Clothing and Biblical Worldview
Every now and then there is a push on the part of some advocating for little or no clothing. Whether advocating, in the name of liberty, for the right for females to walk around topless, or for individuals to wear as little as possible, whether at the beach or elsewhere, there are those who think modesty is an artificial construct which goes against nature. Even in the church, one will sometimes find those who think that the more “natural” you can be, the better. For these reasons, it seems appropriate time to say a few words about modesty.
Yet, before we deal with the specific issue of modesty, let’s say a few words about world-views.
Many of the great social battles boil down to competing world-views on the stage of ideas. While it is to be hoped that those who hold different view-points strive to get along with each other, oft times different philosophies are simply incompatible.
One popular world-view held by a great number of people at this moment in history is that of Darwinian-humanism: a belief that man is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, and that there is no entity higher than man to which man must answer. Contrasted with this are those theistic world-views such as Christianity, Judiasm, or even Islam.
When discussing issues such as modesty, these different world-views are going to clash rather handily. To the humanist, clothing is an artificial sort of thing, obviously not found in nature, and is therefore completely a matter of personal choice. There is no practical difference, in such a world-view between a person walking around without a stitch of clothing on, and a horse, dog or cat walking around likewise unclothed. In a debate about clothing, this sort of thinking will have no problems pointing to various times and places where little to no clothing was (or is) worn by certain cultures or individuals, and say, “see, if they did it, we should be allowed to as well.”
A theistic thinker should, if true to their believes, approach the subject quite differently. One whose world-view is shaped by the Bible, for instance, should consider first whether God has anything to say on the subject.
Biblically speaking, man is not an animal. While we certainly, share biological features in common with animals, man was always meant to be something more. We are created in the image of God, and were given dominion over the earth. Only man, of all the creatures on earth, can be called sons of God. (cf. Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8; Matthew 5:9) To relegate man to the level of a mere animal is to denigrate God and the gifts God gave to man.
It is somewhat interesting, that following the fall of man in the Garden, one of the very first issues God deals with is that of modesty. As they grew more spiritually aware, Adam and his wife realized they were naked and tried to do something about it (cf. Genesis 3:7). They sewed some leaves together, making clothing which could best be described as aprons, or loin-clothes. When God saw the clothing they had made, He replaced their leaves with garments of leather. (cf. Genesis 3:21) The word used to describe the garment God provided denotes a tunic which extended from the shoulders to at least the knees.
Tellingly, we might note that God did not apply one standard for women, and another for men, but rather clothed them both similarly. While the Bible has one especial warning directed at women concerning the need for modesty (eg. 1 Timothy 2:9) there is no double standard concerning what is modest for men or for women. Indeed, in the Old Testament, the ones who were warned most severely about the need for modesty were the priests of God, who were uniformly male. (cf. Exodus 28:42-43) If caught being immodest in the tabernacle worship, the implied penalty was death. Clearly God took the issue seriously.
If God took the issue seriously, then those who take God seriously should do likewise. Obviously, those who reject God as being relevant to their philosophy and point of view are going to have a very different opinion on the subject, but that is only to be expected. When listening to various arguments, pro and con about issues such as modesty, we should be mindful of where those arguments originate, that is – what world-view is shaping the arguments. And, for the believer, arguments based on culture, biology and current events should always take a back seat to the simple question: what does God think about the issue?