Why I’m Thankful for the Privilege of Modesty

I was waiting for my sister Beth to come back inside the college building so we could return to our evening STNA class when I heard the door slam.  I turned around and noticed a 30-something year old man walking inside.  He stopped when he saw me by the sign board and asked, “Are you Baptist?”  I smiled as I told him I wasn’t, knowing the reason for his seemingly random question – my loose blouse and floor-length denim skirt.

“Pentecostal?”

“No, I’m actually Holiness.”  I said. 

“Oh, that’s what I was going to ask next!  I appreciate the way you dress,” the man said with a smile.  I thanked him and he walked on, but when Beth came back in and we started walking as well, he turned around and called, “More people should dress like you do!” 

But I have occasionally wondered why I dress modestly like I do. 

I mean, besides the fact that I grew up with it and that Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me out of the house wearing something even slightly inappropriate.  Why does it matter what I wear?  Before I delve into the reason that I’m actually grateful for the opportunity and privilege of dressing modestly, I want to make the purpose of modesty clear.

The reason I choose to wear clothes that are modest and cover my body is to help out my brothers in Christ.  In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  This is true for both men AND women (and guys don’t need to forget modesty for themselves); however, from what I’ve heard, guys are much more visually stimulated than girls are, and therefore have to fight much harder to avoid lust, especially when a girl is showing off what she’s got. 

I am very aware of the debate going around in Christian circles of why it is a girl’s responsibility to keep a guy’s mind pure toward her, and just to make things clear, I believe that it is ABSOLUTELY the guy’s responsibility to keep his mind and thoughts pure, and I could point you to guys that say the exact same thing.  But look at what Romans 14:13 & 19 say:

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way…Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”

Instead of concentrating on myself and whining about I have go to all the trouble to find modest clothing, I want to remember that I am doing this to avoid being a stumbling block for guys around me.  Modesty is a way that we girls can help and bless our brothers in Christ, edifying both each other and them by pointing them toward the Lord instead of our physical features.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:13, showed how far we should be willing to go to help a brother not to stumble: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  Wow – there’s a challenge for you!  If something you do all the time causes someone else to stumble spiritually speaking, would you stop doing it just for the sake of that other person’s relationship with the Lord?

Yes, dressing modestly is hard sometimes, and we might struggle with having the right attitude through it, but we must remember that by not drawing attention to our bodies, we are serving the Lord!

But for me, modesty is more than just an act of obedience – it is a privilege.

Let me give you an example.  A recent example that, in fact, inspired this post.  I recently started working part-time at a local assisted living facility (which is almost a nursing home), and the dress code is a provided navy polo shirt and khaki pants, though they allowed khaki skirts as well (yes, I asked. 🙂 ).  To be honest, I really wanted to just find some loose scrub pants instead of a skirt, mainly because pants tend to allow for more movement and have more pockets (both VERY convenient in a nursing home).  However, Mom thought it’d be better and more modest to wear a skirt, and even loaned me one of hers until I could find a better one for myself.  So I wore the skirt.

I still wasn’t sure that this was the best plan, but God had other things in mind.  Co-workers and residents alike commented on my dress for the each one of my first six days of work, asking why I wore it, complimenting me on it, and asking what denomination I was.  One guy even asked to make sure that I wasn’t Amish and that we did indeed have power in our house!  These questions and my answers to them led to deeper things, like brief conversations about God, the Bible, my 10 siblings (news which is a literal jaw-dropper), homeschooling, and my unusual beliefs on many different subjects, both spiritual and non-spiritual.  I didn’t say everything right, and not even all that I probably should have regarding who God is to me, but I was amazed at how open these people were to talking about “religion,” and how it seemed to stem from the fact that I was different in an unusual way – and just because of a simple skirt!

I don’t mind wearing a skirt to work anymore – in fact, I appreciate the privilege I have in doing so, to not only stay covered and keep guys from lusting, but also to represent the Lord in the midst of a secular environment!  I feel very different, and I know I am, but God has called us to be holy, which means set apart from the world.  Jesus didn’t fit in either!

Modesty is a unique opportunity to show co-workers, neighbors, friends, and strangers that I am different.  I’m thankful that God uses it to open doors to talk to others about Him, and to explain why I do things differently!

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version.

 

6 comments

  1. Lizzy says:

    I found several inconsistencies with this article, but I want to point out the main one: There is no explanation to what is modesty. And before you try you must keep in mind that modesty is subjective with culture, from man to man, even within the Bible (just doing a comparison on modesty standards between the Old and New Testament, you’ll find many differences).

    I grew up in the holiness movement and I’ve been a missionary in multiple countries around the world. What I have found is that although Christian women should be conscious of the visual struggle of men, they can by no means dress to help them completely avoid it. For example while I was in the Middle East my holiness standards for modesty weren’t modest enough in that culture. I would have to completely cover my hair, my eyes, my ankles, etc. to be considered modest. Yet while I was in Africa, the Christian women wore their traditional clothing all the time that left them half naked. They thought I was the weird one for covering up at all and yet I saw less promiscuity from the men even though they were seeing more skin than they would in America. In the Middle East seeing hair was tempting for the men (not all just a cultural majority). In the part of Africa where I was it was a woman’s lower torso if it wasn’t covered, though she could be bare chested and no one would notice.

    So my point is not to stop trying, but that if it is really your decision to be a certain level of modesty make sure it is the Holy Spirit convicting you, not your parents. Also you should ask the guys around you what modesty means for them. Every guy is different and since we can’t cater to every strangers’ temptations, we might as well find out from those we see on a daily basis how we should dress to bless them. Just because the standards my husband and I have for ourselves/each other are different from another person doesn’t mean someone is right or wrong, it just means that again modesty is subjective and we should give grace when someone else’s standard doesn’t match our own.

    • Hannah McIntosh says:

      Thank you, Lizzy, for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you that modesty is difficult to define, and definitely varies from person to person, and from culture to culture! This is why it is so important to be listening to the Holy Spirit, as you said, instead of JUST trying to please people, though it is important to listen to others’ input – in my case, my parents.

      My point for this article was not to try to define modesty, but rather to explain why I am thankful that I am able to serve others and spread God’s love by being modest, especially because I feel it is way too common for girls to resist their parents’ clothing guidelines and to wish they didn’t have to cover up.

      Thanks again for your good points!
      Blessings,
      Hannah

  2. Karin says:

    Praise the Lord, Hannah! Great post! May the Lord continue to deepen these conversations! We’ve had men say similar things to us, and been asked the ‘denomination or Amish’ question. May it all be for the glory of God.

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