Modesty: Not just about showing skin

By Elizabeth Prata

In our area of the world the Spring Equinox begins this Thursday, March 19. It's already warm outside. The trees and flowers are blooming. The sun is strong. With the warm weather, especially in the south, comes lighter clothing...and with that, the usual essays from Christian women about female modesty.

The Merriam Webster simple definition of modesty is-

1: freedom from conceit or vanity
2: propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

1 Timothy 2:9 says women are to adorn themselves with "respectable apparel" and with "good deeds." Of course, the former is literal and the latter is figurative. Here's the full verse-

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

1 Peter 3:3 also speaks to modesty-

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—

The Greek word adorns in the 1 Timothy verse is kosméō, from which we get cosmetics, or, to adorn the face. It's defined: means make compellingly attractive, very appealing (inviting, awesomely gorgeous).

In the context, Paul is speaking specifically about women's comportment in public assemblies of worship, but the principles can and should be applied. Matthew Henry wrote:
They must be very modest in their apparel, not affecting gaudiness, gaiety, or costliness (you may read the vanity of a person’s mind in the gaiety and gaudiness of his habit), because they have better ornaments with which they should adorn themselves, with good works.
That's an important thought, that one can read the vanity in a person's mind in reading the 'gaity' of their dress. Let's explain it a bit further. God intends modesty to be an attitude of humility. The two are linked.

When Jesus said 'what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person' (Matthew 15:18), it is the same with 1 Timothy 2:9. What manner of apparel we choose to put on the body reflects an attitude of mind and heart.

When we dress ourselves, what is it we want to put on display?

Normally when we think of 'modesty' we think of showing skin, like in two-piece skimpy bathing suits, too-short dresses or shorts, midriff shirts, and the like. Older Christian women like me urge the younger to cover the skin. Too much skin on display isn't modest. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are not our own, but belong first to Christ and then if we're married, to our husbands. (as they belong to us, in a one-flesh union).

We're not to put our bodies on display, but as in the second part of the 1 Timothy 2 exhortation in verse 10, adorn ourselves with good works.

Modesty isn't only about whether we're showing too much skin though. There are other aspects of being modest. I want to speak briefly about too-tight clothing, and of age-appropriate clothing.

I remember when I was about 50 years old. At my job another lady who was also about 50 gave away some of her clothes and asked me if I wanted any. Always looking for an excuse NOT to go shopping, I said "sure, thanks!"

When I got home and opened the bag I was briefly disappointed. It was filled with velour track suits and the like. "These are old lady fashions" I thought to myself.

But wait, I was now an 'old lady'! It was time for me to re-orient my thinking about how my style should match my age. Just so, if you see a 60 year old woman wearing a baby doll dress, it looks strange, and that's because it isn't age-appropriate.

Here are two stills of Beth Moore preaching a Bible lesson to the audience at this year's IF:Gathering. Though technically her skin is covered, the outfit is still immodest. We see the attitude of Moore's heart isn't modest, and it isn't age-appropriate. Her inner attitude is reflected in her choice of clothing. The attitude here is one of shameless body display and total lack of respect for the purpose of her invitation, which was to talk about Jesus. Instead, we see high heel ankle boots, black jeans so tight one can see every hill or valley, and a see-thru sheer blouse. It is immodest. It isn't age-appropriate.

Moore is a 62 year old grandmother, wearing goth-like apparel more akin to what an unsaved 13 year old would choose.

Her apparel is a choice to display her body to one and all and is of course competing with attention from the One whom she is supposed to value higher than one's self.

Ladies, in Genesis 3:21 God provided clothing for Adam and Eve. Apparently the fig leaves weren't enough to cover the body, over which they now felt shame since they had become aware of their nakedness. Clothing is important.
The outward adornment of clothing was used by the biblical writers to signal the inner spiritual nature of God’s people. Once elegantly adorned (Ezek. 16:10–14), Israel sinned and became dressed in filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; Zech. 3:3–4; cp. Rev. 3:4). Those who become righteous are clothed in fine white robes (Zech. 3:4–5; Rev. 3:4–5; 7:9, 13). Source: Wright, P. H. (2003). Fashion, IN Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 560). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
When you put on clothes during this warm-weather time, or any time, what statement are you making?

Ladies, don't wear fig leaves. Minimal covering isn't enough. Men's brains work overtime to process and enhance what they see visually. Don't help them along. Be demure, be modest, and keep your body for Christ and for your husband (to be).


  1. Good'n! I know a lady who left the Amish... yet she maintains modesty in dress & actions & it pains her to see other ladies who do NOT.

    Also, on Beth Moore (off topic) … yet something I notice on nearly every picture of her: why are those EYES so WILD???? Seriously I've gone as far as wondering if maybe the lady's possibly demon-possessed! Don't think I've ever seen such wild eyes on any other (cough) "preacher" before. It's almost scary.

    1. I know what you mean about the eyes. I can't look at her eyes. If I need to discern a video of hers I scroll halfway up to shield me from her face and turn on the closed captions to read at the bottom as she talks.

  2. Elizabeth,

    You've rightfully addressed BMs false teachings for many years. However, there are some aspects of this post which I find unhelpful.

    Remember: this is coming from a sister in Christ who views BM as a FALSE TEACHER.

    Your assessment of modesty from Scripture is on point. It's only when you switch to assessing BMs outfit that things need a little help.

    First, there is nothing intrinsically immodest about her shoes or shirt. The entire shirt is not see through. The sleeves are see through, but the body of the blouse is not, as it has an underlayer. The shoes are just heeled booties. Sometimes shoes are just shoes.

    (Also, the outfit isn't technically goth.)

    The same shirt and same booties with a more modest bottom would be a perfectly fine outfit for any woman of any age.

    And slender bottoms like leggings can be worn under dresses or long tunics and be very modest.

    The only issue: skin tight bottoms, worn *as pants*, that show every nook and cranny. However, these aren't appropriate for ANY age, young or old.

    Second, the concept of "age appropriate" is actually quite subjective, so I find it is not terribly helpful in discussions about Christian modesty. Modesty is modesty at any age and in any culture, whether one is saved or lost. The style of one's clothing or what one considers "age appropriate" clothing is often a matter of personal taste and cultural influence. As I said, modesty is modesty. And modest is appropriate at ALL ages. (Example: Babydoll dresses may be more on the youthful side in style, but most of them are too short to be modest even on young ladies, anyways.)

    Anyhow, regarding Genesis 3, and I know you know this, the primary reason the fig leaves of Genesis didn't cover is because they were not derived from a source that can die. Adam and Eve had sinned, and only shed blood covers sin, hence God using animal skins to cover them. The problem was that Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin with an insufficient remedy.

    Another brief comment: women are just as visual as men. I'm so tired of the false argument that only men are visual. What do you think your believing sisters - of ALL ages - would do if they saw a very chiseled, well built, handsome, tan man sans his shirt...? They would and do respond the same way our believing brothers do when they see a woman in a bikini. In all cases, we should be guarding our own hearts and minds, rather than laying more blame on the other person's conduct. The lost behave the way they do because they are lost. With that thought, a great deal of the Amish, covered head to toe in "modest apparel", are also lost, lost in religious self-righteousness.

    As for the other person's remark in the comments - I agree, BMs eyes always look wild. I can't look at her eyes, either. I don't watch her videos or look at anything directly from her ministry at all, especially since there is no need to, as the evidence of her falseness is ample. The only time I encounter pictures of her is when believers have posts about her on their blogs, etc.

    Grace and peace to you in Christ.


    1. Carolyn, thanks for taking all that time to detail your objections. Of course, as usual, I disagree.

    2. Carolyn, My stance is in the essay. You disagreed.

      Right now I'm ministering to a young woman just down with COVID-19, alone and stressed. Praying for a mom & grandmom whose son is driving home to GA from CA alone for the first time, because his college closed. To a friend home with two toddlers worried for their health. I am not at present going to engage in a discussion of whether Beth Moore's shirt is too sheer or how much sheerness is appropriate or why my opinion is wrong on her boots. Suffice to say, I made my opinion known and you made yours known and let's leave it at that.

  3. I have a tendency to read older literature which often describes girls, young women, and older women in terms of modesty, referring to their character rather than their attire (since immodest attire wouldn't have been an issue at that time), and it has developed in me a greater appreciation for the beauty of a meek and quiet spirit that does not seek to put itself front and center. I think inward modesty is just as important as outward, but oh so difficult to master, for me at least.


Post a Comment