The Meaning of Modesty

“In females, modesty has the like character as in males (restrained by a sense of propriety, not bold or forward, not loose, not lewd); but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. … Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor” (Webster)

“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;” – 1 Tim. 2:9

“To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” – Titus 2:5

When Paul wrote to Titus, he gave some instructions, especially to the “young women.” He told them “to be discreet, chaste.” (Titus 2:5).

Discreet means to be sober-minded, self-controlled, or temperate. Chaste means to be modest and pure from carnality. Paul writes a similar statement to Timothy, instructing him what to teach the women. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Tim. 2:9).

Shamefacedness means to know shame and to have a sense of shame.

Sobriety means to be discreet, controlling all passions and desires that might cause a temptation to be immodest.

“This is a direct command from God for ladies to dress modestly. Ladies are to be careful about their dress. It seems today that many women have absolutely no sense of shame and decency” (F. William Farrow, “Was Jesus Concerned About Modesty?” Maranatha Baptist Watchman, August 1993).

The Reason for Modesty

Before the fall, the man and the woman were naked and were not ashamed, but after the fall man’s heart became darkened, and it became necessary that men and women be clothed. One of the first things God did after the Fall was to cover Adam and Eve (Ge. 3:21).

Immodesty increases sin among men Leviticus 19:29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

“And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. [11] (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: [12] Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) [13] So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,” – Proverbs 7:10-13

“For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. [28] She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.” – Proverbs 23:27-28

Some women excuse their immodest dress by saying lust is the man’s problem, but Jesus Christ warned that fornication begins as lust

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. , and the woman who does not clothe herself properly is guilty of stirring up unlawful passions in the man.” – Matthew 5:28

David and Bathsheba both were guilty in the transgression. Bathsheba should not have been bathing in a public place; David should not have gazed upon her nakedness.

The Bible warns that “the strange woman,” the immoral woman, can “catch” a man with her seductive dress and actions (Pr. 7:10-13).

Whether you realize it or not, men look at certain portions of the body, and it doesn’t matter whether you think that is good, bad, or otherwise, they are going to do it. And if you wear clothing that attracts attention to that, you are just helping them in their sin. That’s why a dress, unless it’s too tight, is better than pants, because a dress does not draw the attention to that part of the body that people look at and lust after.

The Way of Modesty

The Bible says God “covered” Adam and Eve (Ge. 3:21). This is a good pattern for modesty.

The man and woman should be covered decently so that the body is not improperly displayed in a sexual way. There are three areas which must be addressed when dressing modestly:

First, the nakedness must be covered. It is obvious that it is immodest to wear clothing, which exposes the parts of the body, which have sexual appeal. This includes short skirts, low blouses, shorts, and skimpy swimsuits.

Second, the sexual parts must not be sensually accented. Tight, clinging attire is as immodest as skimpy attire because the outline of the body is emphasized and exposed, and man’s attention is directed to that which is forbidden.

Third, the attire must not be extravagent. When the Apostle deals with modest attire in 1 Ti. 2:9, he mentions “broided hair, gold, pearls, and costly array.” Obviously, then, it is God’s will that the Christian woman refuse to show an extravagant, worldly appearance. The goal of the world’s wicked, proud fashion designers is to create a haughty, obstentious look. The godly woman will reject such fashion and clothe herself and her daughters in “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.”

Modesty Contrasted with the Strange Woman

The immoral woman of Proverbs 7:10-13 is in contrast with the modest woman.

  1. Different in attire (Pr. 7:10). The immoral woman has “the attire of an harlot” – skimpy, tight, suggestive–to draw attention to herself sexually. The modest woman is clothed in such a way so as NOT to draw undue attention sexually.
  2. Different in spirit (Pr. 7:10,11). The immoral woman is “subtil of heart … loud and stubborn.” The modest woman has “a meek and quiet spirit” (1 Pe. 3:4).
  3. Different in countenance (Pr. 7:13). The immoral woman has “an impudent face.” The modest woman is “shamefaced” (1 Ti. 2:9).