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I don’t know if modest is hottest, but I do know that modesty is biblical.

It is one of the marks of the confusion of our age that so many teenagers and young adults are more ashamed to dress with modest reserve than to very nearly undress entirely. Even after we give full throat to the necessary caveats–being pretty (or handsome) is not a sin, working to improve your appearance does not have to be vanity, the line between modest and immodest is not always black and white–we are still left with the undeniable biblical fact that God considers modesty a virtue and its opposite a vice.

Here are five biblical reasons Christians should embrace modesty as a God-designed, God-desired good thing.

1. Modesty protects what is intimate. There is a certain strand of feminism which says women should be proud of their sexual prowess and that any insistence they cover up what they don’t feel like covering up only serves to reinforce patriarchal notions that men have the right to determine what women do with their bodies. But the Bible’s call to modesty is not based on the supposed naughtiness of the female form. God’s good command to cover up is not meant to punish, but to protect. As Wendy Shalit writes, “The pressure on girls today to take sexy selfies comes out of a culture that routinely equates modesty with shame, instead of recognizing it for what it really is: an impulse that protects what is precious and intimate.” The common refrain of the bride–“do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7)–is a call from one woman to a group of single women to save sexual arousal and sexual activity for its proper time, with the proper person, in the proper place.

2. Modesty accepts that our bodies also live in community. What does that mean? It means that while it sounds nice to say, “It’s my body. If I want to let it all hang out, that’s my business.” This is to forget that our bodies exists in a wider network of relationships, just like our speech does, and our actions, our will, and our desires. How we dress is not determined by how others wished we would dress. And yet, it would be sub-Christian to act as if the spiritual state of those around us was inconsequential.

Before going any further, let me state this as clearly as possible: men are responsible for their adultery, for their fornication, for their pornographic viewing, for their lust, and for their (heaven forbid) sexual assault, regardless of how a woman dresses. The Bible does not enjoin modesty on either sex because the opposite sex is simply incapable of keeping its pants on and its thoughts in check. Listen men: if Potiphar’s wife were to barge in and dance a bare-bellied jig on your kitchen table and strip you down to your birthday suit, you would still not be excused in committing adultery with her. The absence of modesty in one party does not justify the absence of restraint in another.

Having said all that, does not the law of love suggest that we should want to avoid enticing others into sin? The phrase “with lustful intent” in Matthew 5:28 is translated by some scholars (D.A. Carson among them): “so as to get her lust.” The meaning, then, instead of being about lust in the man’s heart, would be about the man wanting to get a woman to lust after him. Whether one accepts this minority position or not, it’s still a fair application to think that Jesus’ statement forbids us from having a heart attitude that lusts and a heart attitude that wants to be lusted after. Some people want to see pornography and others want to be pornography. Maybe not in a literal sense, but there are men and women who crave the power, the attention, and the status that comes from being noticed and sought after. This entices others to sin and is in itself sinful.

3. Modesty operates with the Bible’s negative assessment of public nudity post-Fall. From Adam and Eve scrambling for fig leaves (Gen. 3:10), to the dishonorable nakedness of Noah (Gen. 9:21), to the embarrassingly exposed buttocks of David’s men (2 Sam. 10:4), the Bible knows we inhabit a fallen world in which certain aspects of our bodily selves are meant to be hidden. Indeed, this is precisely what Paul presumes when he speaks of “our unpresentable parts” which must be “treated with greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). There’s a reason momma called them private parts.

 4. Modesty embraces the strong biblical admonition to refrain from sensuality. Sensuality (Gk: aselgeia) is a distinguishing characteristic of the flesh and one of the marks of the pagan world (Gal. 5:19; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; 2 Pet. 2:2, 18). Does the word give us exact instructions on where good taste trips over into sensuality–how long skirts can be, what sort of bathing suit to wear, or whether beefy men need to run around shirtless when its 60 degrees in Michigan? No. But surely we can agree that it is not uncommon for men and women to dress in ways which only add to the look and feel of our culture’s ubiquitous sensuality. If the word aselgeia suggests sexual excess (TDNT), we would do well to consider whether the desire behind our deportment is to starve this sensual beast or to sate it.

5. Modesty demonstrates to others that we have more important things to offer than good looks and sex appeal. The point of 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 is not an absolute prohibition against trying to look nice. The prohibition is against trying so very hard to look good in all the ways that are so relatively unimportant. The question asked of women in these verses–and it certainly applies to men as well–is this: will you grab people’s attention with hair and jewelry and sexy clothes or will your presence in the room be unmistakable because of your Christlike character? Immodest dress tells the world, “I’m not sure I have anything more to offer than this. What you see is really all you get.”

Let me state the obvious: the Bible has no pictures. There is no inspired how-to manual for getting dressed in the morning. There are matters of culture, conscience, and context which surely come into place. I have no checklist to check off before you head out the door.

But if the Bible is to be believed, this whole business of modesty is not irrelevant to Christian discipleship. Our bodies have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body (1 Cor. 6:20). Which means we don’t show everyone everything we might think is worth seeing. And it means we won’t be embarrassed to keep most private those things that are most precious. Shame is a powerful category, in the Bible and in our own day.  The key is knowing what things we should actually be ashamed of.

 

 


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38 thoughts on “The Lost Virtue of Modesty”

  1. Christy Keyton says:

    Thank you. This is what I have taught my girls. I wish more mothers would talk to their daughters about this. You must start young- ridiculous how even little girls are dressing seductively. And the issue must address the heart and that as believers all we do is to glorify God.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great article. I would also add that modesty extends beyond our dress (though I think deYoung was also saying that) and into how we share/not share our lives. I am amazed at the lack of “modesty” with regard to people sharing intimate details of their personal lives for all the world to see. The new trend is post every cute video of your baby or husband doing something sweet and chivalrous….but why do these things, though good, need to be broadcast? (Obviously there is a difference between sharing with your friends and family, I’m more talking about all the youtube sensations out there, of dads videoing themselves taking an infant daughter on a date….) I wonder whatever happened to being modest about the precious, intimate moments of our lives. Why must we expose all of those moments and precious memories? Clearly this is not totally on topic, but as I have thought more about the modesty issue in terms of dress, it seems like the two almost go hand in hand. Makes me think of that new song I hear on the radio all the time…”I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are”….seems the general mindset of the world is that we should not be ashamed of anything, even our sin. So, you see it in dress, and in every facet of life. Just my two cents! Great article.

  3. Jodi says:

    Thank you for this. This seems to be a popular topic of late. I’ve not heard such a clear, consise explanation. I wasn’t raised with a standard of dress or modesty. I was left up to my own conscience as a young girl. Thankfully I always felt conviction to be modest. Now, as a mother to a young boy and a baby girl, I’m shocked to see immodesty everywhere. Even some of the baby girl clothes are questionable. Seriously!?

  4. Tim says:

    While I can’t disagree with the tenants of this article, why is it that discussions of “modesty” always talks about women (I can say in my almost 39 years, I haven’t heard a Christian discussion about modest men), and most often, only anecdotally discusses the face that modesty covers more than dress.
    It also gets people riled up about their own opinions of what is modest and what is not. Where is the challenge to go deep with God and learn on your own what is modest. Encourage young men and young women to learn what is “modest” in the full sense of the term. I understand that the Bible has no pictures, but that’s not the FULL definition of “modesty.” The Bible DOES talk about our speech, actions, attitudes, and thoughts. It DOES talk about our heart.
    I guess I’m saying let’s get away from a list of 5 reasons, or 12 ways to, or 3 top desires of, and get down to the heart. God is more interested in our heart anyway. Then out of it will come the issues of life.

  5. Mike says:

    Great article to be sure. I agree with the last commentor in a way. As a culture we are too caught up in a “12” step method so that we have a list to check off but as people we do need direction on issues so that we can have an idea what we should be considering at least. Hopefully lists offered up like this WILL spurs us on to other thoughts concerning this subject just like the ones already generated. Also a good book on this by a non-Christian is A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit.

  6. Rob Mason says:

    This article seems to trip over itself to miss the point that modesty is a heart attitude, and is not about ‘dress’ in the same way that worship is about the heart not about ‘singing’.

    I’ve made some comments on my blog link.
    http://bit.ly/modestylost

  7. Mike says:

    Actually Rob your statement is wrong…modesty is about dress as the outward working of an inward attitude as mush as worship is about singing given the literally hundreds of times God commands us to sing as an outward sign of the joy we are to have in our relationship with our Lord. To say what you did is disingenuous to the Scriptures to be sure. While many of your remarks on your blog have some merit do not forget the many commands we have to outward show what we believe. That outward expression reveals what’s in our hearts.

  8. You can definitely see your skills within the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  9. Linda says:

    I have long felt that if one can not do something while modestly dressed, then perhaps they should rethink whether they should be doing that activity. Also, I believe that if your underwear is exposed, you are NOT modestly dressed, whether you’re male or female.

  10. anaquaduck says:

    The religion of flaunt is alive & well in social media & the west in general & I agree with those who believe that our dress or lack of it is an outward expression of an inward thing.

  11. JohnM says:

    ” Immodest dress tells the world, “I’m not sure I have anything more to offer than this. What you see is really all you get.” Wasn’t the old refrain “Don’t objectify me!”? The old school feminists had a point or two after all. Whatever happened to that?

  12. A Wheelr says:

    While I do agree that modesty is an outflow of the heart, I think that this day and age is good to teach and give practical ways to display modesty. And, yes, I do think that it should apply to men as well. I think this a good list to help people examine themselves in the area of modesty.

    I’ll add that I abhor the saying, “Modest is hottest.” The point of modesty is not to be hottest but glorify God and put the attention on Christ. Now I’ll hush before I end up on a soapbox.

  13. Amy says:

    I’m a fairly young person (28) and have had quite a journey when it comes to the idea of modesty. Gradually, I have become more conservative in my style of dress, though it hasn’t necessarily been a conscious thing. I think that as I have matured in my faith, the style of clothing that attracts me more is one that covers more than it reveals. Every once in a while, I clean out my closet, look at a dress or a particular outfit and think, “Huh. I used to wear that?”

    Looking back, I can see that I had some very poisonous mindsets about attire and behavior that contributed to me being a very immodest person. The biggest one was the idea of fairness. It often bothered me that a girl who was five feet tall and small-chested could wear shorts and a tank top and look completely appropriate while I looked, well, not at all appropriate in the exact same outfit because I am tall and have a fuller chest. It also bothered me that it seemed like only young and attractive women were called out for being immodest when there were older and less attractive women wearing plenty of questionable things. I don’t know when it was, but God grew me to the point where I finally asked myself, “Why am I more concerned about what is fair than what is pleasing to God?” Was it fair? Probably not, but that was besides the point.

    One thing that has really struck me is the quote “modesty is humility in dress.” It’s something I have tried to abide by during recent shopping trips and I’ve found there are still plenty of fun and fashionable clothing options that my husband will appreciate and I will enjoy wearing.

    As a side note to A Wheelr, I think the phrase “modest is hottest” is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and simply used as a way to humorously encourage folks to dress and behave modestly. It’s kinda catchy!

  14. Shauna says:

    Amy, Your comment really resonated with me! As a petite woman I have dealt with that as well.
    This is an excellent article and I am glad it came from a respected Pastor with a biblical take on it – oh that more Christians would be concerned with how we are commanded to behave and present ourselves! His book on The Holes in our Holiness is excellent too, we got the CD’s too so we can pass them around :-)

  15. Marian says:

    There’s a reason this post can’t address the many valid points that could be made about modesty from a Biblical perspective. It would cease to be a post and would turn into a book. DeYoung makes no claims that this is an exhaustive look at modesty, one that covers the motivations of the heart and also gets at the other forms of immodesty — like over-sharing in social media. We have 5 thoughtful reasons that modesty is a virtue, no more and no less. In a saturated media world, it’s a gift to find rich, yet succinct content. And I for one appreciate that there’s no checklist here. If the law is written on our hearts, we can trust God to lead us {and to provide others in our lives who point us to truth} in this area. As a mom to three kids nearing adolescence or already there, I appreciate this post. And as a woman, I appreciate that an inordinate share of the responsibility isn’t placed on us. It’s one of the few pieces I’ve read on modesty that left me feeling encouraged instead of guilty or frustrated. Thanks for that.

  16. David Martin says:

    Unfortunately, Mr. DeYoung’s points are not biblical, but only reflect the current Christian Culture’s prevailing–and false–thoughts on modesty.

  17. David Martin says:

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with your premise and your points. The reason? They are actually not biblical.

    I could point to lots of things that you’ve declared that cannot be backed up with Scripture, but instead, I’ll just select one point from your intro, each of the 5 points, and your closing paragraphs.

    First of all, in your opening statement, you say, I do know that modesty is biblical. Not true. At least not the kind of “modesty” that tells women to keep their bodies covered. It starts with have a problem with definitions… because the true definition of “modesty” is to show a moderate view of one’s own worth. And on that point, I would agree… that the Bible does teach it. But the “keep your body covered” sort of “modesty” is not found in the Bible at all, yet that is what is presumed in your article. The only passage that seems to address “modesty” in attire is 1 Tim. 2:9, and it’s

    very clear there that Paul is not talking about body coverage… he’s talking about avoiding ostentation. In fact, that passage AND 1 Peter 3:3 both contain a distinct DE-emphasis on clothing. (For a careful study on the real meaning of 1 Tim 2:8-10, see this article: https://www.scribd.com/doc/19510245/Rightly-Dividing-1-Timothy-2-9 )

    [to be continued]

  18. David Martin says:

    1. You mention “God’s good command to cover up … but God never gave us a command to “cover up.” Period. You seem to assume that He did, but you will find it impossible to demonstrate in the Old or New Testaments.

    2. You said “we should want to avoid enticing others into sin…” Stated as I’ve quoted it, it is a true statement, but the clear implication of your admonition within the “modesty” context is that the “enticement” is to be understood as “exposing the body.” You have bought into the lie that the simple sight of the human form is first and foremost a sexual experience. And that to allow your body to be seen is tantamount to enticement to sexual sin. Yet, this too is completely foreign to the pages of Scripture. Nowhere does God tell men to avoid the sight of a woman’s body. Nowhere does it ever tell women to not let men see their bodies. Furthermore, the Bible never gives us any regulation or instruction that to overcome lust, we must avoid certain sights. In other words, the most common strategy taught to men to overcome lust in their lives is a strategy that cannot be found in the Bible.

    [to be continued]

  19. David Martin says:

    3. You said, “Paul presumes when he speaks of ‘our unpresentable parts’ which must be ‘treated with greater modesty.'” This is a horrible translation in the NIV that you quoted, for it falsely introduces a hostility towards the genitals that is not in the original language, nor does it contribute to the correct understanding of Paul’s teaching about the Church.. There is simply no justification for it. In this case, the KJV got it right… the body parts are “uncomely” (check the Greek… that’s what it really means). Ok… so genitals aren’t that pretty, but does that mean they are

    “unpresentable”? And they are not “treated with special modesty” (NIV), but rather, they “have more abundant comeliness” (KJV got it right… again, check the Greek). Finally, Paul is not teaching about the human body, really, he’s trying to teach us about the Church, and the different roles people play in the Church. If we apply your interpretation (from the NIV) to the Church, We would be forced to conclude that there are certain people that are part of the body of Christ that we need to keep “covered” or hidden! NO! Rather, Paul is saying that we should extol the “abundant comeliness” of those that are easily overlooked or that do not naturally attract our admiration. (I’ve written a paper where I cover the horrific application of this passage that you’ve used here in greater detail than this summary… https://www.scribd.com/doc/78436574/Squeamish-Translating See Part 5)

    [to be continued]

  20. David Martin says:

    4. You said, “Modesty embraces the strong biblical admonition to refrain from sensuality.” Yes, the Bible tells us to avoid sensuality, but the “modesty” that you are talking about (keep your body covered) is never associated in the Bible with avoiding sexuality. It might indeed have the “appearance of wisdom,” but it is still a man-made association… and a man-made rule. And Paul tells us not only to avoid such man-made rules, but he unequivocally proclaims that “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion… , but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (emphasis mine) It doesn’t matter how much sense a man-made rule makes… it will not help us avoid sensuality. Period.

    [to be continued]

  21. David Martin says:

    5. You said, “will you grab people’s attention with hair and jewelry and sexy clothes…” The Bible does not say “sexy clothes.” That is adding to Scripture, plain and simple. Neither Paul nor Peter are talking about how “sexy” a woman dresses… they are talking about dressing to impress…. ostentation… putting wealth on display. Neither of these passages command clothing. Neither tell a woman what to cover… which body parts are forbidden to expose. The fact is that we have made these passages about cleavage and hemlines when Paul was really talking about not showing off wealth, and Peter was talking about acting (not dressing) with quietness and humility.

    [to be continued]

  22. David Martin says:

    In your concluding paragraph you said, “There is no inspired how-to manual for getting dressed in the morning. There are matters of culture, conscience, and context which surely come into place. I have no checklist to check off before you head out the door. This is the best thing you said in your entire article. But what you don’t see is that in spite of this admission of the truth, you still believe that God does have a standard for how we are supposed to dress… a “checklist.” This is biblically indefensible, by your own admission.

    In your closing line you said, :The key is knowing what things we should actually be ashamed of. The answer is, “nothing.” Shame is not God’s will for His chilren… ever! Shame about our bodies or any portion of them is not God’s will for us. The Bible never tells us that we must express shame. God made us as whole persons… including our gender-specific physiology. There was no shame in the beginning (by God’s will and declaration! — Gen. 2:25) and there is no shame in simply body exposure now (for God has not changed). We are made in God’s image. To be ashamed of that image on our bodies is to revisit and recommit Adam’s and Eve’s sin… running to cover our bodies when God called our naked bodies “very good.” When WE call them shameful, we insult the One whose image is found there.

    In your article, you have coated cultural mores (even those of Church culture) with a blanket of pseudo-interpretation of the Bible to support its the culture’s conclusions. God’s truth is true, regardless of cultural perception. And when that truth countermands the cultural mores, the truth must be proclaimed anyway.

    David Martin

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  24. John K says:

    Moderator(s), as hard as it is to follow, I think that Bryan Rinauro’s comment is spam, advertising, or blatant trolling in that vein.

  25. John K says:

    @David Martin We can debate the merits of Kevin DeYoung’s article. What I don’t see in your comments is any indication that it would ever be wrong to show off too much of your body or be naked in the presence of others. Whether this is your meaning or not, I’m not sure, but I will propose some Bible passages which speak to these issues:
    1. Genesis 3:21 says that God made clothes for Adam and Eve and clothed them. This is not something they did on their own, this is something that God did. Keep in mind that there weren’t any other humans around, but even though they were they only two around, God still found it necessary to give them clothes. The principle is the normalization of wearing clothes and covering up. Nothing in the rest of the Bible gives of hint of a change from this.
    2. Genesis 9:21-25 reinforces the Genesis 3 passage above. The brothers were so concerned about not seeing their father’s nakedness that they turned around and did not look at him when they covered him up.
    3. David and the Ammonites about the men having their garments cut off by their hips/buttocks.
    4. When the New Testament uses the term lasciviousness (or differently translated terms in the same way), such as in Galatians 5:19, certainly included in this would be dressing to emphasize sexuality (for someone other than a spouse)
    5. If there is no shame in nakedness at all, then there is at least a small lessening of understanding what Christ went through on the cross, since he was crucified naked.
    I can at least appreciate that we should not feel like we are horrible people because of the bodies we have, and so we shouldn’t feel shame in that sense. God gave us bodies, and we should be thankful for them, and take care of them. At the same time our bodies are not good in the same sense that they were before the Fall. They are subject to sickness and death, and they should be used properly, in accordance with I Corinthians 6 “Flee sexual immorality.” Basic covering up is a part of that, and follows from the passages above, and it also follows that we should not be dressing intentionally to titillate each other, and we should also be careful about unnecessarily arousing each other unintentionally as well.

  26. John K says:

    Since I didn’t mention it above, the account of David and the Ammonites is in 1 Chronicles 19:1-5ff. Certainly these men felt ashamed about the way they were treated, both on account of the beard and their garments being cut off.

  27. David Martin says:

    John K, Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    We have a very significant problem in Western Christendom today… and that is that we have a unbiblical view of the human body, yet that view has reached the point of accepted orthodoxy, such that anyone that does not ascribe to the accepted view, they are viewed with suspicion and/or considered heretical. Yet, that view is utterly indefensible from Scripture, provided we disallow sloppy exegesis and flimsy logic.

    Unfortunately, John, your statements are–like Kevin’s–not truly biblical, and they don’t hold up under careful scrutiny. Rather, they are more examples of the pseudo-interpretation that I mentioned previously which is used to undergird the false view of the Body that the church holds today. I challenge you to seriously question your adherence to that view… and be more rigid with your approach to discerning God’s truth from His word on this topic.

    Having said that, allow me to demonstrate what I mean by responding to the passages you have referenced.

    1. You said in reference to Gen. 3:21, “God still found it necessary to give them clothes. The principle is the normalization of wearing clothes and covering up. Nothing in the rest of the Bible gives of hint of a change from this. Here you presume two things which are completely absent in the text:

    A. That God’s purpose for the clothing was for “covering” (from view) rather than for “protection” (from cold or thorns outside the Garden). While God’s stated purpose is absent in the text, there is no basis to conclude that God covered the First Couple because He now wanted all mankind to cover their bodies. If we were to conclude that He did, then how can we maintain the notion that being uncovered with our own spouse is OK with God?

    B. That God expects all people to “cover” their bodies. There is no such command in the passage! God knows how to relate stories, and God knows how to give commands. And when He chooses, He is able to tell a story and then give a comment (See Gen. 2:22-24 for an example of story+command). But the relating of a narrative never constitutes a “command” in Scripture.

    Since there is no “command” from God about clothing, how could you ever expect that the bible would give a “hint of a change” from that which wasn’t established to start with? A better question is to ask why–if God really does want people to always be “covered”–God never gave us (or reiterated) a clear command to wear clothing! My point is that Gen. 3:21 does not constitute a command for clothing, so basing other discussions on that presumption cannot be considered to be based on the truth of God’s Word.

    [to be continued]

  28. David Martin says:

    2. You said, “Genesis 9:21-25 reinforces the Genesis 3 passage above. The brothers were so concerned about not seeing their father’s nakedness that they turned around and did not look at him when they covered him up.

    First of all, there’s nothing to “reinforce” about Gen. 2:21 because God didn’t give us any command to reinforce. Secondly, while we know the story is true–because it’s God’s word–we don’t have any direction from God as to what we’re supposed to learn from the story. There’s absolutely no divine commentary on it. No command… no accolades for Shem and Japheth. Just a story and a curse. The one thing we CAN conclude from this story is when and how the Canaanites were cursed. But it is not a story about the right/wrong about drunkenness (that’s found elsewhere in the Bible), nor is it direction about honoring parents (that’s found in the Decalogue). And it is not given so that we have a pattern to follow about simple nakedness (we have no idea what the cultural mores or views were about the events that transpired that day).

    3. The story about David and the Ammonites reflects cultural perception, not divine perspective. If we were to conclude from this story that God considers genital exposure to be shameful, shouldn’t we also conclude that God considers the shaving of a man’s beard to be shameful? Isn’t that just as much a part of the story as the chopped up clothing? No, we can’t just pick and choose which parts of a story are “God’s perspective” and which parts are culturally discerned if God does not tell us in the text which is which.

    4. You said, “When the New Testament uses the term lasciviousness (or differently translated terms in the same way), such as in Galatians 5:19, certainly included in this would be dressing to emphasize sexuality (for someone other than a spouse)” Of course, I have to agree with the assertion that dressing to emphasize sexuality is a problem, but I also add that it is a problem of the heart, not of the body. Here again, I sense in your assertion an assumption that the exposed body is intended by God to be interpreted as a sexual expression by the one exposed, and a sexual event by the one observing. That assumption is completely indefensible from the Scriptures. When God gives us moral direction regarding our sexual conduct, He never frames it in terms of “keeping covered.” There are no commands regarding covering the breasts, for example. Why cover the breasts but not the face? Isn’t the face more beautiful than any other body part?

    The problem is that in our culture, we have defined the breasts as “sexual” whether exposed or observed, so we have applied to the exposure of the breasts all the regulations that God has given us about sexual conduct. Yet, that connection is unbiblical. It is cultural. Breasts are not sexual, they are maternal (the overwhelming majority of references to breasts in Scripture are maternal). If we are going to think biblically about breasts, then we must lay aside the sexually objectifying view of breasts that pervades our culture and drives much of current Christian mores about attire.

    [to be continued]

  29. David Martin says:

    5. You said, “If there is no shame in nakedness at all, then there is at least a small lessening of understanding what Christ went through on the cross, since he was crucified naked. Here, you are applying your own impressions about the “shame” of nakedness to the Cross, when God never framed it that way in the Scriptures. The fact is that Jesus’ nakedness on the Cross is a non-event in the inspired text. We wouldn’t even know for sure that He truly was naked except that extra-biblical history that we have regarding Roman crucifixion practices. The Bible assigns no special meaning to that fact, and certainly assigns no “shame” to the nudity.

    Furthermore, it completely overlooks the fact that This was not the only time in Jesus’ adult life that He was naked publicly.

    A. Check out the history of Jewish baptism (the mikveh) and the recorded practice of the first 3-400 years of Christian baptism… in both cases, full nudity was required! (Don’t take my word on that.. do you own research.)

    B. When Jesus washed the Disciples’ feet in the upper room, the text says that He took off His clothes and–like a servant–served those with Him. The towel that He took up was not put around his waist (as modern translations claim), but most likely–and practically–He draped it over his neck (the Greek word for “gird” is not the one used here… the Greek prefix is “dia-” not “peri-“). (For a full exposition of the basis for my claim here, see this article: https://www.scribd.com/doc/78436574/Squeamish-Translating – Part 2)

    C. When Jesus rose from the dead, the text very specifically tells us that He left his grave clothes in the tomb. This means that Jesus must have come out of the tomb naked! This claim is corroborated by the fact that Mary Magdeline mistook Him for a Gardener. It’s certainly understandable that through her tears, she would not have recognized His face, but she would have had no problem seeing that He was naked, and so she would assume that He was the Gardener, because that’s how gardeners worked in that day (rather than get their one garment soiled with dirt and sweat… clothing was WAY too expensive in those days). This scenario is the only one that I’ve heard that explains how Mary could have possibly assumed that Christ was the gardener.

    Finally, you said, “…in accordance with I Corinthians 6 “Flee sexual immorality.” Basic covering up is a part of that, and follows from the passages above…” Here again, your claim here is completely without biblical foundation, and is totally based on our cultural perceptions about sexuality and nakedness. Neither Paul’s instructions nor the “passages above” ever connect clothing with sexual purity. Never in all the Bible are we told that men avoiding the sight of women’s certain body parts will help them overcome lust. Instead, we find that Jesus’ teaching in Mark 714-23 that ALL such sexual sins come from an impure heart and never from external stimuli.

    This notion that we are supposed to respond to the sight of an unclothed human form with sexual desire and lust is a lie. And it’s a lie that has led untold millions of Christian (and non-Christian) men and women into sexual bondage. I know. I was one of them. But there’s more… The rejection of that lie will lead directly to freedom from that bondage!! How do I know? Because it did for me… and every other person I know who has also rejected that lie!

    That’s why this false teaching about “modesty” really matters. It’s not just a preference to “keep covered,” it’s the expression of a deadly lie that Satan has woven into the fabric of Christian belief systems today. The bondage and destruction that it has wrought would be difficult to overstate.

    And that’s why I and several other pastors established the MyChainsAreGone.org site (http://mychainsaregone.org).

    David Martin

  30. David Martin says:

    5. You said, “If there is no shame in nakedness at all, then there is at least a small lessening of understanding what Christ went through on the cross, since he was crucified naked. Here, you are applying your own impressions about the “shame” of nakedness to the Cross, when God never framed it that way in the Scriptures. The fact is that Jesus’ nakedness on the Cross is a non-event in the inspired text. We wouldn’t even know for sure that He truly was naked except that extra-biblical history that we have regarding Roman crucifixion practices. The Bible assigns no special meaning to that fact, and certainly assigns no “shame” to the nudity.

    Furthermore, it completely overlooks the fact that This was not the only time in Jesus’ adult life that He was naked publicly.

    A. Check out the history of Jewish baptism (the mikveh) and the recorded practice of the first 3-400 years of Christian baptism… in both cases, full nudity was required! (Don’t take my word on that.. do you own research.)

    B. When Jesus washed the Disciples’ feet in the upper room, the text says that He took off His clothes and–like a servant–served those with Him. The towel that He took up was not put around his waist (as modern translations claim), but most likely–and practically–He draped it over his neck (the Greek word for “gird” is not the one used here… the Greek prefix is “dia-” not “peri-“). (For a full exposition of the basis for my claim here, see this article: https://www.scribd.com/doc/78436574/Squeamish-Translating – Part 2)

    C. When Jesus rose from the dead, the text very specifically tells us that He left his grave clothes in the tomb. This means that Jesus must have come out of the tomb naked! This claim is corroborated by the fact that Mary Magdeline mistook Him for a Gardener. It’s certainly understandable that through her tears, she would not have recognized His face, but she would have had no problem seeing that He was naked, and so she would assume that He was the Gardener, because that’s how gardeners worked in that day (rather than get their one garment soiled with dirt and sweat… clothing was WAY too expensive in those days). This scenario is the only one that I’ve heard that explains how Mary could have possibly assumed that Christ was the gardener.
    David Martin

    [to be continued]

  31. David Martin says:

    Finally, you said, “…in accordance with I Corinthians 6 “Flee sexual immorality.” Basic covering up is a part of that, and follows from the passages above…” Here again, your claim here is completely without biblical foundation, and is totally based on our cultural perceptions about sexuality and nakedness. Neither Paul’s instructions nor the “passages above” ever connect clothing with sexual purity. Never in all the Bible are we told that men avoiding the sight of women’s certain body parts will help them overcome lust. Instead, we find that Jesus’ teaching in Mark 714-23 that ALL such sexual sins come from an impure heart and never from external stimuli.

    This notion that we are supposed to respond to the sight of an unclothed human form with sexual desire and lust is a lie. And it’s a lie that has led untold millions of Christian (and non-Christian) men and women into sexual bondage. I know. I was one of them. But there’s more… The rejection of that lie will lead directly to freedom from that bondage!! How do I know? Because it did for me… and every other person I know who has also rejected that lie!

    That’s why this false teaching about “modesty” really matters. It’s not just a preference to “keep covered,” it’s the expression of a deadly lie that Satan has woven into the fabric of Christian belief systems today. The bondage and destruction that it has wrought would be difficult to overstate.

    And that’s why I and several other pastors established the MyChainsAreGone.org site (http://mychainsaregone.org).

    David Martin

  32. meredith nienhuis says:

    @David – some surveys indicate that 50% of christian men, and pastors, are “chained” to pornography. Is that Not a problem? I do not “get” what you are promoting.

    saint mick ;-)

  33. Mark Hafner says:

    David Martin, you said:
    1. “You said in reference to Gen. 3:21, “God still found it necessary to give them clothes. The principle is the normalization of wearing clothes and covering up. Nothing in the rest of the Bible gives of hint of a change from this. Here you presume two things which are completely absent in the text:

    A. That God’s purpose for the clothing was for “covering” (from view) rather than for “protection” (from cold or thorns outside the Garden). While God’s stated purpose is absent in the text, there is no basis to conclude that God covered the First Couple because He now wanted all mankind to cover their bodies. If we were to conclude that He did, then how can we maintain the notion that being uncovered with our own spouse is OK with God?”

    They were still in the garden – protecting from what? But remember the “shame” their nakedness brought to them. God sacrificed and then covered their bodies. Although the scripture doesn’t speak about modesty in general we know by Gods actions we must be covered. Why? For protection? Maybe – but getting thorns on your genitals will not send you to hell. Sexual immorality will which nakedness can influence the thought which leads to the action but as Jesus said just by thinking is like committing the sin. So yes, modesty is taught very much so.

  34. David Martin says:

    Hey, Mark. Thanks for responding.

    You too are just rehearsing the same things you’ve been told to believe for years, but the text does not tell us.

    1. Protection form what? No.. they were not still in the Garden. The very next verse (Gen.3:22-24) tell us plainly that they were no longer in the Garden, nor would they ever be allowed to return to the Garden. So… protection from a different (and likely harsher) climate and/or environmental conditions. Plus, the ground had just been cursed with thorns, with the specific statement that agricultural endeavors would be a lot harder… thorns being part of the equation.

    I’ve just offered two clear answers to your question derived from the immediate context. What can you offer that would support a claim that somehow their bodies needed to be covered from view… even from each other?

    2. Nakedness brought them shame? No. They had been shamelessly naked before the fall–a point that God took special care to make sure was recorded in the inspired account (Gen. 2:25). Did their bodies suddenly become shameful when they sinned? Of course not. They were created by God exactly as they were… perfect and shameless. Their bodies did not change. In fact, it’s clear from God’s rebuke in Gen. 3:11 that their efforts to cover their bodies (because they assigned their sense of shame to their bodies instead of their actions!) was an error. In fact, it was an indication that they had sinned by their disobedience.

    3. God sacrificed? No. That’s not in the text. There’s no altar. There’s no blood. Did an animal actually die? We’re not told! There’s no ritual. There’s no repentance. There’s no prayer for cleansing. There’s no mention of this event as the first “sacrifice for sin” in all the Bible!! And God is never the one who wields the knife that slays a sacrificial animal… ever! We’ve been told that this was a sacrifice all our lives, but the text simply does not support the claim.

    Tell me… exactly which parts of the body lead to lust and sexual immorality when seen (Use the Bible to answer, please)?

    We expect men to see the beautiful faces of every woman out there… yet without lustful thoughts. But if the man sees a woman’s breasts or her entire body, we expect him to no longer be able to control his thoughts? How can that possibly be? Is there even a shred of evidence in the Bible that this is how things are designed by God to be?

    It is a very dangerous error to take cultural norms and assign them the status of moral absolute.

    David

  35. Mark says:

    I have to agree at least in part with David Martin’s perspective here. The NT discussion of modesty is about not being flashy or putting wealth on display. We still have this sense of the word in English when we say that someone lives in a modest house. By this we mean it isn’t a large, expensive-looking house. There are plenty of women in churches who don’t show skin but show off expensive designer clothes and bags, or wear flashy jewelry–oddly the very sorts of examples used in Scripture.

    What Kevin is talking about is perhaps better covered by the term “chaste”. I don’t think any of us are defending porn or questioning whether porn addiction is a big problem. But no matter how big of a problem it is, it’s no excuse to get sloppy with our interpretation or application of Scripture. And I think this sloppiness is responsible for a lot of superficial and unhelpful teaching in youth groups, men’s groups, etc. As tempting as it is to go for the quick win of judging by externals and living by rules (not that Kevin is suggesting this), Jesus calls us to a higher standard, one that is based on the heart.

  36. Charles Baker says:

    Two comments, First I heard a short quote a few years ago “If you’re not selling anything, quit advertising”. Makes sense to me.
    Second, The Bible tells us that God looks on the heart while man looks on the outward appearance. We often hear this phrase to justify all kinds of immodesty. What we don’t hear is that our testimony to those looking on never shows them our heart. They can only “see” what their five senses show them. Again, what are we “showing”?

  37. Mark says:

    Charles, who gets to judge whether someone is “advertising”? I think many interpret certain attire as “advertising” that the wearer does not. Where does that leave us? Dress code? Burqas?

    If you live in a traditional culture with well-defined meanings for attire (e.g., unmarried women dress this way, married this way, widows this way), these simple rules are more helpful. In the US melting pot they are less so. And there’s no going back to a traditional culture apart from leaving by becoming Amish or something like that, a choice that has more appeal in fantasy (judging by trends in Christian fiction books) than in reality.

    Being in the world but not of it takes a lot of wisdom for one’s own choices and a lot of grace for the choices of others.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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