Modesty Is Always Beautiful
When you think of modern fashion, what comes to mind? Likely the word "modesty" does not come to mind. Have you even paid attention to the immodest clothing or behavior in every day society, or have you become numb or desensitized to it? Have you seen much the same fashions in your church? Many come before the Lord, even in His places of worship, adorned immodestly.
This all leads to the question: Why is modesty morally necessary?
While it is true that Paul addresses women in this passage from 1st Timothy, modesty is not gender specific, but is essential to both men and women. Sadly many men only consider women when discussing issues of modesty and comportment, never addressing the fact that many men dress and conduct themselves immodestly and crudely. Modesty is a principle for everyone.
What is the Biblical basis for modesty as a moral necessity?
1. Women are just as attracted by a man's appearance as a man is by a woman's.
Examples: Potiphar's wife- Joseph was handsome and attractive to her. (Gen. 39:6-7), Shulamite- My beloved is dazzling, his head, hair, mouth, abdomen, etc. (Song of Songs 5:10-16)
"Much more must we keep from shameful deeds. On the one hand we must keep from exhibiting and exposing parts of the body that we should not. And on the other hand, we must keep from looking at what is forbidden..."- Clement of Alexandria
2. There are people with unnatural desires who may be attracted to the appearance of their own gender.
Examples: Sodom (Gen. 19), Benjamites (Judges 20-21)
"The sin of Sodom is contrary to nature."- Apostolic Constitutions
3. Men are strongly attracted by a woman's physical appearance.
Examples: Abraham feared he would be killed for Sarah. (Gen 12:11-12; Gen. 26:7) This indicates the power of feminine beauty over fallen man.
"By no manner of means are women to be allowed to uncover and exhibit any part of their person. Otherwise, both may fall- the men by being excited to look; the women, by drawing to themselves the eyes of men." - Clement of Alexandria
Some might say men are “irresistibly” attracted and this is natural, so we shouldn't count this as sinful, but this isn't the case.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."- I Cor. 10:13 (ESV)
Furthermore, Jesus clearly explained that to look in order to lust is adultery.
"But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."- Matthew 5:28 (ESV)
So modesty is morally necessary to guard both ourselves and our brothers and sisters against temptation and sin. Essentially we're loving our neighbor as ourselves through the virtue of modesty.
Lets look at these verses in 1st Timothy a little closer and give them some context.
Verse 9 says “likewise also”, referring back to verse 8 where he says:
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;"- I Timothy 2:8 (ESV)
Essentially holy hands here refers to holy lives. That is, our external behavior backs up our internal behavior (prayer). Applying this to modesty as Paul does in verse 9 we can see that he is addressing how one's external behavior (modesty) relates to one's internal character.
In I Timothy- The Greek word for modest means- appropriate, suitable (verse 9),
Self control implies respectfully discreet, using propriety, sobriety and thoughtful awareness of what is best.
So from this we can say that a Biblical definition of modesty would be: Firstly a heart attitude, and second an expression of that attitude in demeanor, deportment and clothing.
Essentially Paul is admonishing women (and by using the universal principle of loving others as ourselves) men to:
- wear proper clothing,
- in a way that reflects a sense of shame or honor,
- and with good works.
*A sermon by J. Davila-Ashcraft