The Bible commands us to control our outward appearance, specifically when it comes to modesty in presentation. What does the Bible actually say about the way we dress? Some people believe that the Bible is simply too restrictive when it comes to modesty, while others believe that its teachings are sensible and even liberating.
In Christian Scripture, there are several passages that dictate how men and women are to dress. In 1 Timothy 2:9–10, Paul writes, “Also, that women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” Many Christians interpret this passage to mean that women should avoid flashy and expensive clothing and should instead dress in a manner which befits their godliness.
Matthew 5:27–28 is another written passage which is often used to support teachings about dressing modestly. In this passage, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ’You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In other words, when it comes to dressing modestly, both men and women should aim to avoid arousing the passions of the opposite sex.
The Bible reveals that dressing modestly is more than an outward observance of formality and propriety. Rather, modesty is a virtue that relates to how we position ourselves in the sight of God. For example, in Colossians 3:12–14, Paul commands, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Thus, modesty is rooted not only in the actions of dressing, but also in the love and respect we show for ourselves, each other, our Creator, and families.
In addition, the New Testament also teaches us to be conscious of both our outward and inward appearance. For instance, in 1 Peter 3:3–4, the writer states, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” These teachings suggest that it is the true beauty of our inherent kindness and gentleness that matters to God.
The Meaning of Modesty and Its Place in Society
The Bible does not provide clear definitions of modesty or draw a line between what is considered acceptable and unacceptable clothing. Nevertheless, our understanding of modesty is determined by context. In societies with traditional gender roles, it is generally accepted that men’s clothing should fit loosely and not be overly revealing or tight-fitting, while women’s clothing should not be too revealing or form-fitting. This has traditionally been the basis for understanding the meaning of modesty in the eyes of God.
Modesty has a deeper but often forgotten sense within the discussion of Christian modesty. It is the idea of total self-control. In 1 Peter 5:5, Paul writes, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” This passage is a reminder that modesty is not just about clothing, but rather a total attitude of self-control and humility, which can be seen in both what one wears and in how one acts.
Overall, the Bible does not specify detailed rules about what to wear, but instead offers broadly stated standards of decency, humility, and respect. However, society continues to debate over the meaning and interpretation of modesty. Thus, it is up to individual believers to seek a personal definition within the teachings of the Bible.
Importance of Modesty in the Bible
The Bible has a lot to say about dressing modestly, and it has become a fundamental aspect of Christian living. This is because modesty is viewed as a way to bring honor to God. The Bible teaches that when we live modestly, we demonstrate our respect for ourselves and for our bodies, since all human beings are made in the image of God. Additionally, living modestly is seen as a way to show respect for each other and the world around us. The Bible’s teachings about modesty echo the phrase “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:31).
When we dress modestly, it serves as a reminder that God should be the center of our lives, and not the worldly values that so often seek to define us. The Bible notes that when we adhere to God’s standards, we will discover true fulfilment. Therefore, dressing modestly is viewed as a means to help us focus our attention on the things of God.
How to Respect the Bible’s Teachings on Modesty
Knowing the Bible’s teachings regarding modesty is only the first step. The next is putting them into practice. As an individual, one can choose to dress modestly as a way of honoring God and as an outward expression of a commitment to Christian values.
It is also important to remember that while dressing modestly is an outward expression of faith, it is not always enough. The Bible reminds us that the “heart” matters most in the eyes of God (Matthew 12:34). Therefore, true Christian modesty is about much more than simply clothing; it is about living a life devoted to godliness. Ultimately, it is about living a life of humility and self-control.
A Sign of Holiness
The Bible teaches us that modesty is a sign of holiness. We are instructed to dress in a way that shows respect for ourselves and God – not in a way that gratifies our own desires or pleasures. We are to put on the “garments of holiness”, as the book of Isaiah puts it, which includes our dress, our thoughts and our behaviour (Isaiah 64:6). We should strive to be holy in both our outward and inward adornment.
The Bible has made it clear that any way of dressing that would provoke lust, dishonor God and bring shame and guilt upon ourselves is unacceptable. Modest dressing is more than just a fashion choice, it is a way of living in accordance with the Bible’s declaration that we must be “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).
The Bible’s Perspective on Modesty Around the World
The Bible’s teachings on modesty can be found all over the world, from Europe to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Although the language and customs may vary from culture to culture, the Bible’s principles of modesty remain the same. Additionally, the Bible emphasizes the same principle of respect for self, others, and God in every culture.
Modesty in dress is an integral part of many faiths around the world and is often an expression of modesty in thought, speech, and deed. While traditional values related to modesty in dress may differ across cultures, certain general principles remain consistent with the Bible’s viewpoint. These include avoiding clothing that reveals too much of the body, wearing attire that is not provocative or reveling, and dressing in a manner that demonstrates honor and respect for both self and others.
In conclusion, it is clear that the Bible has a great deal to say about the importance of modesty in dressing. Respect for oneself, respect for others, and respect for our Creator are the primary focuses of modesty, according to Christian teachings. Therefore, it is essential to take the Bible’s teachings on modesty seriously, and to ensure that our dress and attitude is reflective of godliness, modesty, and respect for our fellow mankind.