Who Sets the Standard for Modest Apparel?
Little would Isaiah know that his woeful words of prophecy would apply to a generation long after his when he declared, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). How tragic and sad that these words appropriately describe the morality of our current times. We may see such when a young person “comes out of the closet” and embraces homosexuality, only to find society (and the firestorm of media) laud and praise his or her bravery and courage. Nevertheless, the true portrait of bravery and courage is the young person who defies the immoral times and the pressure from peers by deciding to keep pure in refusing to dress immodestly! The true portrait of bravery and courage in the eyes of God are the Christians who refuse to have public swimming parties at their home with both genders present because of the grave temptations present in such circumstances (cf. Matt. 5:27-28). The truest sense of bravery and courage are the ones who actually do what David did not do as he glanced and saw one dressed inappropriately (cf. 2 Sam. 11:1-5)—turn, look and run the other way without resorting to fulfill sinful exhibitions, such as what Joseph did in Egypt before the wife of Potiphar. In this issue, we would like to examine the topic of “Modesty.” In addressing any moral or religious topic, it is imperative that we begin with the matter of authority and answer the critical question, “Who sets the standard for modest apparel?” The Bible is crystal clear.
First, it would be important to distinguish between modest and immodest apparel in the eyes of God, for if there were no such distinction with Him, then the standard for determining such would be unknown. Yet, the Bible begins with the first family—through their sin, the eyes of Adam and Eve opened to see that which previously brought no shame (their nakedness) and to cover themselves up, replicating on the outside (physically) what they were trying to do on the inside (spiritually); that is, hiding their shamefulness from God, they created aprons of leaves from fig trees (Gen. 3:7-10). Yet, upon confrontation with God, He made for them coats of skins, evidently showing His disproval for their immodest apparel (Gen. 3:21). Later, we see the detailed instructions for the priests as to how they were to dress in service before God: “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach” (Exod. 28:42). As we study through the Bible, we continue to learn some things about the clothing that people wore during Bible times. In Matthew 5:40 and Luke 6:29, we learn that there were outer garments and inner garments. The inner garments (next to the skin) were of light material (linen or wool) that went either to the knees or the ankles. By distinguishing between them, and seeing examples of individuals who were immodestly dressed by only wearing the inner garments in public (i.e., 1 Sam. 19:24; John 21:7), we can put all of this together to see that the word of God does indeed make a distinction between modest and immodest apparel.
Second, because God makes a distinction between modesty and immodesty in His word, then we seek to find the authority for how we act. Jesus makes the claim of authority in Matthew 28:18: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” [ASV]. Indeed, all authorities are subject to him (1 Pet. 3:22), because God has “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Therefore, He is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14). We must consult with Christ (and by extension, His apostles) for the standard of modest versus immodest apparel.
Therefore, when we see all of the passages that point out principles of purity and study such passages on modesty as First Timothy 2:9-10, they instruct us that we are to be Christians who are distinct in how we display ourselves, inwardly as well as outwardly. We understand that apparel has the unique ability to express our attitudes and character, and the child of God should always be conscious about such things. May the articles in this issue highlight the truth of God on this important matter, and may the people of God rise to the challenge and stand for what is right and proper!