Monday, 16 February 2015

Modesty {a heart that wants to be attractive to God}

I have been meaning to write a post about modesty for a long, long time.

It's something that I have thought a lot about, but never got round to putting my thoughts in print.

My husband has inspired me, however.

As a preacher of God's Word, He seeks to share the WHOLE counsel of God.  He doesn't skip over hard subjects -  he deals with the practical, as well as the doctrine from which the practical flows.

This last weekend, in the process of peaching through the book of I Timothy, he came to verse 9-10 of chapter 2.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."

You are able to listen to his sermon online.  It expounds these verses far more fully than I will do here.  I will, however, touch on some of the same issues.  

So, what is modesty all about?  

It's not about a whole lot of specifics.  I am not going to list a string of "you must do this", "you mustn't do that".  It's not legalism.  

It's also not got anything to do with trousers, or not trousers.  That is more to do with femininity, and also not something you can be legalistic about.  What the trousers are like is certainly about modesty, but the wearing of them, or not, is not the same topic.  

What it IS, is a reflection on the outside of what is in the inside.  It's a heart issue. 

If you look at the verses in I Timothy you will see the words "adorn", and "modest apparel".  In other words - "putting on modest clothes".   It's about what you wear. What you put on the outside of your body.

Come with me, if you will, back to Eden.  That fateful day when Eve yielded to the temptation to be like God, and the day when she convinced her husband to follow likewise. When they ate of the fruit, their eyes were opened, and they saw they were naked. Their reaction? To cover up.  They got big old fig leaves, and somehow "sewed" them together, to cover themselves up.  We don't know how big those figgy clothes were, but we know they were ashamed of being naked.

In the words of my hubby, there is a care we should take.

Adam and Eve CARED that they were naked.  Sweet sisters, there is a shameful prevalence, in today's society, of people - and I am talking CHRISTIANS - who don't seem to CARE that they are dressed immodestly.  Clothes are designed that way, so it must be ok? Right?

WRONG!

Designers are mostly NOT Christians - they do not follow Biblical principles. They don't follow the moral principle of clothing, which is to COVER, not to UNCOVER. In fact, the clothing of today is DESIGNED to stimulate sexual attractiveness, not to modestly clothe.  Just because that's what is out there, does NOT mean we have to blindly follow, with no thought or care for what God wants.  THAT is ultimately the care we should be taking.

Is it pleasing to God, or pleasing to the flesh? Are we more pridefully concerned about what others think, or what God thinks?  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were instructed to be set apart. We should have the same principle applied to how we dress.  Are we set apart from the world, and how they view modesty?

Next, we need to look at the specifics of the verse.  How exactly are we to cover up?

Then, there is a concern we should have.

It says "with shamefacedness".

Now, I love my KJV version of the Bible.  I believe it to be the most faithful and accurate translation.  Here lies an example of some parts that are on the tricky end of language.  Who uses THAT word any more? On the other hand, it paints a perfect picture of how we need to be.  It's to be bashful, to avert the gaze, not to draw attention to something.  Our faces should be desiring to deflect any need for shame.

The truth is, clothing of today is not only covering so little, it's drawing the eye to places people shouldn't be looking.. The type of fabric - the cut of the cloth - it's all to attract the eye to places which should be covered up, not shown off.  Shamefacedness is about averting the gaze of others, not drawing it to the wrong places.

Now, this DOESN'T mean we are not be dressed attractively.  The clothing can be attractive, without others being attracted to your BODY.  Femininity is a good thing.  Being a woman who looks like a woman is right, and pleasant.

Robert outlined three things, that I wholeheartedly agree with, which are a good guide to assessing the suitability of clothing.

a) Not too low - we're talking neckline here. A low, or plunging, neckline draws the eye right down to the cleavage. It's drawing the eye to a place which the Bible says is to satisfy a husband, but not anyone else.

b) Not too high - this is skirt length.  This is something that I have known a whole pile of rules to be made about, in various places.  Girls having to kneel down, and do all sorts of things, to check out length of skirt to be compliant with some set of rules. Those kind of rules are just that - man made rules.  However, the shorter it is, the less it leaves to the imagination. The eye is drawn up, once again, to areas that it shouldn't be drawn to, the higher the skirt goes.

c) Not too tight - this is anything! Things that are figure hugging show off the curves and shapes of your body. It's once again not leaving much to the imagination. Sometimes it's just plain gross, but that's a whole other story about people not LOOKING in the mirror. Like, PROPERLY looking.

Robert also mentioned the thing that he knows that I do.  Well, kind of two things. He mentioned the mirror test.  I regularly stand in front of a mirror, in a changing room, and bend over, and stretch up, and do all sorts of contortions.  You see, I'm a mother of small people. It is a frequent requirement of me to bend over and pick up either a small person, or something belonging to the small person.  If, when I bend down, you can see right down to my naval (or whatever comes before that...), then the top is not modest.  If I stretch up and you can see my midriff, it's not modest.

He then mentioned layering.  That, my friends, is worth the chuckle of listening to his sermon.  My husband.  Talking about layering.  No, he didn't really know EXACTLY what he was talking about, but he got the gist of it.  If something is too gapey, or too low, or too baggy under the arm, or too sheer, put something underneath! A gorgeous item of clothing doesn't need to be dismissed simply because it doesn't seem, at first glance, to fit the "modest" category.  I regularly search for vest tops to put under tops that are not quite right.  The one I am wearing today I can hardly believe someone would wear WITHOUT layering. YIKES!




(Everything is from a charity shop, except my denim skirt, from Amazon.)




After a bit of hunting in the charity shops, however, I came up with the perfect top to put underneath, and I can still wear the pretty one over the top. I do long sleeved under short/sleeveless in the winter, and "vests" under less-than-modest tops in the summer. It can be done, with a bit of effort.  Plus, if you find a style that is perfect for using as a layer, buy a few, then you have them. I'm big into colour, and colour-co-ordination, so I ENJOY looking around the charity shops for the perfect match.  My friends will tell you I have the knack for finding the perfect combos! Find an inexpensive necklace to tie in, and I am one happy lady! (Mind you, I am already pretty well stocked up with enough to match any outfit I have...)

This next point is in the centre of the 5 Robert made.  Central is the watchword, here.

It's about the consideration we should make.

The word used is "sobriety".  This has NOTHING to do with the amount of alcohol you consume.  The word "sober" being connected with alcohol is to do with the "soundness of mind" you have sans excess alcohol.  Likewise, here, it's to do with "soundness of mind".  It's about being THOUGHTFUL and CONSIDERATE.

Yes, ladies, this is all about the men.

How WE view men.

Undoubtedly, men are given clear instruction in the Bible to not follow after lustful thoughts and intents. Yes, men have a responsibility to keep their thoughts pure.  Of course there are some with such wicked hearts that they will have sinful desires and actions no matter WHAT you wear. There aare also men that will be attracted to things that are not IMMODEST - it's just something that they personally love.  That's their issue, not the wearers. But, I'm thinking of the normal, everyday kind of man.

Women, however, can be like the spark that lights the fire.  "There's no smoke without fire", as the saying goes. Are you entirely sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent that fire from being lit? Are you dressing in a modest fashion which draws attention only to you as a person, and not you as a body?

Are we being considerate of the men - the BROTHERS in Christ - that we come into contact so often? Matthew teaches us that if we cause offence, we will bring woe upon ourselves.  Ladies, we have a responsibility NOT to cause offence to the men around us, by tempting them to lust after our bodies.

Wearing immodest clothing -  clothing that draws attention inappropriately to our bodies, causing men to lust -  but then taking issue with the MAN, is like saying "I can wear what I like, but don't look at me".

It's not considerate, and it's not thoughtful.

We need sound judgement, thoughtfulness, care and consideration. Don't push things as far as you can in the modesty stakes. Don't see how close to the mark you can get.  Don't see how much you can get away with uncovering.

Be sober.

The next point is the constraint you should exercise.

The next thing Paul talks of is NOT a command to wear no jewellery at all.  If that was the case I would be in BIG trouble! I have three rings that Robert bought me, which mean a lot.  There are my pearls, which he bought me to wear on our wedding day. As for my endless necklaces?!...

When he refers to the gold, and pearls, and costly array, he is referring to the trend of that time.  The trend to do ridiculous extravagant hair dos, embellished with everything imaginable - TO DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF.

This is to do with the motivation BEHIND what we do.  Are you dressing to attract the gaze of others? Whether it's the attention of men, or the approval of women, neither is right.  It doesn't matter what the women think, but it matters greatly what the men COULD be thinking.

If you are single, do you REALLY want to attract men based on your figure? Really? Are you trying to lure them in like a hunter, setting the "bait" of your body to entice them?  To be objectified and noticed should NOT be your goal. Likewise, single men shouldn't be out looking for a wife based solely upon looks.  It's the stark truth that beauty WILL fade.  Your figure WILL change. Don't base decisions on looks.

So, what clothing SHOULD you seek?

What matters, more than ANYTHING else, is to be attractive to GOD. If we are, as the verse states, a woman professing godliness, we will WANT to be modest, from the inside, out.   God is looking for a woman's heart to be "decorated" with a meek and quiet spirit.  A heart that puts on so many other godly attributes, like love, truthfulness, mercy, and humility. A heart that is wise, which is like an "ornament of grace (and a) crown of glory" (Proverbs 4:9)

What statement, ultimately, are we trying to make?  Are we wanting the eyes of others to be drawn to the physical, or the spiritual?  Are we men pleasers, or God pleasers? Are we women who have a humble, contrite heart, willing to change, for God's glory? There are women out there who have NO idea what their clothing could be doing for men - are you willing to think about it and change, if need be? Do we have a teachable spirit?

Do you see all that has been said? No specifics of what to wear or what not to wear. No "wear this length or that length". Only general, wise principles, based on the truths of scripture.

Ultimately, we are each responsible for how we dress - whether modestly or immodestly. Our motivation, and how we live it out, comes from the HEART.  Does our heart want to do everything we can to please God, or are we more concerned about pleasing ourselves - the flesh, and the world?









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My Joy-Filled Life

4 comments :

  1. I love that you talked about modesty being a matter of the heart. Amen. Thanks so much for visiting CMB and stopping to say 'hi.' Blessings to you!

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  2. I love that layering look, Caroline. The tight undertop is nice and cozy, and also it's kind of slimming (for arms etc... I'm middle aged, so these things are important!!). Then I love a loose, flouncy top over it to cover the tightness (of course!), but to show off some femininity :)

    So many issues re modesty but as you say, in the end it's the HEART that really matters.

    Oh, and one more thing. ... I really wish girls and young ladies would realise how UNattractive immodesty is :( . It really is NOT a good look, and will not be attractive to the kinds of guys you want to attract. Yeah, it may attract *some* guys, but they are NOT the guys you want to be attracted to you :( ... Really, really wish girls would realise that.

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