A while ago, we had a Christian family over for dinner. It had been a most enjoyable evening. After dinner, we gathered in the living room to sing and listen to Christopher play a few hymns on the piano. I was sitting on the floor by the fireplace, looking across the room to the hallway opening, where the piano was located. The wife of the other family was sitting on the edge of the loveseat, putting her almost directly in my line of sight to see Christopher.
She was rather conservatively dressed except for a loose fitting top with a medium neckline. She was sitting with her baby on her lap, and then she bent over to set the child on the floor in front of her. She was now directly in my line of sight. As she set the child down, she looked across at me. To my horror her top hung open, and it could have appeared to her I was inappropriately looking at her. I immediately closed my eyes and turned away, but I was never so humbled in all my life. I honestly could have wept right there.
After the fall, Adam and Eve immediately were aware that their nakedness was to be covered. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve had been in close fellowship with God, and even though they had just disobeyed Him, they knew they needed to cover their nakedness. Think about it. There was no one else around other than their God Who created them, and they still felt shame and the need to cover up.
Why don’t many Christians feel shame and grasp the need to be modest in dress? Why is it that all seem to have a different idea of what is an acceptable level of dress (or undress)? What influences a person to come to the opinion they have about it? How can someone decide? Who is right? Does anyone have the right to say that someone else’s clothing is inappropriate or immodest? Why do some consider it “okay” to wear a revealing swimming suit to the lake or pool, but not to church? Everyone draws the line of modesty somewhere, but why do some draw it where they do? One thing I’m confident of, few if any of those who choose to dress immodestly have ever earnestly sought the Lord for His will in the matter.
Some churches have dress standards that are more or less enforced, whether overtly or through subtle pressure. Forget all of that. I encourage dads to put away all outside factors as you consider the subject of modesty.
Dad, what is your role in this, or is it a personal matter for you and your wife to decide separately? What Scripture would you base your answer on? Unfortunately, my experience has been that the more immersed a family is in the world, the more their values will reflect the world’s. If they have a frequent diet of TV, even with the more acceptable shows, the family will still be sitting there for commercials. Fifteen years ago the Diet Coke and yogurt commercials would display scantily clothed women’s figures to sell their product. I only shudder to think how things are advertised today.
A frequent exposure to this type of visual conscience-searing will affect how a couple views what is modest. Also, the amount of time spent in God’s Word will have a great effect on one’s attitude about modesty. What Scripture would a husband use in reference to this whole issue?
What does God say is appropriate? How does He want us to dress? Is there a different set of modesty standards for going to church, shopping, the beach, and elsewhere? Before the fall, there was no shame, but after the fall, the response was shame regarding nakedness. Note, Adam and Eve weren’t naked by today’s standards; in fact, I expect they would have been considered clothed. Remember, they had sewn fig leaf aprons to cover themselves. However, in Genesis 3:10, Adam said he hid because he was naked. God must have agreed that Adam was naked, because God killed animals and made coats to cover them. The Hebrew word used for coats means to cover. This would appear to be a large covering for their nakedness since Adam’s fig leaf apron was insufficient in God’s sight. It is possible that the aprons were even more of a covering than many swimsuits worn by Christians today.
The husband is responsible before God for his wife and for her purity. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:23-28). Could Scripture be plainer about the husband’s role in guarding the purity of his wife?
We read in Luke 8:27 that the demoniac wore no clothes. Once the demons were cast out, he was clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet. Then in 1 Timothy 2:9 we read, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,” where modest means “well arranged, seemly, and modest.” Remember that the word naked was used to describe Adam and Eve after they had “covered” themselves with fig leaf aprons.
I find this topic similar to tithing. I have known people who will attempt to argue that the Bible does not command Christians to tithe, and others who will argue it does. I find the subject of Christians drinking alcohol in the same light. I believe God has given us a number of topics like these to test the heart. My question regarding these issues is, “Am I looking for the line of sin, or for how close to my Jesus I can draw?” When there is a question whose answer I’m not totally clear on, it is the desire of my heart to choose the side of holiness and the side closest to my Lord.
Have you ever seen something interesting out the side window while you were driving? The tendency is to inadvertently steer in the direction you are looking. If we keep our eyes on Christ, we will move closer to Him. If our focus is on the world, we will be drawn to it and agree with what the world deems as acceptable.
Is anyone in the family wearing clothing that is seductive, tight, revealing, and exposing? Which side do you want to err on? Your Lord’s or the world’s? The world wants to show as much skin and body parts as possible, whether visibly or through tight clothing. Vine’s Expository Dictionary lists Matthew 25:36, 38, 43, 44; Acts 19:16; and James 2:15, where “naked” means “scantily, or poorly, clad.” This being the case, how many churches on Sunday morning have members fitting this description?
I’m not advocating wearing black trash bags with holes cut out for the eyes. What I am pleading is for dads to be the heads of their Christian homes. Our calling as parents is to raise up godly seed (Malachi 2:15), and that is why many choose to homeschool. We are to carefully guard the purity of our wives and children. Each dad should take this issue before the Lord, and study the Bible until he knows for sure what is pleasing to his Lord. Remember, it is not a matter of what we feel is okay, but what is pleasing to our Lord Jesus. We should never try to see how close to the line of sin we can come without stepping over, but rather how close we can draw to our Lord Jesus.
May we be men of God and lead the way for our family in setting the example of modesty. After having studied the subject, dads may be convicted that not wearing a shirt or wearing cut-offs or shorts is immodest. If so, I encourage you to be strong and courageous and demonstrate to your family that you are more concerned about what God thinks about you than you are about your own personal comfort.
We need to communicate what we have learned to our family and our desire that they dress as the Lord would have them. We could help them evaluate their clothing and retire anything that is deemed unsuitable.
It blesses my heart to have my wife and daughters bring me their new clothing for my opinion. I have not mandated that they must; it is because they want their clothing to be pleasing both to the Lord Jesus and to me. I know this whole subject is a personal and sensitive issue. It is my desire that no one feels judged or condemned by this, but I pray that I may spur each dad to own this area of responsibility, to study the matter, take it before his Lord, and then to present it to his family.