modesty is a matter of the heart


When it comes to clothing I don’t care very much. I do like style, but I value comfort more. Now my wife on the other hand likes style. And I am glad she is. There are a lot of opinions on what is appropriate or inappropriate style of clothing. Should I wear a black burke [legalism] or Brazilian bikini [license]? This is not a message giving you a list of what you should or should not wear, but in grace we are going to pursue godliness through modesty. What is modesty, you ask? Modesty is humility expressed in dress.[1]

What does the Bible say about dress? [1 Timothy 2:8-10]

Modesty is a Matter of the Heart. Clothing is a concern for God. How can clothing be a matter of the heart? How do you discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of your heart. You should examine the motives and goals for the way you dress: Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshipping God? Or is it to call attention to you or attempts to lure others sexually or provocatively? A godly heart that focuses on worshipping God will consider carefully how you dress, because your heart will dictate your wardrobe and appearance.[2]

Mind-set of a Modest Heart [v. 9, “with modesty and self-control].

Modesty is centered in the heart. Modesty should always address the heart before the hemline.[3] Your wardrobe is a public profession or your private motivation. In other words, the way you dress is motivated by your hearts desires.

To dress immodestly is to dress in a way that is flashy, catching, lures lustfully, and sexually revealing. Fashion designers motive is sexual and provocative senses. Sex sells. Immodesty comes from a heart rooted in pride—desiring to draw attention to you. Immodesty is pride on display by what you wear. Immodesty stretches the boundaries of being too tight, too short, and too much information on it [i.e. writing on the butt, ungodly bands, drug paraphernalia, etc.].

To dress with modesty and self-control is to dress with restraint for the purpose of purity and protecting your heart and others. Modesty makes the decision to worship God and make Him know rather than self. Modesty is humility expressed in dress.

Questions to consider about your wardrobe: What statement do your clothes say about your heart? Whose attention do you crave? When you shop for clothes are you informed and governed by modesty and self-control? Do you take God to American Eagle, Abercrombie, Aeropostle, The Buckle, Hot-Topic, or Zumez?

Façade of a Modest Heart [v.10, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel…not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly attire”]

To understand this verse properly we have to step into the first century church. Remember, Paul is writing to a local church. He is concerned how their behavior in the church doesn’t match their belief in God. The men were arguing causing disruptions in church [v.8] and the women were dressing sensually [i.e. like the wealthy or whores] causing distractions in church [vs.9-10]. The issue is not so much about the façade of cultural clothing as it is about heart of the worshiper.

Paul is not promoting frumpiness or looking like Plain Jane with no make-up, jewelry or modern haircuts. If the barn needs painting, paint it. God values beauty and personal care for your body [cf. Proverbs 31; i.e. Esther]. Modesty is most attractive. Church should be a safe haven from the barrage of lusts and sinful temptations.

Women, do not misunderstand modesty. As your pastor, I care that you follow God with your whole self. God wants the attention of your heart. I am grateful for our youth leaders who dress modestly modeling grace and beauty. Know if someone comes to our church with immodest clothing we will love her and give her a warm welcome in Christ. We will humbly confront her clothing after we access her relationship with Christ. Not with condemnation or self-righteousness, but genuine care for her growth in Christ. The church’s responsibility is to care and correct a person who is immodest by modeling and teaching modesty. What is most important is your attitude towards Christ.

Many girls who dress immodesty are ignorant that guys battle with lust. In the mind of a man he struggles with the woman’s body and beauty. The heart of men are sexual stimulated by what they see. To serve you ladies, following this series you are no longer ignorant.

Men, do not pass the blame on the way women dress. Combat your lusts. Here are three ways to proactively defeat lust: first, look, don’t see. To see is to dwell on an object to think about it. If you pick a beautiful flower to enjoy, you will kill it. Second, look women in the eyes. Looking in the eyes looks at the women as a women rather than an object for your enjoyment. Some guy once said to me, “What about looking at a woman for her God-given beauty?” To this I would respond, “How would you define beauty?” Usually outward physical features and culture determine beauty, rather than inward characteristics. Love the women you see as one made in the image of God—a sister in Christ—beloved of God. Third, run like hell [i.e. Joseph and Potiphar’s wife].

Questions to consider: Is your wardrobe more like the world or the God you worship? Is the appearance of your dress distracting or manipulating to others? Who inspires the way your dress? Who are you identifying with when you dress? [i.e. Lady Gaga, Kay Perry, Lindsay Lohan, or Debra, Sarah, Ruth and Esther?]

What makes a woman most attractive in appearance is not her clothing, but her good works. What attracted me my Sarah the most was her contagious love for God, sensitivity to sin, and care for others more than herself. As a bonus I think she is the most gorgeous gal on planet earth, for the sake of modest conversation I will stop right there!

Loyalty of a Modest Heart [the gospel, vs.1:12-17; 2:3-6].

Being rooted in the gospel gives you the purest motivation that defines who you are [vs.8-10]. If you love Christ, you will watch the way you look and the way you live before the world because you want them to see the gospel in and through you. The gospel message is the motivation for modesty.

These verses are not an appeal for virtuous living, charm courses, or religious rules, but to show the transforming effect of the gospel. Where your loyalties lie, will rule the way you think, speak, and live. Dress yourself in the garments of the gospel.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness acts are like filthy rags.” [Isaiah 64:6]

“I rejoice greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” [Isaiah 61:10]

Modesty Resources:

Resources to Fight Lust:


[1] Worldliness, C.J. Mahaney, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL. 2008. p.120

[2] Adapted from John MacArthur, 1 Timothy, The McArthur New Testament Commentaries, Chicago, IL. Moody, 1995. Pgs.80-81.

[3] Worldliness, 119.

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