“MODESTY” is probably one of the most misunderstood and abused words in Christian sociolect. The way a woman dresses is usually earmarked as modesty. When people talk about “being modest”, it is almost exclusively a restrictive definition of showing no skin. Subsequently causing no temptation in the opposite sex.
MODESTY IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO WOMEN
We see the word translated as modest, Kosmios (kosmioß), used by Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Timothy 3:2. In chapter 2:9 he uses it to describe how a woman should present herself. Paul uses the same word in chapter 3:2. In this verse it is used to signify the qualities men need to have to be overseers. According to the Word, modesty is not exclusive to women. Or the way they dress.
Growing up, we went to a church that demanded we wear dresses and skirts. We were not allowed to wear pants – at all. We were never taught why we needed to wear skirts and dresses. And it was simply a command to do so with no questions asked. I did not like the idea because I had no understanding of why I needed to do it. So I would wear pants and all sorts of other things when I was not at church.
In my first year of varsity I attended a church that allowed me to dress in whatever -including in the church. So my wardrobe changed incredibly and embraced this new found freedom. For many years people seldomly saw me in a skirt or dress. I became one of those people who looked down on others for wearing skirts and dresses only.
LOOK AT ME NOW
It was not until about a year ago that I finally got to understand what modesty is. I came to understand that it is not about wearing dresses and skirts. Modesty flows over into what we say and how we present ourselves to God and others. It is behaviour which flows out of our putting on Christ, instead of ourselves. How we dress is a subset of the whole. The life of a Christian is one of service to others. Leading modest lives is an extension of that service.
And this is why it is easier for me to embrace modesty. Because I understand that what I wear does not make me modest. Rather, it is an outward expression of my modesty. Modest is not dictated by what we do, but why we do what we do. It is easy to be modest simply because it is a fad or the latest trend. If we are dressing modestly just to be seen, we fail to be modest. We can cover our cleavages all we want. If the heart behind why we do it is not right, it is all in vain.
To be modest is to proclaim what is proper. And that can only happen with a true revelation of who God is. Most importantly, my outward appearance is nothing more than a representation of my holistic life. To avoid tempting the opposite sex is an act of service to others. And it is the responsibility of all people, male and female. Modesty is a beautiful thing which should not be reduced to simply feeding into society’s male focused exhortations on lust.