What Does The Bible Say About Showing Off Your Body

Affirming Biblical Views On The Value Of Modesty

As people of faith, Christians are called to dress in a modest way based on the teachings of the Bible. The Bible speaks out against showing off the body for attention and pride. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul writes: “…Women should dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Additionally, the Bible calls out clothing as something to be used to submit to God’s authority (Genesis 3:21, Colossians 3:20) and to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31).

These scriptures make it clear that the idea of clothing as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves clashes with the biblical principles of modesty and humility. Martin Luther, the 16th century theologian and church leader, captured this idea when he wrote, “Be humble and do not flaunt your apparel and pearls. He who desires glory for such trifles and such foolishness does indeed deserve to be an unbeliever, a heathen, and a papist.”

The Bible and Christian traditions alike also warn against the harm that can come from an over-emphasis on fashion and appearance. In the Old Testament book of James, it is written: “…Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

From this, it can be inferred that excessive attention to purchasing clothing and focusing on vanity with clothing can hurt a person’s character, as well as their spirit, as they see their worth in the clothes they wear or the attention they receive. Church-based studies of dress codes have also identified the link between revealing clothing and the objectification of one’s body, which harms self-image and may lead to further danger.

The comparison of clothing and clothing styles to one’s faith has been around for centuries. In his work, Plain Style: Modes of Rhetoric in the Romantic Period, Thomas Pfau notes that the early Christians compared clothing to morality, making it clear that there was a difference between respectable apparel and clothing that was seen as distracting or inappropriate. This idea that clothing is a reflection of faith is echoed in the New Testament book of Romans, which advises believers to clothe themselves with Christ.

Building on this, it is clear that how a person chooses to dress should not be done in a way that is prideful or disrespectful. Instead, clothing choices should reflect an individual’s faith, as well as validate and affirm the worth of all human beings.

Seeing Clothing Within The Larger Spiritual Picture

In addition to the view of clothing being connected to one’s faith and spiritual life, through biblical writings and church-based studies, there is also a focus on clothing being a sign of respect for oneself and for others. The bible is full of stories of how people were judged according to how they were clothed, most notably in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. The Scriptures point to clothing as being something that can make a statement of respect, or lack thereof, in society.

Furthermore, the Bible talks about clothing as physical protection, not just a way to draw attention to oneself. In his book, The World Turning: Explorations in Environmental Ethics, Mark A. Noll writes, “Clothing as protection is a biblical image, as when God covers Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3); as with Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, when instructed to cover themselves in humiliation; and as with John the Baptist, when wearing a garment of camel hair.” It is clear from this passage that clothing should be used to make the wearer feel respected, rather than to draw attention or create feelings of superiority.

Additionally, the Scriptures also indicate that clothing is an outward expression of one’s inner beliefs and values. This is indicated in Galatians 3:27, which states: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This verse makes it clear that clothing should serve as a reminder of one’s faith, rather than an expression of pride.

In the past, many religious groups and denominations have had very specific rules and regulations regarding dress and modesty, which have evolved and changed over time. Today, many who identify as Christian have turned away from stricter dress regulations, but the basic biblical principle remains the same: clothing should not be used as a tool to draw attention or elevate one’s status in society.

How Modesty Can Help To Improve Our Relationships

Beyond the spiritual implications, there is a practical aspect to dressing modestly that can help improve one’s relationships. In an article for The Good Men Project, Jenny Schuetz writes, “Dressing modestly can help us be more self-aware and can encourage us to engage our behavior and conversations in a more meaningful and constructive way.” In other words, dressing modestly encourages the idea that it is more important to engage in meaningful and respectful interactions than to draw attention to our appearance.

This view is echoed by Alice Burron, a spiritual director and retreat leader for the Association of Interchurch Families. She notes that there are also social implications to modesty: “In our modern, over-sexualized culture, it can be hard to recognize which clothing choices are appropriate and which are not. There can be pressure to dress in a certain way, or to wear something that shows off the body. But modesty helps to remind us to look past the surface and see into each person’s soul.”

One of the primary lessons of modesty is that it helps to build relationships, rather than tear them down. When we choose to dress moderately, we are sending a message to those around us that we respect them and their beliefs. By dressing modestly we can demonstrate to those around us that we value and prioritize the relationships we have with them.

At the end of the day, the idea of dressing modestly will look different to different people based on individual beliefs and values. But the overall principle remains: clothing should be used to respect and affirm the worth of all individuals, not to draw attention to one’s own glory.

Putting The Biblical View Of Modesty Into Practice

The Bible gives great direction on how to dress modestly, but how do we put it into practice today? In an article for UNCHANGING Magazine, Anne Henneberger offers some practical advice: “What is important is that your clothing choice should make you feel respected. Not only by others, but also by God. When deciding what to wear, ask yourself if your outfit respects your body, your identity and your relationships.”

At the same time, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Fashion evolves and changes over time, and what may be considered modest in one culture may be quite different than what is considered modest in another. Ultimately, it is up to individuals to make clothing choices that are in line with their own situation and beliefs.

In terms of what clothing is considered “modest”, the Bible does not provide specific guidance on that. However, the Bible does provide general guidelines to help guide us. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This passage serves as a reminder that we should be making clothing choices that are a reflection of our faith and values, rather than just following along with the trends of the world.

In essence, the Bible’s call to modesty is not about repressing ourselves or conforming to unrealistic standards. Rather, it is about recognizing the importance of modesty and the role it plays in our relationships- with ourselves, with others, and with God.

Real-World Examples of Modesty In Action

Of course, it can be helpful to see modesty in action beyond the Bible, and there are several inspiring examples of individuals and organizations who have embraced modesty in their everyday lives. For example, Abundant Life women’s ministries are dedicated to helping women find their purpose in life and to embrace a lifestyle of modesty. This ministry is focused on helping women search for spiritual clarity and purpose through clothing choices, quotes, and reading plans.

The Modest World organization is another great example of modesty in action. The website features profiles of women who are modestly and fashionably dressed, demonstrating that modesty is both trendy and possible. Additionally, Modest World provides resources for designing clothing for wedding dresses and special occasion needs, proving that modesty does not have to mean sacrificing style.

In a similar vein, ModLi is a fashion marketplace that showcases clothing from modest fashion brands from around the world. The website provides a platform for modest fashion, helping to promote clothing from a variety of cultural backgrounds. By showcasing clothing from a variety of brands, ModLi demonstrates that a diverse range of fashion is possible when dressed modestly.

Finally, the #BeModest movement began in the UK in 2019, with the goal of encouraging women to feel empowered in their wardrobe choices, regardless of size or shape. This initiative provides resources and inspiration for thoughtfully dressing to make a woman feel confident. According to the website, “We believe feeling good and looking good should go hand in hand, with both, modest and modern style alike, celebrated.”

From the organizations discussed above to the inspiring examples of individuals who dress modestly, there is no shortage of evidence that modesty is both fashionable and empowering. From the Biblical view point and beyond, it is clear that modesty is not about repressing ourselves, but rather about showing respect and affirmation of our own body.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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