‘My Dress my Choice,’ is a famous slogan in the Kenyan feminine world and perhaps in the world too. Ladies have taken upon themselves to vocalize (on social media and to the streets) their “rights” to the dressing of their choice. The question is; does how I dress as a lady matter? Disclaimer; I know there’s questions like, “Can I wear a cleavage top?’ or “How short can my skirt be?” and more that you’d expect this blog to answer. However, this may not directly answer them, but I hope that once you are done reading this blog, you may somewhat have an answer to each question. What you will read may bring some sort of controversy or may bring you to assume that I am trying to persuade you to a set of rules. Well, my desire for us all is that we are stirred up for good works (Heb. 10:24) as we seek to understand how God’s word informs us about modesty and dressing.
I believe it is vital, to begin with, the definition of the term modesty before we even dive into what the Bible has to say about it. So what is Modesty? Most commonly used describe modesty to be:
Propriety in dress, speech, or conduct (Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Modesty. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/modesty)
The quality, in women, of dressing or behaving in a way that is intended to avoid attracting sexual interest (Definition of Modesty from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
Behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency. (Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/modesty)
According to the definitions above, a few ideas stand out; propriety (the state of being proper) and decency. With more research, you will note that modesty is not only limited to dressing but also behaviour and conduct. Modesty does not seek to draw attention to self in an immoral manner. Modesty is likened to humility, moral purity and respect.
Modesty in the Bible
1. Modesty is Free of Shame
In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul instructs women to adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…In the KJV version, modesty is translated “shamefacedness” which means free of shame, to dress in a manner where you are not ashamed of the way you are dressed and not uncomfortable. However, that is not all. The shame here is not only personal but also communal. We could argue that we all have different taste of fashion, and thus, shame is relative. However, we need to remember that how we dress tells a lot about the values we hold and the idols to our physical posture. What does your clothing say about you? Does your dressing shame the Gospel, whereas we are warned from doing so through our conduct? (1 Peter 2:12) Looking back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed before the fall (Genesis 2:25). After the fall, they realize they are naked and make themselves loincloths from sewed fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Why? Because they are ashamed. God clothes them (Genesis 3:21), a beautiful display of His redemption, for those who are in Him are clothed in Holiness and Righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). It does not end there, if then He has clothed us in Holiness and Righteousness, we ought to mirror that to the world (Ephesians 4:24) and how we dress is one way that does that.
2. Modesty is concerned for our brothers in Christ.
Inappropriate, Indecent dressing encourages our brothers to sin, and that does not help us to be
accountable to and for them. When we dress inappropriately, we cause our brothers to lust
; thus, we have led them to stumble (Mathew 5:27-290. Scripture warns us from being stumbling blocks
to others in the way we act or dress (Mark 9:42, Romans 14:13). Our role as women is not to lead
brethren to sin but to point them to Christ. Paul instructs ladies to be concerned for good works (1
Timothy 2:9-10), which will lead them to glorify God (Mathew 5:16). Our chief end is to glorify
God and to stir fellow brethren to good works (Hebrews 10:24). Where our clothing causes one to
sin (becomes another person’s poison), then we are no longer walking in love for our brothers as
Christ calls us to.
3. It all ties back to the heart.
Our dressing is not meant to draw attention to our bodies. Our dressing should not lead us to focus on our external presentation. Our culture has taught us to lay more emphasis on external appearance, whereas scripture points us to focus on our hearts. Peter in 1 Peter 3:3 exhorts women to let their adorning come from their hearts (1 Peter 3:3-4). Peter does not imply that it is wrong to look good or wear jewellery; he only reminds us that beauty of a godly character is best and is found in our hearts.
Modesty ties back to the intentions and attitude of our hearts (Proverbs 7:10). A heart that seeks to glorify God will dress modestly, decently and appropriately, whereas a heart that seeks to draw self-satisfaction to self will dress to draw attention to self. The intentions and posture of our hearts inform our clothing. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mathew 12:34) and so does our dressing.” A heart that intends to glorify God does not provoke, is not revealing and does not lead people to question our testimony of the faith. What does your clothing tell about your heart?
God has created us for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Our Mandate is to glorify God and to stir others up for good works. Culture and Society has a lot to influence how we dress but let the word of God inform that (Romans 12:2). In doing so, we will honour and glorify God and point every attribute to Him and not to ourselves just as the Psalmist would sing (Psalm 115:1), To Him be the glory.