of the world. This is an issue of a deeply serious nature, since it goes beyond just clothing and affects the area of purity as well; both our own and others'. As a young woman myself and as your sister in Christ, this causes me great concern for you. With a husband, a young son, a father, and five brothers, I also have a deep concern for the stumbling block immodest clothing can be to our brethren. Thus, I feel the need, as your sister in Christ, to take keyboard in hand (with a very wriggly baby on my lap!) to exhort and encourage my younger sisters in this most serious area.

While there are many reasons for dressing modestly, I am going to focus on the four most vitally important. First and most importantly, the Lord has a Standard that does not change for every area of our lives, and He has given us these standards in His Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16,17 KJV).

The world, on the other hand, has no set standard but is constantly changing and given over to every whim of whatever is popular. As Christians, we can't use the world as our measuring stick. Not only is the world undependable and unsteady, but in James 4:4 we read, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." In Romans 12:2, the Lord also tells us, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Therefore, we need to look to God's Holy Word as our guide and measure everything by it alone.

Throughout Scripture we see a pattern for covering our bodies. God says in His Word that we are to cover our nakedness, and He does define what constitutes "nakedness." After Adam and Eve sinned, the Bible says, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve immediately covered their private parts, believing this would hide their "shame" from the Lord. But what did God do with these coverings? "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (3:21). The fig-leaf "aprons" fashioned by our first parents were not enough. God made them coats to cover their bodies. This presents us with an important truth that goes beyond clothing. Our feeble works cannot cover our sins; God has to cover us in His way. When Adam and Eve covered their private parts, God replaced their inadequate coverings with coats to completely clothe their bodies. This is a beautiful picture of the covering of Christ’s atoning blood, which completely hides our sins rather than putting a patch over the "old man" here and there. "In other words," writes Jeff Pollard, "God did not give a fur bikini to represent our righteousness and salvation." [1]

When applied specifically to clothing, we learn that our own ideas about what constitutes modest clothing must be governed by God’s infallible Standard. If we refuse to let God’s perfect Word guide us in the area of dress, we are foolish, unsubmissive rebels. And even if we insist upon a "cultural" interpretation of the modesty and dress passages, if the idolatrous cities of Corinth and Rome called for Christian modesty, does not our modern culture with its rampant pornography, prostitution, and other abuses of women make the call even more urgent and timely?

I Timothy 2:9 tells us, "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety." And what exactly is modesty? While it is a word that encompasses many meanings, all can be applied to the issue of clothing. Jeff Pollard, author of Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, sums it up this way:

Christian modesty is the inner self-government, rooted in a proper understanding of one's self before God, which outwardly displays itself in humility and purity from a genuine love for Jesus Christ, rather than in self-glorification or self-advertisement. Christian modesty then will not publicly expose itself in sinful nakedness. [2]

And what is “shamefacedness and sobriety?”

Shamefacedness describes "a moral revulsion from all that is unseemly, a rejection of even the appearance of the overstepping of the limits of womanly reserve." Sobriety "stands for that inner judgment produced in the believer by the Scripture and the Spirit of God, that provides a restraint on every merely physical or human appetite." [3]

Scripture also tells us that women are to be "discreet and chaste" (Titus 2:5KJV)--meaning caution, prudence and purity--and that we are to adorn ourselves with the "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4 KJV). Girls, when you wear tight, form-fitting, low-cut, see-through, attention-grabbing, revealing clothing and carelessly (or deliberately) expose your body, this is dressing in direct opposition to the guidelines given to us in God's Holy Word!

Secondly, as Christian women we must remember that we are representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ. "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1Corinthians 6:20). When people look at us, do they see something pure, holy, and different? Do they see something about us that marks us as belonging to the Lord? Or are we dressed like the scantily clad majority, wearing clothing that looks more like the "attire of an harlot" spoken of in Proverbs 7 than that becoming a woman of God? What we wear either brings glory to the Lord or shames Him. When we wear clothing that is immodest and revealing of our bodies, not only are we not drawing people to Christ; we could be enticing them to sin.

Thirdly, we are to keep our bodies private and covered. Our bodies are not to be on free display for all. Did you know that, in addition to belonging the Lord, your body also belongs to your future husband? "God designed man to enjoy and appreciate a woman’s body -- more specifically, his wife’s body. The Song of Solomon is a breathtaking tribute to the beauties of human love and the gifts of femininity and masculinity. Proverbs exhorts a husband to enjoy his wife’s body, which is his own and belongs to the gaze of no other man (Proverbs 5:19). When you wear low-cut necklines, you are offering to the public what belongs to your husband alone to enjoy. Will your husband be happy to know that countless men before him have enjoyed beauties that should 'ravish' him alone?" [4]

Let's imagine for a moment that a family has entrusted a banker with a box full of beautiful, expensive jewels. They have been in the family for generations and are priceless and irreplaceable. Now imagine that, rather than quietly locking those jewels in the bank's vault, the banker puts them out in the middle of the bank's main lobby in a glass case with no lock on the door. He takes great pains to display them very attractively and put up colorful signs that draw the attention of all who walk by. Would that be wise? Do you think that the owners of those jewels would appreciate it? I think that we would all certainly agree that that would be the height of foolishness and that the owners of the jewels would be horrified.

Can you see the parallels between those jewels and you? Do you realize that those jewels represent your body? Your jewels also belong to another and should be kept safely locked up for him. Would your future husband wish you to be careless with these treasures? Would he enjoy knowing how many other men had seen, been attracted to, and enjoyed gazing at them; to know how many other men had dreamed of owning what was rightfully his alone; to know of the potential risk to the safety of his jewels? I think we can safely answer all of these questions with a resounding "no."

Proverbs 31 asks "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her ... She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Let us be such women, whose "price is far above rubies!" Let us not present ourselves as being cheap and of little worth, but rather as those who have been bought with a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Protect the treasures that belong to your husband, so that his heart may safely trust in you. Do your husband good all the days of your life; even now, before you know who he might be.

Finally, by dressing in an immodest fashion, we can create a serious stumbling block to our brothers in Christ, causing them to lust. This is not a light matter. While men are most certainly responsible to guard their eyes and their hearts, we are also responsible if we dress in such a way that causes them to stumble. It is a real struggle for our brothers in this day and age in which scantily clad women are around every corner (and lining the highways and byways!). As women, we do not even begin to realize the magnitude of this struggle. It is extremely grieving that our brothers cannot even have a respite from this battle when they gather together with other Christians to remember the Lord. How can a man truly focus on simply worshiping his Savior when he is constantly having to avert his eyes and be careful where he looks, lest he see something that could entice him to sin?

Do you also realize that while your Christian brothers may be battling lust, the majority of men in the world would think it was silly to even put up a fight? You have no idea what thoughts you may be inciting in the many men you pass as you walk through the mall. I have a feeling that you would be appalled. At best, you are allowing yourself to possibly be used as an object of lust by any man who sees you, and, at worst, you could be putting your very safety at stake.

Think again of the analogy of the jewels. Most likely the majority of the people passing by those unguarded jewels in the bank lobby would not be thieves; but more than likely most people would be drooling at the thought of owning those jewels! They would be dreaming of what they could do if only those jewels belonged to them; they would feel tempted by how easily within reach those jewels were; they might start to imagine how they could actually go about taking those jewels and how much they would enjoy owning them. Many would stand and stare at the jewels, admiring and enjoying their beauty. Most people would not actually take the jewels, but many would entertain thoughts of "what if." Perhaps, eventually, a man who had never really thought he would steal something would be overcome by just how easily in reach those jewels were and would give in to the temptation to steal one. "Surely it would not be wrong to take one; they must really not be all that valuable--after all, they are sitting here out on display and unguarded!" Or, perhaps a professional jewelry thief was passing by and, with no qualms of conscience, simply stole them all.

Do you know that when you dress in a revealing, sensual way, you are treating your jewels as carelessly as that banker treated those entrusted to him? You are sending the message that your jewels really aren't all that valuable and are free for the taking; you could even be catching the eye of a jewel thief.

Please think about your clothing; perhaps you have not realized that it is immodest. Examine your wardrobe. Try on your clothing in front of a full-length mirror and put it through some rigorous, prayerful testing! What can you see when you bend over, when you lift your arms, when you sit down? If your clothing is revealing parts of your body that should not be seen by the general public; if your clothing is revealing your undergarments; if your clothing is form-fitting and so tight that very little is left to the imagination as to what your body is shaped like; if your shirts are low cut, open and cleavage-baring, if your skirts and dresses are so short that when you sit down it is likely that the person across from you will see what they should not, then please realize that this is not the attire befitting a woman of God.

You owe it to the Lord who has bought you with a great price to dress as though you belong to Him and not to the Enemy. You owe it to yourself to dress as though you are not cheap and free for the taking, but are a valuable child of God. You owe it to your future husband to save yourself for him in every way.

There is such joy and beauty to be found in doing things the Lord's way! Let's not fall for the lies that Satan would have us believe. Let us seek the Lord in all that we do, whether it is popular or not. Let's seek the path of purity and godly womanhood. The blessings that the Lord has for those that follow Him are rich and plentiful. "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 119:1). "Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways" (Psalm 128:1). "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11).

Jennifer McBride is a homeschool graduate and a very happy wife and mother. She and her husband have been blessed with four small children (ages 4,3,2 and ten months) and operate Old Paths, a website dedicated to encouraging a return to the "old paths" of Scripture and the Biblical pattern for raising a godly family.

End Notes:

1. Pollard, Jeff. Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America.
2. Ibid
3. Allen, J. What the Bible Teaches/ 1 Timothy
4. Chancey, Jennie.
"Modesty and the Christian Woman"

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