I’m sure many of you reading this have an idea of modesty that is not at all flattering. Maybe the word ‘modesty’ brings to mind images of long skirts, turtlenecks, and just general frumpiness. I’m writing this because I want you to know that the Bible mentions none of those things when speaking of modesty. So the news is good! You don’t have to dress like a grandma or wear a burka in order to please God! But a question remains… How should I dress?
Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t contain any step-by-step instructions or commandments (like ‘thou shalt not wear thy skirts above the knee!’) when talking about how women should dress. But it is not silent on the topic, it’s very clear that God doesn’t want us focusing on what we wear, but on what is in our souls and how we relate to others. 1 Peter 3:3-5 says:
“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.” 1 Peter 3:3-5
I have always loved this passage, however I’m not totally sure I always understood its full meaning (not that I fully understand it now!). It’s important to notice a few things. First of all, Peter says, ‘Your adornment must not be merely external…’ Merely usually means something like ‘not only.’ So what Peter is saying is that our adornment must not be only external. He means there are other things that need to be considered when thinking about beauty. It’s also important to note that the specific external things he mentions are examples, and because we’ve already established that he’s not totally condemning all types of adornment, he is not saying we can’t braid our hair or wear gold jewelry or dresses.
Then we come to the heart of the matter. Peter tells us to focus on the ‘hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.’ He is essentially challenging the way the world thinks of beauty and tells us to think the opposite way. The world focuses on the external, and the external things will fail, they are perishable, everyone grows old. But, the inner person can always be beautiful. The more Christ-like we become the more beautiful we become in God’s sight. Basically a gentle and quiet spirit is what we gain when we spend time learning God’s word and let it change us.
Having a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t mean that if we have loud personalities God won’t be happy. As we learn more of God’s word and let it guide the way we think and act we will become more Christ-like. This is what true modesty looks like. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter how a person dresses as long as they are concentrated on God’s word and doing His will.
Here are some more links and resources that inspired and helped me write this post.
Rachel Held Evans Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think It Means; http://qideas.org/articles/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means/
Jefferson Bethke: The Idolatry of Modesty; http://www.believe.com/articles/The-Idolatry-of-Modesty/
Do I Have A Gentle and Quiet Spirit? http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/index.php?id=541