Modesty: Is it Still the Best Policy?
A couple of years ago, as I stood in the hallway of my condo talking to a neighbor, another neighbor approached and asked: “Which one of you is due first?” I was pregnant. The neighbor I was talking to…well, she wasn’t. As my not-so-pregnant neighbor’s face flushed red with anger and embarrassment, internally I gasped. Suddenly I felt uneasy and desperate for a way out of this conversation. It was one of those moments when I wish I could’ve clicked my heels and disappeared.
The way I felt that day in my condo – that twinge of discomfort and embarrassment – is how I felt after I watched a video of actress Meagan Good being admonished to “cover up.”
In the video, a woman tells the Hollywood star, a professed born-again Christian and wife of film producer and preacher DeVon Franklin, that she spotted her on the cover of a magazine with her goods (no pun intended) exposed. The actress’s tearful reaction and her husband’s matter-of-fact response that “She’s not gonna cover up; she’s going to wear what she wants to wear in the name of Jesus” show clearly that this woman’s comments struck a chord with the couple.
The video has led to a firestorm of opinions from viewers, some of whom applaud Mr. Franklin for coming to his wife’s defense and for supporting her fashion choices, while others lean in favor of the actress choosing a more modest look to coincide with her new, real life role: the wife of a preacher.
So herein lies this post (which I'll preface by saying this: the delivery of this woman's message to Meagan Good was ALL WRONG. But I will address that separately). As one who seeks to help other women reach for Godly standards and to uphold them as an indication that they are truly set apart, I feel that the topic of modesty is worth discussing. We live in a society in which sex sells, and the spirit of the independent woman is running full throttle. As women of faith, how should we respond? Do we go with the trends, or is modesty still the best policy?
What the Word of God Says About How Women Should Dress
To be a Christian is to follow Christ, to follow His example and His Word. His Word is designed for our instruction, correction and spiritual growth; for our understanding of who He is, and what He desires and expects of us.
God’s word is the standard by which we should govern our lives; and as the ultimate standard, it is not up to us to pick and choose which parts of His Word we follow. With that, let’s look at what I Timothy 2:9-10 says about how women should dress:
The above verse of Scripture encourages modesty (regard for decency of dress), propriety (conformity to established standards of good or proper behavior) and moderation (restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses). The Scripture also discourages vanity, bringing attention to oneself for personal gratification. Clearly, the standard has been set. The standard, God’s standard is and always will be modesty.
So What’s a Girl to Do?
If we rely solely on our opinion and the belief that our bodies are our own, then we will always struggle with how to answer this question. If we take offense to the idea of not being able to showcase the beautiful bodies God has given us in the way that we choose, then we will be inclined to rebel. If we perceive the expectation for us to obey the instructions of the God we profess to follow as criticism and judgment, then we will reject God’s standard and shut or ears to the truth. And if we shut our ears to the truth, and lean to our own understanding, then we run the risk of leading others to do the same.
So what’s a girl to do? Obey the Word. Keep it modest. Keep it classy. Why?
Your body is not your own. Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself. (I Corinthians 6:19) Just as a designer becomes the owner of something he/she creates and has expectations of how their creation should be used, so do we belong to our Creator, and we are subject to His expectations.
Your body should be reserved for your husband. No man should see what God has intended to be left for your husband’s enjoyment. If this were not true, then God would not have told us to abstain from fornication. The most precious parts of us are just that – precious. They are not to be thrown about casually, but instead, shared with the man God has designed for us. (I Corinthians 7:4)
You are to be set apart. As women of faith, you are not like women of the world. Because your standards are different, your behavior should also be different. Trends shouldn’t matter more than your obedience to the Father. If you find yourself torn between doing what God says and what the world says is acceptable, read Matthew 6:24 which says, “No one can serve two masters.” At some point you have to make a choice. “You must be holy because I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)
Your choices affect others. What you see as simply embracing or displaying your beauty, could in fact be a distraction, if not a stumbling block for someone else. God knows our hearts (Acts 15:8); and while you may never know that your less-than-modest appearance is causing another man (or woman for that matter) to lust after you, God does. As Believers, we are to build others up and encourage their spiritual growth, not cause them to stumble and fall back into the very sin God wants to deliver them from.
That’s the Word.
What Do the Men Have to Say?
I asked several men for their perspective on the video as well as for their personal expectations for their own wives. Is modesty still the best policy? When, if ever is it acceptable for the standards of modesty to be lifted? Here’s what they had to say:
“She’s [Meagan Good] been taught that sex sells, so she was doing what she learned.”
“My personal expectations are twofold: (a) Resemble a saved, sanctified holy woman of God (and I don’t mean according to [church] tradition as much as I mean according to how others perceive you); (b) look good accomplishing task ‘a’. Appeal!”
“I admire him [Mr. Franklin] for protecting his wife. But I want my wife to look good for ME, and then for all to admire. No need to be showing too much skin. As a married woman, that’s just tacky and disrespectful to yourself and your husband. Dress like a lady, even in your jeans.”
“As Believers, we are required to lift up/set a standard, and the attitude of “it’s your thang…do what you want to do” is inconsistent with what the Word teaches, especially when it comes to modesty. If the Scripture says that “women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel,” can’t one of us say anything. Read your Bible. Check your spirit.”
“When it’s me and her time…the standard is 'EVERYTHING MUST GO'. That is who this sexiness is for…ME! Nobody else.”
I’ll wrap up today’s post with something I heard my pastor say last night as he talked about Levi’s decision to leave behind his old life to follow Jesus (Mark 2:14). He said this: if we are going to walk with the King, “there must be an absolute abandonment of this world’s system.” Levi demonstrated his commitment to follow Christ by what he was willing to walk away from.
I pray that all of us who express a desire to follow Christ will do so with an unrelenting heart, unafraid to walk away from what we think is acceptable – whether it’s our bad habits, destructive and inappropriate behaviors, or the way we think. If we’re going to follow the truth, let’s follow the truth. For real.
And if we're going to speak the truth, please, let's do it in love. That makes it a whole lot easier to receive.