What does God mean by modest?

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety…” (1 Tim. 2:9).

“Modest apparel” refers to clothing. God reveals what He means by “modest” in the Old Testament, when He tells the priests to cover their “nakedness” by wearing a “full-length robe” (Ex. 29:5). They were also to wear undergarments that covered from their “loins to their thighs” (Ex. 28:42). Most Christian women understand this to mean that they are to be covered from their collarbone to their thighs. However, they tend to forget that this referred only to underwear, and that a full-length robe is to be worn overtop. Suffice it to say that if you follow Biblical parameters when it comes to modest clothing, you will not look like the women of the world. You will be covered, and therefore not care for Hollywood fashion standards. You will be set apart, with your affection set on things above.

“Shamefacedness” refers not to clothing, but what you “wear” on your face. Our facial expressions are often far more revealing than our words. Even if the words one utters are obedient and conciliatory, the accompanying facial expression or posture does not always match. Often, we give outward compliance, but our face shows inner resentment and defiance. Some women think of “shamefacedness” as a submissive, “weak” appearance – one that lacks confidence and self-respect. On the contrary, “shamefacedness” displays an understanding of our place under God, a willingness to obey Him, a healthy fear of Him, and the accompanying peace and wisdom that that understanding implies. A “shamefaced” woman is never brazen or scornful, never proud or haughty. She is quietly confident, with a soft face and a gentle word. She is “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas. 1:17).

“Sobriety” is a state of mind. “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober” (1 Pet. 1:13); “let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thes. 5:6). A sober mind is aware that the battle that rages around her is not one of flesh and blood, but of spirits, principalities, and powers (Eph. 6:12). A mind that is distracted by the “lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” is hung up on the things of this world (1 Jn. 2:16). It finds escape and temporary pleasure in entertainment, amusement, and the fleeting kind of joy that food, drink, and leisure offer. This kind of mind is asleep, lethargic, careless, and useless. Like a lamp without oil, it is carried about by every wind of doctrine and has no light of hope and truth.

“Modesty”, therefore, in the Biblical sense, embodies the way we look, think, and speak. A Christian woman is modest when she wears clothing to please the Lord, not the world. She is modest when she imbues humility, a gentle spirit, and meekness. She is modest when she thinks before she speaks, and recognizes that to bring drama to the mundane is to forget that the battle is the Lord’s. The kingdom of heaven is so much greater than the little troublesome picture she paints herself into. A modest Christian woman is gravely aware of where this world is going. She looks to the heavens to find her hope; and she finds it in the Lord.

Thanks for reading.


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