Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How the Scriptures Define Modesty

Summer Ladies



I had no idea my grief regarding the cover of a new book on Christian modesty would create such a stir (see this blog post). Nevertheless, the pot has definitely been stirred, and one commenter has asked for biblical references. That really excites me, though, because the Bible must be our only rule of faith and practice. I don't see it as a challenge, but rather as an opportunity to share God's thoughts on the subject.

Let me begin by saying there are many wonderful resources available for the study of biblical modesty. Here are a few of my favorites:
First of all, I would like to begin my Scriptural references to modesty by looking at Isaiah 47:
Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. (Isaiah 47:1-3)
According to this passage, it is a shame, especially for a woman, to "uncover the thigh."

Yet, secondly, the priests were also commanded to keep their thighs covered.
 And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: and they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.  (Exodus 28:40-43)
Not only were they to wear an outer tunic, but were also to be careful to wear breeches underneath in case their coats should come over their knees. Consequently, as "kings and priests" before God (Revelation 1:6), it may be assumed that believers must also take care to cover this part of their nakedness.

Last of all, as is noted by several of the authors mentioned above, the clothing given by God to Adam and Eve after the Fall (the kethoneth, the "coat" or tunic)[1] was that which "covered the body from at least the neck to the knees, while sometimes reaching mid-calf or all the way to the feet." And, as Jeff Pollard points out, this type of garment was also worn by our Lord Jesus in His earthly pilgrimage and will also be provided for the saints in Glory.[2] Since this would then be God's definition of modesty, it is that from which I have developed my own.

[1] Pictoral examples of the kethoneth
[2] Jeff Pollard, Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America (San Antonio, Texas: The Vision Forum, Inc., 2004-2008), 26-28.