Vol.XV No.IX Pg.7
November 1978

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Brother Turner:

How is "Modest apparel" determined? Can it depend on place? Do sporting events change standards? DG


The questions continued, but this is enough to show the complexity of the subject. I am not so foolish as to think I can answer all such questions — just foolish enough to go into print on the matter.

"Modest" is "restrained by a sense of propriety...free from anything suggestive of sexual impurity ... not forward or bold ... moderate." In 1 Tim. 2: 9-10 it is coupled with "shamefastness" (AS). A "bedfast" person is confined to the bed, unable to leave the bed. "Shamefast" persons are unable (not free) to go into public places half-dressed. Their "shame" or feeling of shame holds them fast.

This "sense of propriety" is not something that can be measured by inches. One's "feeling of shame" is determined by upbringing, social background, experiences, and the like. We need not expect everyone's "sense" of "feeling" to be the same, although in close-knit and segregated sections of society there is more likely to be an "accepted" standard. Trouble is, today there are few sections of our country remaining where "outsiders" have not come — or, where "insiders" have stayed put. We travel, move, mix and mingle with a wide variety of society. T.V. does this for us, even if we stay at home. We are surrounded by worldly standards, spawned by people who are sex-oriented and little concerned about spiritual matters. If we stop our investigation of "modest" at this point we would have no higher standard than "the course of this world" (Eph. 2:1-3).

But Christians in the world, are not "of" the world (1 Cor. 5:9-f). We seek the good of others. Instead of dressing to attract attention to ourselves, we think of how our dress, or lack of it, will affect the purity of another's mind. "Lasciviousness" (a work of the flesh, Gal. 5:19) is "that which incites lust." No saint would dress or act in such a way as to stir lustful thoughts in others. So, while worldly "styles" call attention to sex and lust-serving desires, saints dress "moderately," adorned with good works, a wholesome leavening force.

Worldly "styles" established by long usage will affect "modesty" — if for no reason other than their effect upon our neighbors. An exposed ankle in one age might "incite to lust;" but in our age would not turn an eye. Customs do, therefore, alter attitudes, and "modest" has a certain relativity. One who ignored current good "taste" and "propriety" might dress with more than adequate yardage — and by this call attention to self. "Suggestive" clothing may also be by cut, rather than by yardage. Place and expected standards must surely have something to do with modesty.

Christian modesty will be "behind the times" or "conservative" when compared with worldly "modesty." If one is more interested in "keeping up with the world" than in serving the Lord, he/she will be little moved by 1 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 3; and like words.