Whatever Happened to Modesty?

I can’t be silent. I don’t want to be silent. I must speak. I must speak up. And I must do so for the glory of God – to help the girls/sisters, especially, of my flock that God has entrusted me to shepherd their soul.

In my reading of Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life by R. Kent Hughes (by the way, a very good reading), I came to Chapter 7 on the subject of modesty. At the onset of this chapter he quotes the following from his wife’s book Disciplines of a Godly Woman (another good reading, esp., for Christian women):

If you are blind or from another planet, you may conceivably have missed the fact that modesty has disappeared. It is dead and buried! If you don’t think so, go shopping with a teenager. The fashion gurus have made sure that every item of clothing today’s teen girl might need was designed to provoke thoughts that are other than virginal. It calls to mind the prophet Jeremiah’s exclamation: ‘Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush’ (Jeremiah 6:15).

In essence, Kent Hughes takes issue with immodesty in our culture, but more importantly, immodesty in our churches. As a result, boys and men are tempted to think of the girls/women as mere sex objects. Hence, according to the author, immodesty devalues a woman’s worth, immodesty breeds shallowness, immodesty stumbles men, and immodesty confuses the line between holiness and worldliness. He also comments:

We are naturally lovers of self rather than lovers of God. We are naturally self-focused rather than other-focused. We readily succumb to sinful pride. Pride fuels immodesty (94).

He also argues that modesty is the entire church’s responsibility, which I wholeheartedly agree. He writes:

Modesty is the entire church’s responsibility. We together must create a culture in which modesty flourishes. There must be a place where women are safe and accepted for who they are rather than for what they look like. It must also be a place that encourages and models feminine modesty. It must be a place where all learn to clothe themselves with the character of Christ (99).

If my sanctification is a community project (i.e., the local church where I’m a member of), it only makes sense that modesty becomes the entire church’s responsibility. Hence, I cannot agree more with Kent Hughes on this regard.

Moreover, he also points the direct responsibility to the parents. He says, “Parents must take back the responsibility for modesty. You can’t expect someone who has lived only fourteen or fifteen years on this earth to know when and where to draw the line. Certainly some of your daughters can do it, but most will need your help.” I say, amen!

Ladies, as much as the local church (i.e., the community of God’s redeemed) exists to help you in your holiness, we also need your help with our pursuit to holiness!

Men, like Job in the Old Testament be intentional about what you look and what you avoid: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Hughes is right when he says, “You may not be able to avoid the first look, but you can avoid the second.” He is also right that the culture of modesty is the culture of respect, and that both holy eyes and holy hearts go hand to hand.

For further reading on this subject, I’d recommend “Modesty Heart Check” by Carolyn Mahaney or “Modesty” by C.J. Mahaney.