"But the Lord Looks on the Heart": The Question of Modesty
There are a lot of conflicting messages out there for Christian women about how and why they should dress. We hear everything from ‘it’s no one’s business what you wear’ to things like ‘you should not have short hair’.
Many of us learn from a young age that we are responsible for helping the boys and men in our lives avoid ‘impure thoughts’ by the way that we dress.
These conflicting messages can be confusing and frustrating, especially when the issue can seem so trivial. But the bible has a lot to say about modesty, for both men and women:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)
Clearly both modesty and humility are important parts of the Christian life. But how can this practically inform the way that we dress?
The questions I ask myself are these:
Am I dressing this way to draw attention to myself?
Am I likely to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable with the amount of skin that I am showing?
Is this outfit inappropriate for the activities I’ll be doing?
If I answer yes to any of these questions, it usually means I should find something else to wear.
But that being said, I think it is important to say that this will look different in different contexts and can change over time.
Dressing appropriately for for work is different to dressing for the beach. In the same way, while I may not believe I need to cover my shoulders and my knees, if I visit a church or a community with a different culture around dress this might be the respectful and appropriate thing to do.
I think it’s most important to remember that throughout the Bible God is far more concerned with our character than our outward appearance.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
2 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)