Summer is almost here, and I am ready to hit the beach. I love relaxing on the sand with a good book as the cool waters lick my toes. However, the pleasant thoughts of summer on the beach are quickly overshadowed by one thing—bathing suits. Now I’m not going to get into a theological discussion about one-piece bathing suits or bikinis or about “mixed bathing,” but summer does often stir my thoughts about modesty.
What’s the big deal anyway? I often hear teenage girls and adult women say, “It’s my body, and I can wear what I want. Besides, men shouldn’t be looking anyway.” I have two problems with that statement. First, it is theologically flawed from the start because our bodies are not our own. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
Basically, I can sum up Paul’s words to the church in Corinth in four words: “It’s not about me.” I think we often try to boil the idea of modesty down to a list of rules and regulations about what we can and cannot wear. How short is too short? How tight is too tight? How low is too low? We blur the lines and try to push the boundaries because we think this issue is all about us. What makes us comfortable, pretty, popular or acceptable? Unfortunately, we have a very small view of an infinite God when we try to put ourselves at the center of the modesty debate. However, until women realize that this is more than just an outward display of fashion and that it’s a much deeper heart issue, we’ll never penetrate the core of modesty.
Because God is the Creator of life, He gets to make up the rules. We don’t decide for ourselves as we go along what’s right and what’s wrong. His standard on this issue is clearly stated in Scripture. I love Proverbs 11:22-23:
“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”
Allow me to illustrate this point with a modern-day example. I’m one of those girls who has dreamed of her wedding day since I was young enough to play dress-up. Ken and Barbie always got married and drove away to happily ever after in the Malibu Barbie red convertible Corvette. I would hum “dum-dum-da-dum” as I walked step-together-step-together down the hall of our house in my mother’s nightgown to meet my imaginary groom. Included in my dreams is my engagement ring. Tiffany and Company is one of the premier diamond dealers in the world. In the movie Sweet Home Alabama, Reese Witherspoon’s fiancé takes her to Tiffany and says, “Pick one.” For me, that is a dream-come-true. All my friends know that I dream of my fiancé getting down on one knee and asking me to be his wife, as he pulls out a little blue box with a white ribbon. Inside, he reveals a two carat Tiffany diamond solitaire in a classic five-pronged platinum setting. Okay, I am dreaming, but it’s worth a shot. Now, imagine if my fiancé were to pull out my dream ring as I exclaimed, “Oh, it’s perfect! Ernest will absolutely love it!” “Who’s Ernest,” my fiancé asks in surprise. “Oh, Ernest is my pot-bellied pig. I’ve been wanting to get a diamond ring to put in his nose, and this one is just right! Thank you.” Now you are probably thinking, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” But that’s exactly the point that Solomon makes in this proverb. The woman that Solomon writes about is fair and beautiful and lovely; she has a striking appearance. He says that she is without discretion, meaning that she has turned away from good taste, judgment, and discernment. Hmmm…do you think he could have had modesty in mind here?
In verse 23, the word desire is a feminine noun meaning desire, delight or craving. It indicates something that is attractive, desirable and delightful to the eyes. The righteous are those who conform to a given standard. Good is an adjective meaning well-pleasing, fruitful, morally correct or proper. It describes that which is appealing and pleasant to the senses. Those women who conform to the standards of Christ only desire to do that which is well-pleasing and proper. They realize that their choice in clothing is not a choice without consequence. It is not a meaningless decision they make when they wake up in the morning. Rather, their choice in clothing is an outward demonstration of their righteousness, or right-standing, before God.
My second problem with a woman’s flippant attitude in saying that men shouldn’t be looking is this—telling a man not to look is like telling a woman that she’s won a $5,000 shopping spree, but she can’t spend any of the money. It’s foolishness. Clearly, we are wired quite differently as men and women. Unfortunately, we as women cannot even begin to comprehend the battle in the mind surrounding the issue of immodesty. Look at this picture below. What do you see?
Most people say they see a white circle on top of four black squares. However, this is merely a picture of four incomplete squares. The circle isn’t really there at all. The Gestalt Theory of closure says that our minds complete an incomplete picture. When women dress immodestly, they are painting an incomplete picture of their bodies for every man that looks at them. It is an innate behavior to complete that incomplete image. This is a fact about all guys that we as ladies will never fully comprehend…just know it as truth and keep it in mind when you get dressed each day.
The following is a testimony from a friend of mine about the change that took place in her life when she turned from immodest dressing:
“When I was saved and began to feel total acceptance and love from God, I gradually cared less and less what guys and girls thought about me, including the way I dressed. I did not want guys to look at me the way they used to. I did not turn into a slob, but I dressed more conservatively out of respect for God. I did not want guys to be attracted to me because of the clothes I wore.”
The issue is so much bigger than what is cute and fashionable. For women, we must remember that our bodies are a temple of the Lord, and the way we adorn them is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. We must also remember that we are to love our brothers in Christ and protect them in a world that is seeking to steal, kill and destroy them. So, modesty really is a big deal after all.
© 2006, Stephanie Thompson