A Brief Study on Modesty
1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV) 9likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire [in other words, to be showy or draw attention like worldly women], 10but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
Titus 2:6-8 6Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
1 Tim 4:12 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
Psalm 119:9 9How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
2 Cor 6:3-4 3giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God … (on causing others to stumble, see also 1 Cor. 8:4-13, and Matthew 18:6-7)
1 Thess. 5:11 11Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Tim 5:1-2 1Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Heb. 3:13 13But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the externals. Modesty and self-control flows from a godly heart, not merely by following rules. But our outward appearance can affect others and can make a statement about who we are. Your wardrobe, in the eyes of others, is a public statement of your personal and private motivation and values. And if you profess godliness, you should be concerned with cultivating these twin virtues, modesty and self-control (Gal. 5:23).
Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others (1 Thess. 5:11), particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality (Mk. 7:21-23; 1 Cor. 8; Heb. 3:13).
Immodesty, then, is much more than a woman wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear (Gal. 5:13).
Self-control is, in a word, restraint. Restraint for the purpose of purity; restraint for the purpose of exalting God and not ourselves (Ps. 34:3). Together, these attitudes of modesty and self-control should be the hallmark of the godly woman’s dress.
For godly young men and women, modesty and self-control are to be distinctly present in the heart. The question is, are they distinctly present in yours? Your clothes say something about your attitude. If they don’t express a heart that is humble, that desires to please God, that longs to serve others (1 Tim 4:12), that’s modest, that exercises self-control, then change must begin in the heart.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness:
Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008.