The importance of modest dress

My family and I love to watch the Olympics.  However, all the skin-tight and revealing suits worn by the Olympians have caused me to wonder if God would approve.  I believe that the real issue is an outdated and unfamiliar term to our culture today: modesty.  Mark Twain once said, "I was born modest, but it didn't last."  The same can be said for America.  It was once considered unacceptable to dress in such a revealing way in our country.  Maybe as a nation we didn’t understand why, but we just knew it was wrong to appear in public in clothing that did no more than paint the private parts of the body with a thin layer of Spandex.    

All that has changed.  Waving the banner of freedom and equipped with the modern weapon of attack called tolerance we accept immodesty without question and without shame.  For the Christian we must realize that we live in a culture that is not sensitive to immorality.  We must be careful not to allow our senses to become dull when we are surrounded by a culture that says, "Anything goes."  The Bible tells us specifically how we are to do this in Hebrews 5:14.  "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have trained their senses to discern good and evil."  "Solid food" here refers to the meat of the Bible.  Therefore, when it comes to the issue of dress we must turn to the Bible to see what, if anything, it has to say.

Without the Bible there is no reason to wear cloths.  But within the Bible in Genesis we see the foundation of why we wear cloths.  What caused Adam and Eve to be ashamed of their nakedness?  Sin.  The first thing to happen to Adam and Eve after sin was "that the eyes of them both were open and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons."  Genesis 3:7  The moral reason for clothing is established immediately after the first sin.  This should amplify the importance of clothing and tell us something about why we should wear cloths.  Adam was now conscious of being naked because he had sinned otherwise he would not have been ashamed.   Thus, the source of his shame for his nakedness was the awareness of his sin.  Conversely, lack of shame for one's nakedness is evidence of a hardened conscious insensitive to sin. 

This is the world we live in.  Many Christians have become so desensitized to nakedness because of our culture that they see nothing wrong with public display of nakedness.  Simply because clothing, as is the case in the Olympics, covers the private parts of the body does not mean that it is okay.  Clothing manufacturers are well aware that it is the body that is the fashion today; cloths are merely frame for it.  Kidwell and Steele in "Men and Women: Dressing the Part" wrote, "clothes are especially sexy when they call attention to the naked body underneath."

Jeff Pollard in his book, "Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America" wrote, "Being drawn to a person's God-given beauty is one thing; having one's eyes directed to another's body by a sensually designed garment is another…any apparel designed to draw the eye to the erotic zones of the body cannot fill the requirement for Biblical decency."  He continues by pointing out that the world, "caters to pride, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, not purity and holiness.  Its purpose is not covering the body but sensually packaging and uncovering it.  The world does not deny this; why then do so many modern Christians?"

At this point many Christians are shouting, "Christian liberty!"  The Christian certainly has the liberty to make a judgment about whether Spandex is right or wrong; that is not the issue.  A child of God must consider Psalm 101:3, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes."  I am not advocating rules and regulations or any kind of legalism here.  My desire is to ask the Christian to seek holiness in this very foundational area of life.  "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.  But as he hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."  1 Peter 1:14-16 

I would agree that making judgments about what you watch is a matter of Christian liberty but I would hope that Christians would be sensitive to the pornographic society in which we live.   I would disagree that a Christian has liberty in regard to his or her own body.  The body of the Christian does not belong to him, "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?" 1 Corinthians 6:19  The purpose of one's body is seen clearly in the next verse: "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." 


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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen