The Very Last Modesty Article Ever

2:00 AM

Christian articles on modesty run something like this: Dress modestly so you don't cause your brother to stumble, but it really is the guy's responsibility because he could be tempted even if you wore a burka but it's actually your fault for causing him to sin even though it isn't because he should control his eyes but he honestly can't, so dress modestly even though it's a lost cause for some guys.

I thought this sound reasoning. After all, we are called to be modest and the New Testament pounds in that love, love, love for the weaker brother always trumps Christian liberty. On paper, it works out perfectly. In real life, not so much. Which brother do we dress for?

The brother who grew up in a beach town where women wore next to nothing and never let it bother him? The brother who insists that pants outline certain areas that should not be seen? The brother who admits that skirts make women more attractive and thus cause him to stumble? The brother who declares open-toed shoes, hosiery and high heels stumbling blocks? The brother who says mid-thigh is okay, the brother who says the knee is okay, the brother who says to the ankles only?

Which one? And how am I to know which? Do I don a burka for the men who severely struggle with lust? Do I have the freedom to wear flip-flops and knee-length skirts and jeans, since it's impossible to know what man I will come across?

Who do I dress for, anyway?

Ironically, a Christian brother of mine made the strongest case for ditching this line of reasoning altogether. He never understood why leaders took the women aside in a group and told them the dire consequences of their dress code, while saying less to the men whose eyes and lusts caused the problem in the first place. He didn't advocate women wearing whatever and sticking it to modesty; but he did advocate the freedom for women to dress for the glory of God without fear of causing a brother's sin.

Modesty is both a neglected and an overused hot topic. Standards, convictions and dogmas thrive in this controversy, everything from skirts vs. pants to tank tops, skinny jeans and how tight is too tight. I can't think of anyone I met who has the same standards as mine, yet I've never had a Christian friend with no opinion on the subject. Almost everyone has a set standard on what he thinks is modest and has a slew of friends he deems either grossly immodest or grossly conservative. In one modesty talk, it is quite possible to be offended by too-strict rules in one area and shocked by the loose standards in others.

Can I say enough? Can I call I truce? Can I wave a white flag and point out that obviously this is where the rubber meets the road on giving grace to the weaker sister and going easy on the stronger one? We have the one verse where Paul tells women to adorn themselves "with respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control" (addressing flaunting wealth more than flaunting cleavage) and we know from Scripture that it is a shame to be naked in public. We do not have a commentary on today's fashion, on tank tops, on knee-length skirts, on jeans. It isn't there. The proportion of Scripture to modesty articles is skewed -- to put it nicely.

Yes, we must be loving toward our men. Yes, we must cover up our private parts. Yes, we must submit to authority figures who have a say in our clothing choices. But we cannot dress for men or be responsible for their sin. There are too many men and too many different opinions. We cannot dogmatically make numbered lists on what's modest and what isn't. There are too many women and too many different opinions. We cannot go beyond Scripture and cause hubbub over articles of clothing. There is only one Scripture and one opinion that counts.

This is the issue: Does my clothing befit a professing woman of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ? If it doesn't, get rid of it, regardless of who says yea or nay. If it does, keep it, be open to criticism but free in spirit. If you have to exercise your Christian freedom by giving up a certain article of clothing because a certain brother in Christ asks, be radical and do it. Otherwise do not live in fear of causing the general populace to sin if you are dressing for God's glory. Be humble, search your heart, be vigilant and remember the rest of the Bible.

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14 impressions

  1. Truth, truth, truth!

    When we choose to base our live's and our decisions upon the Word of God we can have a steady line. So, instead of being seen as legalistic or wishy-washy (when it comes to standards like modesty) we're seen as lights on a hill, as a walking piece of grace.

    And seeing that light is so more effective.

    Blessings on your graduation; what a splendid time!


  2. So I finished reading this wonderful post, ready to spout something profound and quote-worthy, when I noticed that it was "scribbled" at 1am... BAILEY! SLEEP! :P

    On the serious side, I agree with you completely, Bailey. Thank you for addressing this! I'm so happy that God has gifted you with the ability to put these things onto paper in such a profound and beautiful way. Not everyone has the ability to decipher their thoughts on these matters into words! Not me, that's for sure!

    Anyhoo, I appreciate what you have to say, and am extremely happy that I stumbled onto your blog.
    God bless your socks off!

  3. Actually, because I usually write two or three posts a day, I have to schedule them all....somewhere around 1 AM is my default posting time. But I would do well to take your sleep advice ---- I stay up writing WAY TOO LOOOONG. :D

  4. Love the clarity of this.

  5. When I saw the photo, I thought, "Neckline, hemline, fit--good! Where can I get that dress?" : )

    Your post is marvelously poignant. It's not about the actual clothing, which varies on location, temperature, circumstances, et c. It's about the attitude of the heart. The quiet and gentle spirit. Does my wardrobe reflect Christ's beauty, or worldly beauty? Do I dress to draw attention to my body, my taste, or my Lord? Do I suggest lust, or do I suggest love?

    Thank you for this final post on modesty. : )

  6. Wow...I've never, ever heard modesty addressed this way before. Ever. I always grew up with the argument listed above, and now that I think about it, it is a weird reasoning - dress modest because we don't want to tempt men, but really, men should avert their eyes and it's their problem being lustful, but we should also make sure we aren't being tempting, and blah blah blah.

    Because, you're right - there is no simple, definitive guideline of what's modest and what's not. There are a few obvious ones (at least in my opinion - things like bikinis and tiny "budi" shorts), but most everything else? Not so obvious. Repeating what you said, some men think women should be in all skirts, while some men think jeans are fine. Some men think spaghetti straps are stumbling, while some could care less. And while I'm thinking about it, why does it seem to be that in an indirect (or possibly some in a direct way) men are our "god" that dictates what is modest and what's not when it comes to clothing? Just a thought.

    Anyway, I think this is the most thought-provoking articles for me that you have ever written. My clocks are seriously turning. (About to text you and say THANK YOU.)


  7. Fascinating.

    Modesty is not a gender specific issue. Those who make it so reveal a deficient depth of understanding.

    I am glad you expressed that in this post. I was enthralled to the very conclusion, with which I agree.

  8. AWESOME< great > Fantastic!
    Love it :)
    Great job in putting your thoughts on paper~ I can never do that!

  9. I like what Nancy Leigh DeMoss had to say on the topic-she pointed out that at least one of the verses on modesty has to do with how we are to act/dress at church-I don't know if the Bible ever states that dressing modestly is because of men (not that we should ditch that reason).

  10. Very, Very good! =) Thanks so much for this post. It is really good to read this with summer coming up. I usually have a harder time making sure I'm modest in the summertime. It's hot out and I don't feel like trying on stuff over and over, this needs to be longer, this needs to be higher, ect. I just want to throw something on...Still modest, but I don't take as much time to make sure it is. Its something I've been working on so your post comes in handy. It's very encouraging. =)

    I really suggest reading the book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. by: Mary Kassian

    Very, very good book, Some girls and I did it as a bible study, and I got so much out of each chapter.. =)

    Thanks again for this post Baily, and your graduation pictures are so cute! You are adorable! And you are so very talented and gifted with writting, and you use it to glorify God, THAT'S AWESOME! Love you! -Ellen

  11. Hey Bailey - I have tried to come up with something profound to say about your post, but you pretty much said it all, so thank you. :-) Modesty has the potential to become such an all-consuming issue, and it's important to both keep it in perspective and to keep it related to the Lord, not just to men. Thanks for the insights.

    Secondly, I know you don't usually do these sorts of things, but I have awarded you over at my blog, and you're free to come over and check it out if you'd like to. :-)

    Happy Graduation again!!


  12. Someone very wise said, 'When your clothing is a frame for your body it is sensual, but if your clothing is a frame for your face/eyes where the glory of the Lord shines from, it is glorifying to God and good and right."

  13. Thanks Bailey this was awesome!! You are so right! Thank you for writing this modesty post it was really encouraging!! :D



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