4 Modern Christian Women & Their Take on Modesty

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Recently, a Christian man posted his thoughts about sexual purity and modesty on Twitter. This thread was not well received and led to many people responding with their own--often disapproving--comments on the issue. I have been a firm believer for a number of years that it is possible to encourage and promote modesty in a grace-filled way. Though it is true that some Christian circles have instructed on modesty in a legalistic and unbiblical way, it is also true that our calling to dress for the glory of God is undiminished. If you have ever been in a Christian community that urged modesty in ways that were not ultimately edifying, know that Christian leaders do fail us sometimes--it absolutely can happen--Christian leaders may not always represent or speak of the truths of Scripture well. When Christian communities may leave us with less than helpful teaching on modesty, this in no way dismisses the calling Scripture has given us, but rather urges to be better students of His Word--remembering that true freedom is found in being a servant of Christ and in being set free from the power of sin. Freedom is not doing whatever we want or dressing however we may feel like. Rather, freedom is living wholly for Jesus Christ, offering up every department of our lives in total abandonment to Him. 

Where in Scripture can we study the issue of modesty? A few good places to start include: 1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3, Proverbs 31:25. 

After hearing so much backlash from Christians--who profess to believe the Bible--on the Tweet encouraging modesty, I have researched to gather some perspectives on modesty (from Mandy and Nancy) and have asked a two dear friends (Heather and Abby) to share their perspective with us on the relevance of modesty to today's Christian women. May their perspectives edify you, cause you to study this issue in light of Scripture more than clinging to whims of culture, uplift you, and remind you that you are not alone as you seek to dress to point to Jesus rather than exalt yourself amidst a society that has lost its ability to value dignified and honorable dressing. 

1. Mandy Saeler, Managing Editor and Writer at Set Apart Girl

"While it is true that you cannot control the thoughts in a guy’s mind, you can control whether or not your wardrobe is a catalyst to impurity and lust. You can be a champion of purity by simply obeying Scripture, dressing discretely (see 1 Timothy 2.9-10), and allowing the beautiful and reverent Spirit of Christ to shine forth in every area of your life (Mat. 5.16). The calling to purity, honor, and modesty in the way that we dress cannot be argued away – it’s simply a matter of laying aside selfish excuses and choosing the fear of the Lord. Our lives and bodies are not our own, for we have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6.19-20). We are called to in like manner that Christ did – bearing humility of mind, obedience, and servanthood (Phil. 2.5-8). We are to consider the good of others (including their purity) of higher esteem than our own opinions, desires, or convenience (Phil. 2.3-4). If you are struggling to discern the appropriateness of your wardrobe, take a step back and ponder eternity for a moment. We must understand the weight of Jesus’ words when He said that it would be better for a millstone to be tied our around our neck and be cast into the sea than to cause another to stumble into sin (see Luke 17.2). We will be held accountable for the choices that we make – even in regards to our wardrobe. On that final day will Jesus be able to commend you, saying, Well done, my good and faithful servant?" [1]

2. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Host of Revive Our Hearts & Bestselling Author of "Lies Women Believe"

 "Have been pondering the recent exchange re modesty. Some seem to be suggesting that: (a) what women wear, pics they post, etc., are inconsequential; (b) this is entirely the responsibility of men; and (c) to say otherwise is to objectify/sexualize/shame women. This subject warrants a more thorough, nuanced treatment than is possible on Twitter. But here are some biblical moorings I believe are important/helpful in the discussion: Modesty involves more than clothing, but not less. Modesty has application to both men and women. “The LORD God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them” (Gen 3:21). This was an expression of grace for fallen, shamed sinners—both male and female. Beginning in Genesis 3, nakedness/uncovering nakedness is used in Scripture as a metaphor for sexual relations, shame, and disgrace. E.g., Lev 18:6-18; Isa 47:3; Rev 3:18. Clothing is one we way identify who we are and the intent of our hearts. “A woman came out to meet him dressed like a prostitute, having a hidden agenda…” (Prov 7:10). Clothing that is appropriate in one context may be inappropriate in another. E.g., What is good/holy/appropriate in the bedroom, between a husband/wife, may be impure/sinful/inappropriate in a different setting. 

"This is not a one-sided issue, as some would have us believe. Men and women are both sinners and we both sin against one another. Scripture condemns men who prey on vulnerable women, as well as women who seduce simple/foolish men. Both violate the law of love and the sanctity of life. Both represent an abuse of power. And both need to be warned and held accountable. When it comes to clothing, other pertinent biblical values include visual beauty, preserving male/female distinctions, not flaunting wealth or shaming those who have less, building up others rather than promoting ourselves, elevating the eternal over the temporal, etc. Speaking as a woman to women (leaving it to others to speak to the men among us): Let us aspire to honor Christ and showcase His loveliness and love in everything we do. Our clothing matters, as do our words, our behavior, our attitudes, and the motives of our hearts. Let us seek to bless and edify the men around us as our brothers and not to defraud them. This is the law of love. Sadly, words such as chastity and modesty have fallen on hard times among many believers. The consequences for both men and women have been costly and devastating. I pray for us all to recover the beauty, magnificence, and power of these timeless qualities that flow out of and reflect the gospel we profess. Everything that we as believers (male/female, married/single) do in this life is intended to point to a future, promised marriage— a celebration of our Savior’s righteousness and His redeeming love and grace: “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself. She was given fine line to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:7-8)" [2]. 

3. Heather Cofer, Author of "Expectant" & Contributing Writer at Set Apart Girl

"I posted some thoughts on this a while back, but I’ve been seeing some statements made in regard to the recent viral tweet on modesty that have gotten me thinking. But first a note: I know this is a sensitive topic—many have been in circles where the subject of modesty has been twisted and abused, and many women have been hurt deeply because of it. We should walk with utmost compassion and care toward those who have been wronged, and those who have manipulated God’s Word for their own devices should never be justified. I want to make that clear before I share my thoughts.

"I’ve noticed many women saying that when men entreat women to dress modestly they are necessarily implying it is a woman’s fault when a man lusts. That’s simply not true. Although it may happen in some cases, I know very few Christian men who would absolve themselves or others of their responsibility before God not to lust regardless of what a woman is wearing; I read/hear men calling other men to this quite regularly. However, just as there is clear instruction for a man not to lust, there is also clear instruction for a woman to dress modestly. The two are distinct instructions and stand alone from one another. So if I’m dressed appropriately and a man lusts after me he alone is responsible for it. If I’m not dressed appropriately and this tempts a man to lust after me it’s still his responsibility not to act on that temptation. But I then am responsible before God for not obeying the instruction to dress modestly, and therefore not acting in love toward the men around me. Men are to obey with their eyes. Women are to obey with their clothes. First motivated by love for God, then motivated by love for those around us. And, Christ-following men and women alike need to be humble enough to receive exhortation to obey what God’s Word says."

4. Abby Houston, Instagram Manager at Wholehearted Quiet Time

"I wonder what comes to mind when you think of modesty:

Does your nose crinkle up in disgust?

Are you uncomfortable?

Do you immediately think of long, denim skirts and no personality?

Or maybe, you have quiet the opposite reaction:

Maybe you grow proud, thinking you’ve mastered the art of modesty.

Maybe you walk a little straighter, looking down on others who don’t dress just as you do.

Maybe you scoff at others who don’t have such “godly” standards as you do. 

"But dear sister, if your mind goes either route, let me lovingly remind you that you should probably ask the Lord to evaluate your heart (and let me assure you, I’ve been in both camps and have had to ask the Lord to search my heart, as well). Because, friend, the Lord looks at the heart. Does the Lord care about what we wear? Absolutely. But I have to wonder, does modesty mean something more than just what we wear? Could it have more to do with our hearts than our closets? In first Peter 3, we are told that our adorning should not be external, but rather, our adorning should 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.” Did you catch that? In God’s sight, the beauty of the heart — a gentle and quiet spirit — is precious. And the word used for “gentle” is also transliterated as “humble.” 

"You see, dear Christian, we could wear denim from head to toe, and yet still be immodest by puffing ourselves up with pride and acting as the Pharisees did by looking down at others with what they wear. God wants our hearts to be humble before Him, for He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) And as our hearts are more and more conformed to His image, the more our actions will follow. We won’t want to call attention to ourselves, but rather, properly reflect His creativity and beauty in what we wear, while also taking into consideration not causing our brother to stumble. Our actions flow directly from our heart. So, dear Christian, address the heart. And ask the Lord to dress it in humility, for that is the example that He left for us: God, in the flesh, lived perfectly, as a servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-11). And now, He’s highly exalted and risen, seated at the right hand of God the Father, and now offers salvation to all that call upon His name and trust in Him alone for salvation. If we’ve been given this as the example to follow, our perfect Savior perfectly displaying humility of heart, so should we follow. Modesty begins in the heart and trickles down into our actions. May we seek the Lord and His Spirit to transform us, for He alone can change the heart of pride to a modest, meek, and humble, truly beautiful heart." 

Note: you may find these resources helpful: "God's High Calling for Women" by John MacArthur, "Responding to Immodest Pressure" by the Set Apart Girl Team, "Beth Moore on Modesty and Creepy Righteous Dudes" by G3 Ministries, "The Evolution of the Swimsuit" by Jessica Rey, "The Lost Art of True Beauty" by Leslie Ludy, "Answering the Guy Questions" by Leslie Ludy, "What Guys Think About Modesty" by CJ Mahaney.
1. The Set Apart Girl Team. “Responding to Immodest Pressure.” Set Apart Girl, 31 July 2014, https://setapartgirl.com/responding-immodest-pressure/. 
2. Wolgemuth, Nancy DeMoss. Twitter, 13 Feb. 2022, https://twitter.com/NancyDeMoss/status/1492909113940058115.