Modesty – It Is Not About Your Heart!

Don’t throw stones!  I can only imagine most of you are thinking I’m either crazy or dead wrong!  Whenever the modesty discussion comes up, people are always quick to say, “But remember, it’s a heart matter.  It’s not just about our clothing.”

This is said to express that we can fully cover our bodies but if our hearts are not in the right place, we are not being modest.  Essentially: the inward appearance is more important than the outward appearance.  On the surface, this seems like a good mentality to have.  After all, it is important that our hearts are in the right place!

The flip side is that this mindset gives the impression that modesty is a heart condition and that it doesn’t really matter how you cover your body.  And that right there is a problem!

Modesty - It Is Not About Your Heart!

You see, the word “modest” is only used one time in the Bible.  1Timothy 2:9 says, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,”

I fully believe that our hearts should be in the right place.  There are many Scripture passages that talk about our hearts and what their condition ought to be …

  • Pure (Matthew 5:8),
  • Clean (Psalm 51:10),
  • Dwelling place of His law (Psalm 40:8),
  • Steadfast (Psalm 57:7),
  • Upright (Psalm 94:15),
  • Perfect (Psalm 101:2),
  • Wise (Proverbs 10:8),
  • Merry (Psalm 15:13)

Let’s face it, folks … 1Timothy doesn’t say we should adorn ourselves with a modest heart: it says we should adorn ourselves in modest clothing.  In the Scriptures, modesty is never referred to as a heart matter.  The only time modesty is discussed in Scripture is in reference to clothing.

Apparel.

The physical garments that we wear.

Modesty has been an important issue in our family for many years.  While we try to do our best to follow the convictions that the Heavenly Father has given us, we also try not to put our family standards on other people.  We do not believe that the way people cover their bodies reveals the level of righteousness in their hearts because 1Samuel 16:7 says, “for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart.”

And therein lies the problem!  People do look at the outward appearance.  They make judgments based on the outward appearance.

Picture a scenario.  You’re at a social function and you see a young woman who is dressed immodestly.  I am not going to describe how she is dressed … just imagine that she is dressed inappropriately according to your standards.  You have the opportunity to speak with her.  She is a sincere believer who truly desires to please the Heavenly Father, she is a sister in the Messiah, she is thoughtful and compassionate and if you were called upon to give an opinion on the condition of her heart, it would be a positive one.

But what message is she sending to the people, especially the men, in this room who do not have the opportunity to speak with her?  Her appearance is causing others to struggle with temptation and keeping their thoughts in the right place.  Her choice of clothing does not inspire words like “seemly, decent and well-arranged” (the definitions of the word modest) and the inappropriate display of her body is causing distraction.  Perhaps people will give her the benefit of doubt and only think about the good and sincere intentions of her heart.  It’s more likely that most will have the impression she is looking, perhaps unconsciously, for inappropriate attention.

This is where the “modesty is all about the heart” argument falls to pieces.  It just simply is not all about the heart!  It is about our physical apparel and appearance.  A girl can have the most “modest” heart in the world but if her clothing is revealing and suggestive, she is not modest!  And, ironical as this may sound, a prostitute who is dressed in decent clothing that covers her body properly is modest!  She has some heart issues to deal with, for sure, but if she is wearing clothing that is not revealing and suggestive, she is still modest!

Modesty - It Is Not About Your Heart!

I understand that many people have had negative experiences with someone judging or condemning them for their clothing choices.  This is unfortunate and should not happen in the Body of Messiah.  However the tendency is to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, to the point that people aren’t willing to address immodesty.  We should be able to encourage and exhort each other, not forcing our opinions and beliefs on each other but sharing them in love.

Another incorrect perception of modesty that I have heard is this: if we fully cover our bodies, we will stand out in a crowd because everyone else dresses differently, and thus we are not being modest because we are drawing attention to ourselves.  So it is better to dress like the people in the world around us, right?

Wrong!

The word modesty does not mean, “not drawing attention to ourselves”.  Granted, we should not present ourselves in a way that calls attention to us … either through inappropriate display of our body, or through covering up in a self-righteous, better-than-thou attitude.  But modesty is not about whether we are drawing attention to ourselves or not; it is about being decent and not revealing what should not be revealed.

We are surrounded by a culture that glories in immodesty and sensuality.  The more the merrier.  Society is in a downward spiral.  Clothing that was considered immodest and inappropriate 100 years ago is now acceptable and normal.  Can you imagine our great-grandmothers wearing tight jeans and tank tops?  Or bikinis?  Can you imagine the horror they would feel if they saw someone dressed in that way?  As believers and followers of the Messiah, we cannot take our cues from society.  There’s an old saying that goes something like this, “Right is right if nobody is doing it and wrong is wrong if everybody is doing it.”  We must have a higher standard.

I know of a young lady who believed in dressing modestly and believed that she did.  Some of her “modest outfit” blog posts included pictures of her in snug-fitting tops and tight jeans or knee-length skirts.  At the same time, she was complaining about receiving inappropriate attention from young men!  I wanted to say, “Dear young lady, put some more clothes on!” (and I did, in similar terms).

Ladies, it is not modest to wear clothing that reveals your figure.  Have you ever wondered why men’s jeans are usually cut to be looser-fitting than women’s jeans?  Think about the difference between male and female swimwear – why is it acceptable and expected for women to wear less?  I believe these are just some of the ways that the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) tries to cause brethren to stumble and fall.

Modesty - It Is Not About Your Heart!

When a lady dons clothing that draws inappropriate attention to her figure, she is demonstrating, perhaps unconsciously, her lack of respect for the physical body that she has been given.  I recently had the opportunity to speak with a new friend and she was sharing how she had been convicted about her lack of modesty.  It was an incredible blessing to hear not only about the changes she was making in her wardrobe but the reason for making those changes.  She had realized that her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19-20) and she was not treating it as such.  Profound!

In closing, I want to challenge you to think about the clothing that you put on each day.  Ask yourself questions like:

  • Does this glorify my Heavenly Father?
  • Would I want to come before my Savior dressed like this?
  • Am I clothing my body as befitting the temple of the Holy Spirit?
  • Does my appearance present a message of femininity and beautiful womanhood or worldliness and sensuality?

Dear ladies, it is very important to have your heart in the right place.  I don’t ever want to belittle that concept.  But it is equally important to attire yourself in clothing that portrays decency and femininity, that calls for the respect of others and inspires them with thoughts that glorify our Father in heaven instead of vice versa.  Blessings to you as you seek the Father about what is modest in His eyes!

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

This question has been posed to the ladies in our family more times than I can remember!  I have answered so many emails about it and each time it comes up again, I feel like I am typing the same response that I have done multiple times before.  So the decision has been made to compile all my thoughts (or at least most of them!) and publish them in this format.

When I was about four years old, my mother was convicted to wear a headcovering while praying, based on this passage of Scripture:

But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.  For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. – 1Corinthians 11:5,6

She began wearing one while she was praying, but did not wear it all the time and would sometimes scramble to find one when a prayer need came up, especially if she was on the phone talking to a friend.  My father once took a picture of her with a cloth diaper on her head – a clean one, of course!  After some time, she started to feel that she should be wearing one all the time but was hesitant. Then we were in a restaurant while traveling somewhere and when my father left the table to take us children to the buffet, a man started making inappropriate advances toward my mother. She felt strongly that if she had been wearing a headcovering, that would not have happened.  From that point on, she started wearing one pretty much full time and I decided to also.  I did not really understand why but just followed her example.

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

And this is slightly unrelated but I just want to add: Mothers, you have incredible influence on your children when they are young.  They want to imitate you and get your approval.  There is a cartoon drawing that has gone around of a mother laughing at her little girl who is saying bad words and behaving immodestly … and then the mother wonders where she went wrong when her teenage daughter ends up pregnant out of wedlock.

If you value dressing modestly/wearing a headcovering, your young daughters will also.  If they are exposed to worldly influences and allowed/encouraged to think that being immodest is “cute” and desirable, is it any wonder if they go astray as they get older?  Back to the topic …

For many years I wore the headcovering because my mother did, the ladies in our fellowship did, and the ladies in the community (ex-Amish/Mennonite) did.  Positive peer pressure!  But as I grew older, it was time to make a personal decision and answer the question for myself …

Why do you wear a headcovering?

There are two reasons I wear a covering.  Actually three.

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

1Corinthians 11 says that a woman should wear a headcovering when she prays or prophesies, or have her head shaved.  No two ways about it.  There are three main arguments for why women should not wear headcoverings, in regard to this passage.

1). That these instructions were only for that culture/congregation/time period.

2). That a woman’s long hair is her covering.

3). That a woman’s husband/father/male authority figure is her covering.

My thoughts on these objections are as follows …

1). While I agree that these instructions were for the Corinthian congregation, I also believe they are for all other believers who read them.  If we can disregard this passage as “cultural”, what else in the Bible can we disregard as “cultural”?  Why not determine that all of the instructions given to the Corinthians are inapplicable for us today?  This is a dangerous viewpoint, a slippery slope.

2). Many say that a woman’s long hair is her covering and quote verse 15 – “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.”  I am not a Greek scholar but I do believe in studying the words that are used in Scripture to the best of my ability, especially when they seem to contradict another verse.  It is interesting to note that the word used for “covering” in this verse literally means a mantle or veil, in other words, something tangible/material.  In verse 6 Paul says, For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.”  This verse instructs that if a woman is not covered, she should cut her hair short.  This makes no logical sense in light of the viewpoint that long hair is a covering!  Why would she shave off her covering?!

Also, if this passage is saying that long hair is a covering … how long is long?  Who gets to decide?  This would seem to be a very important factor.  We should also keep in mind that a man is to pray with his head uncovered … thus, if hair is a covering, he must take off his hair every time he prays!  These are some of the reasons why the hair-is-a-covering idea does not make sense to me and I believe that verse 15 could be better understood if it said “for her hair is given to her for covering”, like one might say “the body was given for clothing”.  Not that it is clothing/covering, but it needs clothing/covering!

3). Regarding the third opposition, verse 3 of this chapter says, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Messiah, the head of woman is man, and the head of Messiah is God.”  A woman’s husband (or father) is her spiritual authority or “head”.  This is confirmed in a number of Scripture passages.  But it never says that he is her covering, in the sense that the word is used in this chapter.  And logically speaking, does that mean if a woman is not married or does not have a father in her life (i.e. is not covered), she should shave her head?  This makes no sense!

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

In conclusion, I do not understand how people explain away the instructions in 1Corinthians 11.  At the same time, I do believe that this passage is specifically referring to the public prayer/prophecy in the congregational setting.  Some people use it to support the idea that a woman should wear a covering all the time, citing the injunction in 1Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing, but I am not convinced that it applies.  After all, you can’t wear a headcovering while you’re washing your hair!  Does that mean it’s a shame if you pray in the shower?  This is why I believe this passage is referring specifically to the congregational setting.  However I do try to wear a headcovering most of the time and this falls under my second reason – modesty.

There are several references in the Bible to uncovering a woman’s head/hair and in both situations, the woman is in a disgraceful position.  One is Numbers 5, when instructions are given regarding what to do if a husband thinks his wife has been unfaithful to him.  The priest was to uncover her head and make her drink a bitter water made from dust.  If she had no reaction, she was innocent.  If she became ill, she was guilty.  The other reference is Isaiah 47, speaking of young women who were in shameful circumstances.  These references seem to imply that it was normal for a woman’s head to be covered, and to be uncovered was a sign of shame.  Sound familiar?

In light of 1Corinthians 11:15, which states that the woman’s hair is her glory, it is interesting to note Isaiah 4:5 which says, “then YHWH will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.”  Melanie Ellison expounded on this in detail in her article for Shining Stars Magazine, The Headcovering: A Chuppah Of Divine Protection.  Essentially, the meaning of this word for covering (over “the glory”) means “divine protection”.

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

That corresponds exactly to my mother’s revelation in that restaurant 20 years ago, and we have experienced numerous times that the headcovering does provide protection and inspires respect.  It is definitely an outward sign or symbol of being set apart.  I wear the headcovering in public for the same reason I dress modestly: I respect myself too much to reveal “my glory” to anyone and everyone.  To me,  it is more important to wear the headcovering in public, than in private.  There are times when I do not wear a headcovering around the house but I feel strongly about having it on when I go out.

Why Do You Wear A Headcovering?

And for the third reason, that my parents want me to … that’s pretty self-explanatory!  It is a family conviction and if I were to stop wearing it, I would more or less be rebelling against their wishes.  If I marry and my husband has a different understanding and prefers me not to wear it at times, I certainly don’t think I would be in sin to follow his leading.  But I do believe in submitting to the authority that the Heavenly Father has placed in my life right now – my parents.

With all that being said, let me make it very clear that I believe the decision to wear the headcovering is a very personal one.  You cannot find a chapter and verse that say “Thou shalt wear the headcovering”!  It seems to me that the principle is clear throughout Scripture but it something that each person must decide for herself.  After all, if someone only wears a headcovering because of the influence of someone else, there is very little conviction involved.  Each person must prayerfully consider her responsibility, study the Scriptures, seek Godly counsel and come to her own conclusions.

I have shared how and why I have come to mine … may each of you be blessed as you establish your own!  If you do wear a headcovering, I would love to hear your reasons for doing so!

P.S.  This is the last day to enter the giveaway for the headcovering from Rosi’s Boutique … if you haven’t entered yet, you can do so here!

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The Big Question …

Actually .. I’m not sure if it is the big question but at least it is a big question!

There are many different ideas about what modesty means and everyone’s standards are usually a little bit different than others’.  Many women believe in being modest because they feel that a lack of modesty can present temptation to men and they want to be careful about not causing others to stumble and lust “… but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13b

So the question is this: if you knew that a certain outfit that belonged to you caused one to struggle with temptation, would you continue to wear it?

This is something that I have considered for awhile and I know what I would like to be able to answer but I still hesitate!  I can hear you now … “What? Hesitate? If you knew that you were putting a stumbling block in front of someone, you would hesitate to change?”

But think about this for a minute.  Think about your favorite outfit … an outfit that you feel is very modest and appropriate.  Would you really be willing to never wear it again if you knew that it was causing a brother to stumble?

I want to hear your thoughts!  This is a question that has puzzled me for awhile and I would love to see some discussion on it.

the big question

Modest Outfit Contest – Please Vote!

Hello Friends,

Caroline over at The Modest Mom Blog hosted a Modest Monday Contest for the last Monday of the year … yes, that is today!  Last week she invited people to send in their pictures and she posted them today.  The person with the most votes by midnight on Thursday (1/2/14) wins.  That being said, Hannah and I both have outfits in this contest (#1 & #2) so if you would like to, please go on over and leave a comment to vote!  You can do so by clicking HERE.  Thank you, ladies!

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NOTE: these outfits will also be featured in more details in our upcoming Bargain Bin Modesty column here on Radical Femininity … stay tuned!