Glory and Beauty: the Purposes of Christian Modesty

Does the topic of modesty ever make you squirm?

Me too.

There are so many opinions on what’s modest and what’s not. Often I’m left wondering if there’s anything in my fairly conservative closet that meets all the rules.

Modesty is so much more than a list of "dos" and "don'ts". Modesty is an issue of the heart and its purpose is glory and beauty.

The discussion of modesty brings up a common temptation because “It’s much easier, and more fun, to apply the Scriptures to others and not ourselves.” -Eric Sauder (photo credit)

So when we arrived at church and I saw the sermon text, my heart sank a bit

 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10)

As the sermon started, my heart stopped squirming. The sermon was inspiring, convicting, and encouraging. Instead of giving a list of rules, it offered a glimpse of the beautiful glory of Biblical modesty.

The purpose of Christian modesty

Buried in a detailed passage about the proper priest’s clothes comes a beautiful description that highlights the purpose of their clothing: “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” (Ex. 28:2)

The purpose of modesty echoes that. Modesty is for glory and beauty.

We are daughters of the King. Our clothing should reflect His glory. Wives are “the glory of their husbands” (1 Cor. 11). Our clothing should reflect that glory.

And it should be beautiful. Have you ever noticed how often the Bible mentions a woman’s beauty? Sarah was beautiful, Rebekah was beautiful, Rachel was beautiful. So were Abigail, Esther, the beloved in the Song of Solomon, and many more.

Did you know that the word “adorn” means “to make beautiful”?

Beauty is a good thing in the hands of a woman who wants to please Jesus.

Modesty and beauty are not mutually exclusive at all. Sarah, who is held up as a model for Christian women (Heb. 11:11, 1 Pet. 3:5-6), was so beautiful that two kings got in trouble over her beauty. (Gen. 12:10-20 & Gen. 20)

Beauty is not sinful. But we are to “make ourselves beautiful” with modesty and good works.

Glory and Beauty are the purposes of Christian modesty

Modesty: for glory and for beauty  (photo credit)

The missing modesty rules

So beauty and glory are the purposes of Christian modesty, but what about the rules part?

You can read the Bible cover to cover without finding a spelled-out list.

Sometimes I just wish God would have made it simple. The Bible is so long. Couldn’t He just have devoted one little chapter to the dos and don’ts of Christian modesty: Wear this. Don’t wear that. Make sure your shirt is at least this high, this long, and this thick. Make sure your pants or skirts are at least knee length (or calf length or ankle length).

He didn’t.

You have to search the Scriptures for clues, and pray, and seek for wisdom.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t give us any guidance at all. He does. There are some things that are pretty clearly supposed to be enjoyed within the sanctity of marriage, and not displayed for the world to see. (Prov. 5:15-20)

But God didn’t give us a simple checklist for a reason. He wants us to seek His wisdom in humility, not to just cross things off a list and think that makes us modest.

Because modesty is much, much more than just a wardrobe issue. It’s a heart issue. Modesty is about a heart that wants Jesus to be glorified. And you can’t get that through just following a checklist.

Embracing Christian Modesty

Modesty may not rank in a top ten list of favorite topics, but the Bible addresses it and so should we. Not as a mindless checklist of rules, but as a way to dress beautifully for the glory of Jesus.

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  1. says

    I never thought of the fact that so many women in the Bible are talked about as beautiful. I think so often we have a tendency to think that beauty is vain and we should not try to look beautiful. But that is not the case. God created us ladies to be beautiful. I’m reminded of a book I read where one older sister tells her younger sister that you should try your best to make yourself as nice looking as you can and then forget about it. I think I agree. Too many times we focus either on making sure we stay “good looking” or don’t think we should even try to look nice.

    Love the post, Anna. Thanks.

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