If you hear the word modesty a certain image may arise in your mind of a woman dressed in conservative clothing. Is this really what modesty is about? Is it only about clothing and is it only women that should be concerned with this?
A primary reason why modesty is not a popular topic amongst believers is that most people feel they have the right to dress the way they want to. The general perception is that modesty is boring and narrow- minded and is associated with ultra-conservative, old-fashioned prudes. The worldly and popular fashion trends confirm this idea to many.
Is this true? Is modesty only about what we wear? These are all questions we need to answer if we want to understand what Biblical modesty is. Letâ€™s start off with a general definition of modesty:
Definition of modesty
1: the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities
Â· She accepted the award with modesty.
2: propriety in dress, speech, or conduct
Â· The young man was known for his modesty.1
In my opinion, this is a very good definition, covering a few aspects of what we understand modesty to be, namely humility and propriety in dress, speech and conduct. We will compare this with what we find in scripture about modesty.
We will now look at each aspect separately, starting with clothing, seeing that this is the first thing we think of when thinking about modesty.
Clothing is a big deal
While doing research for this article, we read the following scripture in Hebrews and it really spoke to us regarding modesty and purity.
4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers Elohim will judge.
The term “marriage bed” is used here to refer to sexual intimacy within the covenant of marriage.
A careful reading of this scripture, specifically the first part, reveals to us that the sanctity of marriage should be everybody’s concern, not just husband and wife. We all have the responsibility to honour the sanctity of a marriage covenant. Allow us to explain our understanding.
When YHVH created man and woman, He declared it to be good. He put them together in a covenant and commanded them to be one.
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
We were created by YHVH with a body, mind (soul) and spirit. Complete oneness as described above was thus meant to be physical, emotional and spiritual. It was created to be the highest form of intimacy next to our relationship with YHVH. The reference to being naked and not ashamed implies a state of complete openness and vulnerability towards one another. The physical intimacy between a man and his wife was created by YHVH to be exclusive, pure and holy within the security of a marriage covenant.
Men and women are different
YHVH created men to be visually stimulated by female nakedness, but His plan was for this to be exclusively within a marriage covenant. When a man is exposed to any form of female nakedness, powerful chemicals are released in his brain. This creates a pleasurable sensation which he will want to repeat. These chemicals are stronger than cocaine and were meant by YHVH to create a powerful bond between husband and wife.
These potent chemicals are what can cause a man to become addicted to pornography. Satan is well aware of all this and has used this to destroy not only the intimacy between husband and wife but also intimacy with YHVH. (sexual immorality is sin and sin destroys our intimacy with YHVH) The money- focused secular world assists satan, or are inspired by him, to use this to sell their products. The pornography industry is another area set up by him to get men in his claws. Did you know that more than 60% of men are addicted to pornography? This statistic also includes men who are believers.
Immodesty is also a means used by Satan to lead men astray and defile their marriage bed. So, if you decide to wear immodest clothing -low cut necklines, showing cleavage or ultra-short dresses, even body-hugging clothes, then you are visually stimulating to men. When a man looks at you, chemicals will be released in his brain and he will want to look again. Lustful thoughts are now triggered and his mind and his marriage defiled as a result of this.
By dressing immodestly you are not honouring the marriage covenant of all the married men that you will come in contact with. According to Y’shua’s teaching, enticing a man to look at your body in a lustful way could cause him to commit adultery. Y’shua defined adultery for us when He said:
27 â€œYou have heard that it was said, â€˜You shall not commit adulteryâ€™; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Most women do not dress immodestly to tempt men, but rather to satisfy their need for attention or affirmation. This is a form of brokenness and they need help. Even so, Scripture is clear about this: a person who does not honour marriage, their own or other’s, is defined as either a fornicator or an adulterer. Fornication is defined as any form of sexual immorality – that definitely includes dressing immodestly.
You may also be an instrument used by Satan to corrupt young boys by exposing yourself in this way. You may be awakening thoughts in them that they are not ready for at their age. In other words, these men and boys may be tempted by the way you dress. Some may already have a weakness in this area. They may be struggling to get free from this addiction. To them, your immodesty it is like inviting an ex-alcoholic to a bar.
Many women protest and say that they are not responsible for men’s thoughts. That is so, however, the fact that you revealed to them what should be exclusive for your husband means that you became a stumbling block to them. You assisted satan to be a temptation, infringing on the sanctity of their marriage covenant. At the same time, you are also destroying the oneness of your own marriage.
Put the shoe on the other foot. Would you like it if your husband gave an immodestly dressed woman a second look? Even worse, entertain impure thoughts about her as a result of her dressing this way? No woman will feel good about this.
Lev 19:18 says: “love your neighbour as yourself” How do you love your neighbour when you don’t consider this?
Matt 19:6 confirms this idea we saw in Hebrews. The oneness that exists between a man and his wife should not in any way be compromised by any other person.
6 â€œSo they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore Elohim has joined together, let no man separate.â€
We have always looked at this scripture in the context of divorce. However, this separation could also refer to a breach of oneness between husband and wife, temporary or permanently. Wearing immodest clothes may cause a married man to stumble, causing him to commit adultery in his mind, thus causing separation between him and his wife. Even if he does not stumble, the way you dress or act could also cause his wife to be jealous thereby causing strife or spiritual and/or emotional separation between them.
The role of jealousy
Just a word on jealousy before we continue. Jealousy within a marriage is warranted. It should not be confused with envy which per definition means to want something of another and are willing to commit sin to get it. Jealousy within marriage is the need to protect what is yours by covenant.
YHVH’s relationship with His people is often described as a marriage relationship and He jealously protects that bond. Not only does He punish Israel for straying, He also punishes those that lead Israel astray. This bond YHVH has with His people is a covenant. This covenant is eternal and cannot be broken. The marriage covenant was instituted by YHVH and is also an everlasting – until death do us part – covenant. Therefore, we as husband and wife can expect exclusivity and purity from each other just as YHVH expects exclusivity and purity from His people.
Just like YHVH has the right to be jealous of His bride Israel, a wife has the right to be jealous of her husband and a husband of his wife. A healthy jealousy in a marriage relationship protects the oneness. The emotion of jealousy is an indicator that the oneness has been disturbed.
However, we are not YHVH and cannot go around punishing those who harm or defile our covenant. We can rely on YHVH, the Institutor of this covenant, to punish this defilement or harm.
1 Thessalonians 4:3â€“7
3 For this is the will of Elohim, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know Elohim; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because YHVH is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For Elohim has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.
Dressing in an immodest way is sexual immorality. Thus, it is a way of defrauding your brother and YHVH will avenge it. This may have shocked you. You didn’t know this, did you? We have not been taught this. The body of believers perishes due to a lack of knowledge. I was also guilty of this before YHVH showed me. If you have been guilty of this, you too can repent and change your ways. YHVH is merciful and will forgive. We should, however, never take this mercy as a license to continue to cause others to stumble.
There are other ways in which we can be immodest as well. Our conduct can be immodest too.
This scripture in Hebrews 13:4 is also applicable when we speak about emotional connections between men and women outside of the covenant of marriage. We all know that there is no such thing as harmless flirting with anyone other than your spouse. It is also prudent to ensure not to spend time alone with a person of the opposite sex to avoid temptation, but also to avoid the perception of evil.
Another possible stumbling block is the formation of emotional bonds outside of our covenant. YHVH created men and women differently. He created men to be stimulated visually, but women to be stimulated emotionally. Attention, affirmation, compliments and even joking with her are what draws a woman to a man. For a woman, an emotional bond is a pre-requisite to intimacy. This is what triggers the chemistry in her brain and attracts her to a man.
So if a man or a woman chooses to engage in a close friendship with a person of the opposite sex, they can open themselves up to temptation. It may, for example, start off as a harmless friendship between a man and his wife’s best friend or a woman and a male work colleague. Or, it could be as seemingly harmless as two believers of the opposite sex getting together to study scripture. It could even happen to a person being counselled by a person of the opposite sex. As time goes by and they spend more time in each other’s company, an emotional bond will develop. This bond may later lead to a physical relationship. This is more common than you may think. This emotional bond may also trigger jealousy in your spouse, thereby disrupting the oneness in your marriage.
YHVH created men and women differently. It is imperative for us to be aware of this, as knowing this makes us less vulnerable to the schemes of Satan. His purpose is to break covenants. He destroys marriages using what YHVH created for good.
But the enemy also has more ways to trip us up.
It is about more than dress
Modesty could also be about not being prideful or haughty. We could be dressed modestly, but still be immodest if we, for example, dress to show our affluence. We could also dress or act in such a way to draw attention to ourselves.
1 Timothy 2:9â€“10
9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
1 Peter 3:3
3 Your adornment must not be merely externalâ€”braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
We also know that pride is one of the things that YHVH opposes.
1 Peter 5:5
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for Elohim is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Here Peter is quoting from Proverbs 3:34.
Humility is something we should be striving for. If we keep ourselves humble, we give the glory to YHVH, where it belongs. Pride was the first sin in the world. This is what brought Satan to a fall. Satan has not given up yet, he is still trying to delay what he knows is the outcome.
The traps of Satan
Why do you think there is so much perversion in this world?
Satan knows if he destroys marriages, he destroys families. He also knows where we are most vulnerable. The media and marketing machines of this world have been using immodesty and immorality for a long time to traffic their merchandise and to make us insensitive to this scheme. This is why we don’t see any difference in divorce statistics when we compare believers and unbelievers.
People are rendered insensitive by the media. Just look around you. You can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by immorality, whether it is the revealing dress of a fellow believer or a billboard peddling sex to sell something, a magazine with immodest or inappropriate content or photographs, or an advertisement on your computer etc. We won’t even go into the explicit materials and services so readily available today.
This blatant immorality makes us crave it more, because every time we are exposed to an immoral image, our brains release chemicals which makes it pleasurable for us to look at it. We can gradually get more and more addicted to this. When this happens, Satan has you in his claws. We are to be very aware of this and not assist him in any way or form. He wants to destroy us.
Immodesty reveals the state of your heart
Why do women dress immodestly? Why do married men or women seek emotional bonding from another man or woman? The reason is brokenness.
We may think that dressing sexy makes us feel good and makes it therefore acceptable. However, subconsciously, we may be craving the admiration, attention or affirmation of men. Same with emotional bonding, instead of working on our own marriage, which may not be in the state of oneness as YHVH planned it to be, we engage in friendships with members of the opposite sex to fill that void. We cannot, however, get away from the fact that this is immoral to its core. We may think it harmless, but it is not according to YHVH’s plan. YHVH doesn’t view impurity as harmless.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But YHVH weighs the motives.
21 â€œFor from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.
30 â€œWhat a sick heart you have, says the Sovereign YHVH, to do such things as these, acting like a shameless prostitute. 31 You build your pagan shrines on every street corner and your altars to idols in every square. In fact, you have been worse than a prostitute, so eager for sin that you have not even demanded payment. 32 Yes, you are an adulterous wife who takes in strangers instead of her own husband. 33 Prostitutes charge for their servicesâ€”but not you! You give gifts to your lovers, bribing them to come and have sex with you. 34 So you are the opposite of other prostitutes. You pay your lovers instead of their paying you!
These are hard words but consider it. When we women dress immodestly, we give that which YHVH made to be exclusive for our husband, to all men to enjoy and fantasize/lust over. This is not righteous or set apart behaviour!
As you can see, set-apartness and purity, more specifically modesty, goes hand in hand. You cannot be immodest and set apart at the same time. It could be compared to celebrating YHVH’s feasts together with pagan feasts. YHVH hates idolatry and calls it harlotry. He instituted the marriage covenant and expects it to be kept pure and holy. He also expects us to honour the marriage covenant of others. So, what do we as believers have to do to ensure our marriage covenant remains pure?
In Job 31:1 we read that Job has made a covenant with his eyes so he will not gaze at young women and if Job can do it, so can we (women included).
It is about setting boundaries. Part of making a covenant with your eyes is to avoid any exposure to material that can be defiling. Internet filtering and ad-blocking software may be helpful in this. It may help you to not accidentally stumble upon something on your computer you don’t want to see. Fashion magazines, advertising material and movies with an age restriction are also material that is defiling. Also, watch out for music, there are many popular songs that promote immorality. We donâ€™t notice it when happily humming to the tune while subconsciously internalizing the content. You may think it extreme, but starving our eyes and ears from immorality is the only way to remain pure. We are to be very vigilant as satan lurks around every corner, trying to snare and cause YHVH’s people to stumble.
What if we are unexpectedly confronted with immorality? Best is to bounce your eyes away immediately, do not take a second look and more importantly direct your thoughts away. Direct your thoughts to a righteous song, or the Shâ€™ma or anything that you may find helpful. It may take practice, but it is worth it. It is worth it in your relationship with YHVH and with your spouse. If in a social setting, you may be able to turn in such a way that you do not have that person in your direct field of view. Many may find this behaviour socially unacceptable. It is better to be righteous in the eyes of YHVH than be socially acceptable. Who do you fear? YHVH or man?
It is difficult because immorality has become so commonplace and acceptable, but stand firm. Your reward will be great in oneness with your spouse, but more importantly in your relationship with YHVH.
1 Corinthians 6:19â€“20
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from Elohim, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body.
From what we have learned, it is our belief that modesty is a prerequisite for purity and holiness. Purity is by definition something not contaminated or defiled. Holiness is set-apartness. We are commanded by YHVH to be holy (set apart) because He is holy (set apart)
2 â€œSpeak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, â€˜You shall be holy, for I YHVH your Elohim am holy.
YHVH does not want us to be like the world. He wants His people to be different from the world. In Revelation 18:4, we are admonished to come out from Babylon, the harlot world system.
4 I heard another voice from heaven, saying, â€œCome out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
Again, we are instructed on purity. In Titus 1:15 we read that to the pure all things are pure.
15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
From these scriptures, we learn that being set apart implies living pure lives. If our mind and conscience are defiled with the ways of the world, then our thoughts and actions will also become defiled.
Immodesty is one of the ways in which we can become defiled or cause defilement in another person. Immodesty leads to impure thoughts, which will eventually lead to sin. This is why we believe that modesty and purity are prerequisites to holiness or set-apartness.
We also see in a number of scriptures that immorality will cause us not to inherit the kingdom of YHVH.
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of YHVH.
1 Corinthians 6:9â€“10
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of YHVH? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of YHVH.
In Revelation, we see that it may even lead to the lake that burns with fire or the second death.
â€œBut for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.â€
For us, this implies that persisting in immorality may cause you to lose your salvation!
In the eyes of YHVH, a covenant is serious business. He is the custodian of all marriage covenants made before Him. It implies that He will protect it and punish those that do not honour it. We need to learn His ways and ensure the oneness in our marriages. We will be accountable before Him.
- 1.Â All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Yâ€™shua for Jesus
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