About a year ago, I had a conversation with some friends (all young women) about the topic of modesty. We walked through so many different avenues that one might go when discussing this topic. We talked about the history of our culture, we talked about our own upbringings (such as playing sports and such), and of course, we talked about Biblical references. We even talked about (GULP)…the skirts vs. pants question.
Honestly, until that week, I had not been exposed to much on the subject. I have one friend (I’ll call her Sally) who I know wears skirts all the time, and I remember asking her well over a year ago why she wears them, and she gave me the most gentle response–I’ll share it with you in a bit. I was impacted not only by the fact that she does wear skirts–and LONG skirts, to be most accurate–but also by her meek explanation as to why that is what she chooses. It planted a seed in me, no doubt, but I didn’t really think on it daily.
Fast forward to this gathering of ladies… We were discussing chastity (sexual purity) and that led right into a discussion about modesty. You see, the way we display ourselves (the way we dress) is an outward reflection of what is on the inside. Just like the words that we speak are an outward expression of our hearts (Matthew 12:34)–so is our appearance.
We just experienced a scientific phenomenon that is an unusual occurrence: the supermoon! I didn’t get to see it on the horizon (because we are surrounded by too many trees here)…but saw it in the high night sky…and it was definitely more “super” than it typically is. It seemed larger and brighter that night! I even got my 5 year old out of bed to show him, even though when I first went to get him up, he said “I don’t want to go…” and fell back to sleep. But when I mentioned the supermoon, he did get up and he was excited!
As he and I stood alone in our driveway at around midnight, I told him about how the moon shines by reflecting the light of the sun, which is on the other side of the world. On that side of the earth, the sun was shining and it was day! But on our side of the earth, it would be darkness, if not for the reflection of the sun’s light on the moon. I explained that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and that each of us is like a moon reflecting on this dark world. It is true–this world is dark. There is so much evil and sin. I know it breaks the heart of our Father in heaven, for it breaks mine and I’m human. AnyWHO…I explained to him how we have to have Jesus’ light in us so that we can reflect it onto the earth. In other words, and I paraphrase, we have to receive God’s Truth and then SHOW it to the world!
So my friend, Sally, when I asked her about her skirt-wearing, replied this way (via email):
“I do always wear a long skirt. It has been a “journey” of sorts to get to that place. 7 years ago, when I got married, I was anything but modest. My wedding gown was strapless. I wore tight jeans, short skirts, halter tops. I loved getting male attention, and I secretly loved it that other women were jealous of me. I just shake my head when I think back to how vain I was and how much I liked the fact that I caused other men to lust. Anyway, God’s grace is so good. Well, shortly after I got married, I started feeling like I needed to be more modest for the respect of my husband. He never asked me to, but it was something I felt I needed to do. I guess I would call it “convicted”. It started out that I gave away all my halter tops, spaghetti strap tanks, tight pants and short skirts. I still wore pants though – just looser pants than I had previously worn. Well, about 2 years after that, (so, about 4 years ago or so), I started noticing how other women were dressed, and I noticed that even when they were wearing loose pants, the outline of their bum was still very visible, and their crotch area looked so exposed as compared to a woman wearing a long skirt. Which is what led me to start wearing skirts most of the time. For a while, I still wore pants occasionally, but the longer I wore mostly skirts, the more “exposed” I felt when wearing pants. And now, I have not worn pants for over a year.”
Now, let me clear up the picture you have in your head about Sally. She isn’t wearing what Carolyn wore in “Little House on the Prairie”. She is wearing modern skirts, tops, and dresses. They are just modest. So I’m not talking about denim jumpers everyday…just so you know! 🙂
AnyWHO…let me get back to the discussion the ladies and I had on modesty…
First thing I want to ask–and this is for you to answer on your own (or share with me in the comments if you feel led to do so!). WHY do you dress the way that you do? No matter what that is…whether it is a dress, pants, shorts, a swimsuit at the beach or pool, or your pj’s…why do you dress that way? Is it because you were taught to dress that way growing up? Is it because it’s how your friends dress? Is it because it is the “trend” culturally? Is it because God has given you standards to dress by? Or do you not know your why on these matters?
I think more important than dressing a certain way is knowing why you dress that way. There are so many things we can do that are just not right because of ignorance, but we still may pay the penalty for it. For example, if I go to another state besides Alabama and drive my car around on their streets, I am expected to abide by the rules of the road for that state. If I’m pulled over, for, say…entering an intersection on a yellow light (which is NOT against the law here in AL)…well, I’m probably going to get a ticket for it. You see, it was still the law, even if I didn’t know! I believe the same goes for God’s law. Sin is still sin, whether we know it to be sin or not. God gives us this in His Holy written Word. I was once ignorant–meaning, I didn’t know–what His Word says…on ANY matter. But now that I know what He says on certain things, I cannot choose sin! I must choose to obey His Word. Just a fair warning, Hebrews 10:26 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” I don’t want the price He paid for MY sins to get tossed out! Why pay my own price after He has paid it all for me??? So now, there is only room for obedience! And it is His sacrifice that gives me the power to overcome my sinful nature. I simply cannot–MUST NOT–allow myself to be taken into bondage again by sin.
I love reading the story of the woman caught in adultery. No–adultery isn’t a “fun” topic to read or to think about. But I just love how Jesus handled it–what he said to her. She was caught IN THE ACT of adultery. She was thrown at Jesus’ feet for judgment. He went on to tell those around Him (again, I paraphrase) that whoever has no sin should be the first to cast the stone at her (which was, as I understand it, culturally, the punishment for this act). Well, no one threw a stone. So Jesus asked her, “Has no one condemned you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” and Jesus then said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” PRAISE THE LORD! There is NO condemnation in Jesus Christ!
But keep reading! Do you see what He said to her immediately after that? He went on to say, “Go, and sin no more.” In other words, “you are forgiven–now don’t do it again!”
AnyWHO…that was a bit of a tangent. I wanted to share all that before I go into the topic of modesty. Because as soon as someone learns what the Lord has to say on a matter, if they continue to sin in that way, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:26 NIV). His sacrifice is worth it all! We must die to self, take up our cross, and follow Him. And this sacrifice has set us free! But not free to live as we please–free to live as He pleases! I want my reason “why” I do everything to be found in His Word.
OK…back to the subject at hand. As I studied prior to our gathering, I found these verses to get me started:
1 Timothy 2:9-10: “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.” (KJV)
Deuteronomy 22:5: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
***Now…before you assume where I’m going with this…please understand I do not come from a church background that is denominational, and I don’t know what other religions teach. I have only studied and found what is written in the Holy Bible, and sought out more info on those scriptures.***
First, let’s look at the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy. Yes–this is Old Testament. But let’s just look at it from the perspective of God’s chosen people. This is God telling them that He would be disgusted by a man dressing like a woman, or a woman dressing like a man. He created them “male and female”…and there are many differences. I won’t go on with that in this post–but you can pick up an anatomy book or a psychology book and find all the evidence you need. But the definition of abomination is “a cause of abhorrence or disgust” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/abomination). So God is disgusted with this. I truly believe He wants us to be the male and female He created each and every one of us to be–we aren’t both–we are what He made us to be. And He has clearly defined what manhood and womanhood means…it is what He wants FOR us.
So let’s look at the verse in 1 Timothy. In our English Bibles, the words we are given read “modest apparel”. In my studying, I found in my references that the words have meanings in the original Greek text that mean “a loose, long, flowing garment”. The word is katasholh or katastole, if you want to do your own researching. It has also been defined as “a garment let down”, meaning length-wise.
Now, throughout the Bible, lack of modesty is most often connected with an intent to commit sexual sin. (“Uncovered his nakedness”, etc.) Here is a “back to the beginning” example: When Adam and Eve were found to have sinned—they covered themselves—basically covered their “private areas”—I imagine like a swimsuit. But God came and saw and said that’s not enough covering and He made coverings for them out of animal skins—so that they’d be FULLY covered.
I’ve been told that this story is only there so that we see the fig leaf as the example–because fig leaves are supposed to represent self-righteousness, as in, Adam and Eve could cover their own sins. But we know that that is not true–only the blood of Jesus can cover our sins! So why, then, did the Lord cover them further? I believe it is because they were not going to be in the Garden of Eden anymore, because He kicked them out into the world! They were going to need covering there! In Eden, it was a man and his wife, between whom nakedness is not forbidden.
Also, according to Scriptures, “nakedness” referred to in Isaiah 47:2-3 = showing the THIGH! How much more do we see in this world?? YOW!
OK–I read a book several months ago that was called “Christian Modesty: The Public Undressing of America“. It was enlightening to say the least! I wouldn’t have believed what I was reading…except I’d read some things like it before as I studied before these ladies and I met.
One story that comes to mind is the story of the time surrounding World War 2 (WWII). I’ll shorten the story, since I’ve already written so much! When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the men left to go fight the war, leaving the women (their wives and sisters and daughters) behind to fill in their jobs. They did this out of necessity. When the survivors returned, the men expected things to go back to the way they had been–where they worked to provide for their homes, and the women were homemakers. But some of the women had joined a movement known to us now as feminism, and began to fight for their “rights”. What rights did they want? They wanted the right to work jobs. They wanted the right to be the head of their own households. They wanted the right to wear pants.
Before this movement, it was generally known/accepted, that pants were a man’s garment and that skirts/dresses were a woman’s garment. We can look back over centuries and see that this is true. But at this point in time, women began to wear pants too. So, the “freedom” to wear pants in this world comes from a feminist movement. The same movement that tells women to not submit to their husband. The same movement that turned the hearts of these women toward serving themselves and their own fleshly desires more than serving their husbands–or even serving the Lord by fulfilling the calling He had given them as homemakers (Titus 2:4-5).
So, ladies…if you wear pants today…that’s why! If you’d been living just 70 years ago, you’d be wearing only dresses, because that was the standard that our culture held, and it was based on God’s Word back then–not based on legal freedoms that one can attain in our nation today. (And, rest assured, the freedom that this world gives us is NOT the same as “freedom in Christ”!)
OK…so let me give you some more interesting little tidbits that I found, then I’ll wrap up with my general conclusion.
Some things to think about:
*Pants are a symbol of authority: The saying “I’m the one who wears the pants in this family”…refers to the one with headship, authority…and that role has been given by the Lord to men and husbands.
*International symbols for bathrooms: You see a figure in pants for the Men’s Room and a figure in a dress for the Ladies’s Room.
*The focus point in different garments—pants vs. skirts/dresses. In pants, the “arrow” points to the bum or to the crotch area, for a man AND woman. Eyes are naturally drawn to where this arrow points. I was SHOCKED to find this is so true!
And a story: There was a fashion show years ago on the Phil Donahue show where a designer created dresses for men and had them parade on the stage in them. Here are the comments that came out of it: “that’s disgusting”, “that’s vulgar”, “gross”, etc. Phil Donahue’s response was, “That’s funny…because about 50 years ago, people said the same thing about women wearing pants.”
So, for almost 6,000 years, women have worn only dresses…and around 65 years ago is when women started wearing pants? Just a tidbit. And yes…I’m aware that for many years, both men AND women wore some sort of “robe”. But we must assume one of two things, using the verse I mentioned above from Deuteronomy–either (1) their robes were different somehow back then, to give distinction between a man’s and a woman’s attire…OR (2) that one day, the attire would be different for men and women, so the Lord addressed it back then. Either way, He wants us dressing differently.
This is our heavenly Father telling us what He wants FOR us, not what He wants FROM us. The Old Testament gives us so many things to help us understand the heart of our Father! And regarding attire, I sorta view this passage as if it was Papa Bear (my hubby) talking to Sister Bear (our sweet daughter), as she came downstairs before going somewhere with friends. If she was wearing something that made her look like a man or that he considered inappropriate for her, he would surely take her in his arms and say, “My sweet daughter, it is a cruel, evil, hard world out there. I can’t let you parade yourself out there like this. It isn’t good for you to be looked upon the way you will be in that outfit–nor is it good for those looking to look at you. I must insist that you cover yourself more fully to keep yourself pure, and to help your brothers remain pure, too.” (Because ANY man who isn’t my husband, is my brother in Christ. And as his sister, he shouldn’t look on me that way.)
I truly believe that is what our Father in heaven would say if He looked at many of us today. Beach season is upon us–and I wrote this post to share my heart to young women of today. But it isn’t just at the beach. It is everywhere we go–and especially when we come together to worship.
So my personal conclusion here… I can’t throw out all my clothes because I can’t afford to do so. But I do aim to wear more skirts and dresses–not because of “law” that I have to–but because God wants me to be modest in my attire, and I have found that skirts and dresses (long ones, of course) are the MOST modest I can wear. I’m not talking burkas here…just loose, long, flowing garments (that at the least, cover the thigh).
And ladies, you should know this before you throw stones my way…since I’m married, I know that I have the freedom to wear anything I want to (or nothing at all) around my own husband…but I consider my responsibility to you and YOUR husband a grand responsibility. You are my sister and he is my brother, and I don’t want to have any part in coming between you two as husband and wife. I have seen with my own eyes the husband of a friend look on another woman who was dressed without a standard of modesty–WHILE IN CHURCH. I know plenty of people who have dealt with the topic of pornography in their homes. I have seen the hurt that comes from the heart condition of a man looking lustfully on another woman who isn’t his own wife. I am just doing what I can to NOT be that “other woman”.
So please, before you think I dress in a skirt to appear “holier-than-thou”, please remember I do it for YOU just as much as I do it for the Lord. I also aim to set an example to my daughter (who happens to refuse to wear anything but a “pretty dress”), and also to my sons–for what to look for in a woman adorning herself appropriately. Will you see me in pants sometimes? Yep, but they won’t be form-fitting in ANY way. Will you see me in shorts sometimes–only if you show up unannounced at my house this summer! (I will likely wear capri pants sometimes.) Will you see me in a swimsuit? Not a chance (except maybe with a long coverup). The bottom line for me is that I believe the Lord wants me to wear what is decidedly female and surely modest. If it isn’t both of those things, I’ll have to replace that item in my closet.
I guess I should also say that if I see YOU in pants, please know that it never crosses my mind to judge you for that.
And finally–let not your attire draw the attention of any man in your church! Watch out for skirts that come up too high when you sit down, waistlines that show “crack” when you lean over to pick up your Bible, tight pants that leave nothing to the imagination, low cut tops that show cleavage, skin tight tops that show your form, and even baggy armpits on tops that allow a “peek” of what’s underneath. Those are for your husband–not mine. And if you aren’t yet married–remember that all these guys are your brother!
One more thought that guides my heart in every matter… I once heard my pastor talking about what he used to tell teens in his former youth group when they would ask, “Pastor, how far is TOO far?” He would go on to say that we don’t need to live life trying not to cross the line…we should RUN from the line! Instead of seeing what we can “get away with” according to Scriptures, why not see just how closely we can get to the Lord by obeying Him to our fullest ability?
I welcome your comments. I do ask that you keep them respectful. I love you all as my sisters. Thank you for reading!