7 Myths about Modesty Christians Should Stop Believing

7 Myths about Modesty Christians Should Stop Believing

From the flurry of articles I see being exchanged as the weather gets warmer and hemlines rise, necklines plunge, and shirtless men become more common, modesty is a hot topic—especially among believers.

And it’s surprisingly complicated. You can find people throwing out Bible verses and opinions on a whole spectrum of what is or is not appropriate, many of them extremely passionate. Does a strictly traditional view of modesty encourage blaming rape victims? Does a liberal view of Christian freedom in dress represent how even the church is beginning to conform to the world?

I’m not going to answer those questions directly, but I do want to add a few areas to think about as I talk about some misconceptions I see in Christian discussions about modesty.

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1. Modesty is all about clothing.

The most-cited verse in Christian discussions on this topic is 1 Timothy 2:9-10: “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.”

Let’s be careful before reading our own culture in the passage. Paul wasn’t talking about plunging necklines or short skirts here. He was asking the wealthy women of the church not to flaunt their wealth, especially when other members of the church were poor. He didn’t want these women to put their identity in their physical appearance. (1 Peter 3:3-4 says the same thing.)

As this passage illustrates, modesty is a deeper, more interesting virtue than we think, one that includes both genders equally. It’s giving credit where it’s due, never being entitled, helping others feel welcome, and refusing to brag about your accomplishments. By reducing discussion of modesty to a checklist of dos and don’ts for women’s dress, we miss the heart of what the Bible teaches about true modesty in all its forms. 

So modesty is not just about clothing. But since most discussions in the church focus on that area, the rest of the myths will all relate to that one (relatively narrow) application of modesty.

 

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