Modesty: Have We Been Doing It Wrong?

I have debated writing this post for a while for a few reasons. One of these is that there are simply hundreds of blog posts on modesty, modesty standards, the lack of modesty, having a modest heart, etc. Some push a certain standard, advocating against bikinis; others claim modesty is solely a heart issue.

In writing this post, I wanted to stay away from defining certain standards—so you don’t have to worry about being condemned for wearing a bikini. I won’t tell you that you’re causing your brother in Christ to sin every time you wear shorts. My hope is that this post won’t be condemning, though it may be convicting. Modesty is a touchy subject and I’ve tried to be honest and reflect the truth of God’s Word.

And so, without further ado…another opinion on modesty.

There are so many opinions on modesty out there that it can be overwhelming. But have we been looking at modesty with the wrong perspective? Is it really what we believe it to be? Click here to read more!

If you were raised in the church, you probably heard many Sunday school lessons and youth devotionals on purity. And if you were a girl, you probably heard just as much about the importance of modesty.

Christian modesty standards are all over the place. Some churches believe women should wear only knee-length (or longer) skirts at all times. Others see no issue with wearing bikinis. Wearing shorts to the Sunday service in one church may be the norm, while in another you would get disapproving stares.

No matter what kind of church you were raised in, have we been doing this whole modesty thing wrong?

More importantly, what does the Bible actually say about modesty?

The Modesty Equation

Let’s face it. Most churches’ modesty standards are made up. They are created by what the church believes is appropriate—the opinion of the church’s leaders. Most quote this verse to back their modesty claims:

Likewise 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, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9 – 10)

However, I think that this verse is somewhat taken out of context. The verse before says this:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves… (verse 8)

I think that Paul is focusing on behavioural modesty here, although he also gives clear instructions for apparel. He says that women should cloth themselves in respectable clothes. He says that they shouldn’t focus on their hair, or how much their clothes and jewelry cost, but on doing good. He also says that we should dress ourselves “…with modesty and self-control…”, behavioural characteristics.

Most people take this verse to mean meeting certain modesty standards. But then they go and pair it with this verse:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

So we end up with this equation:

1 Timothy 2:9 + Matthew 5:28 = women need to be modest and not make men stumble.

Stumbling Blocks

Where did we get the idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to not create a stumbling block to men?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about stumbling blocks in the context of eating certain foods.

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. (1 Cor. 8:8  – 11)

Essentially, Paul is saying that whether we choose to eat a certain food or not does not make us better or worse in God’s eyes. What matters is how we look out for each other. Yes, we have a right to choose—but that choice may get in the way of someone else. We need to be willing to give up our “right” for the good of our brother or sister. If we are knowingly causing another to stumble, we will be answerable to Christ.

That being said, I do not think it is solely a woman’s responsibility to keep men’s minds pure, just like men are not responsible for keeping women’s minds pure.

Say you’re at a friend’s house for supper. If they offered you pie and ice cream for dessert and you accepted, could you blame them for breaking your diet? Of course not. You made the choice to accept. Hopefully, you wouldn’t get upset with your friend because you broke your diet.

It’s the same with modesty. When you see a guy shirtless, you have a choice whether or not you’re going to lust after him. When a guy sees a girl in a swimsuit, he has a choice to keep his thoughts pure or allow himself to continue down that path of thought. When we stand before God and he calls us to account for our thoughts, we can’t say to Him, “Look God, I know it’s wrong to lust, but they were dressed provocatively! How was I supposed to resist? She should’ve known better than to dress that way.”

Romans says this:

So then each one off us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:12 – 13)

This verse makes it pretty clear that we will all be responsible for our own actions, words, and thoughts. We are each held accountable before God, independent of anyone else.

Everyone is going to have different standards of modesty. So how do we decide what’s modest and what isn’t? (The bikini debate gets pretty tiring!) Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question all along. Maybe the best question should be this: “Does this, whether it be clothing, words, or actions, show that I love God and others more than myself?”

At the end of the day, how you dress is up to you. God is not going to condemn you because of your wardrobe. You are responsible for how you dress and your motivation for doing so. The modesty “standard” is different for everyone.

Please, please, please do not hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying that this means you can go out and wear whatever you want. I’m not saying that guys should just deal with it. While we should be mindful of how our actions and wardrobe affect others, we shouldn’t be motivated by guilt or shame. Our choices should all be made out of love.

What does “modest” mean to you?

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Are Christians Supposed to be Tolerant?

In a world where intolerance of anything is condemned, it can be hard to stand up for your faith. But what's the line between standing up for the truth and being judgmental? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been asked your opinion on something, and you knew that your opinion would not be welcomed? You know, that one issue that the world doesn’t agree with you on? Something everyone’s supposed to be tolerant of?

I’ve been asked by non-Christian friends if I think homosexuality is okay, and have even been challenged on this issue in a sociology class (and I wasn’t even the one doing the presentation). As a Christian with a biblical perspective on homosexuality, how do you answer that honestly without seeming like a terrible person?

Simple answer: you can’t. But seriously. How do you stand up for your faith, especially when Christians have a reputation of being judgmental, intolerant people?

Most Christians live by the “don’t judge anyone” motto. We are instructed not to judge others. The familiar passage from Matthew 7:1 – 2 is used to as a reference point:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The chapter continues for the next few verses, instructing us to examine ourselves and remove the “planks” in our eyes before telling our brother/sister about the “speck” in his or her eye.

I believe we as Christians hide behind this verse so many times—yes, hide. There are issues that we simply don’t deal with because of this verse. We don’t want to be seen as judgmental or seem intolerant. We want to be seen as the “good kind” of Christians—not the arrogant, self-righteous ones. We want to show the world we love it. After all, Jesus Himself told us very clearly not to judge.

But…hold on. Jesus judged. Jesus had incredibly strong words for the Pharisees hypocritical actions because they looked righteous, but their hearts were far from God. Jesus told people that unless they repented, they would not have everlasting life. In the Old Testament, God brought judgment on His people over and over again as they strayed from Him. In 1 Corinthians 5:1 – 5, Paul instructs the church to kick out a man who has been practicing sexual immorality, with the ultimate goal of bringing him to repentance and healing.

Is it okay to judge or not?

Jesus told us not to judge, then He went and judged people. Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 7.

The passage starts with Jesus’ words: “Judge not.” We tend to read that verse and just kind of stop there. But Jesus doesn’t. He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” To clarify, Jesus continues to say that the measure we use to judge others will be used to judge us as well. In other words, you have to be able to take whatever you dish out.

Please let me be clear. I don’t think this verse is saying: Hey, as long as you’re not prideful, you can call others on their pride. I think Jesus was making a point: we can’t judge each other because whatever guidelines we use to judge will be flawed, since we’re flawed people.

When we point out others’ flaws, it is usually an indicator that we’re insecure about ourselves. It means that we feel the need to prove ourselves (and therefore, tearing others down) and that we aren’t really walking in God’s love and grace if we seek others’ approval.

We will all be judged according to God’s perfect Law. He is the true Judge, and no one can escape this judgment, although those who have been redeemed by Christ will be free of condemnation. If we know someone is breaking God’s Law (not our personal “law”), there is nothing wrong with going to them and saying, “I see that this is happening in your life and I know God isn’t pleased.” In fact, we are supposed to rebuke and correct. There’s a big difference between being accountable with each other and criticizing each other. One is for the benefit of the person, while the other is to make ourselves feel good.

Judging in and of itself is not wrong. The issue here is what we use to judge. Are we using God’s Law or our church’s traditions? Are we concerned about obeying Jesus or getting others to agree with our opinions? Are we basing our judgments on what God sees in the heart, or what we see on the outside of people?

So what about tolerance?

There are too many nice Christians in the world. Christians who are tolerant, non-judgmental, all-inclusive and passive. We have not been called to be any of these things. We are told to speak the truth in love. We are to be accountable to each other.

There are many things in the world and our culture that the Church doesn’t agree with. Injustice happens. We cannot expect unbelievers to act the same way a believer would. We can’t impose our beliefs on someone who doesn’t have the same faith that we do. This means that we can’t simply go around protesting any and everything we disagree with. As Christians, we need to choose our battles and make sure that we are doing nothing out of conceit or personal opinion, but rather on the basis of God’s truth.

It is not a Christian’s job to create a Christian-friendly society. Jesus tells us time and time again that we will have trouble in the world. That we will be persecuted for Him. That the world will hate us because of Him. It’s not our job to get upset over every single thing. Yes, we should stand against injustice. We shouldn’t be okay with abortion or human trafficking or racism. But everything we do should be done in love.

Let’s stop being passive and start being brave. Let’s stop being tolerant and start being truthful. Let’s stop trying to please ourselves and start pleasing God. Let’s speak the Truth in love and be witnesses of God’s love to the world.

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Pointing to God in Both Success and Failure

You know it's important to give God the glory when you succeed. But what about when you fail? How do you point to God in your failure? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been told, “You did such a great job! You should be proud”?

I’m sure you have, for one thing or another. Most of us have had at least one experience—big or small—in which we were successful at something. Maybe it was a coloring contest when you were nine. Maybe your high school graduation or getting your first real job. Most of us have had that experience of doing well at something and being proud of it. I know I have (although none of those experiences include athletics).

We live in a world where it is so easy to get an artificial self-esteem boost. We post our success stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then watch and wait to see how many likes we get in the first hour. When our expectations are blown away, we feel validated. When our expectations are disappointed, so are we. We carefully critique the picture or post and if we think it’s not good enough, we quietly delete it.

But when we succeed, wow! We get recognition, congratulations and good wishes. We feel so proud. People approve of me, we think. I’m accepted. Loved. Impressive. Eventually, we identify ourselves with that success. When we think of who we are as a person, we add that to our list of qualifications of doing life.

The problem with success such as I’ve described is that it doesn’t really work the way we think it will. Success is great. Doing a good job is something to be happy about. We shouldn’t strive for anything less. There are several places in Scripture where we are told that we should work hard and not be lazy. We should strive for the best. But we are also told to work for the Lord and not for man. I believe that goes deeper than “work as if you were working for Jesus and not your boss”. I think it includes not seeking man’s approval of that work, but God’s.

I think God knew what He was doing when He said that we need to give Him glory for everything we do. When we start to take credit for our successes, we start to find our identity in those successes. We know who we are because of those successes.

However, finding pride in the good we do is a double-edged sword. When we identify ourselves by our successes, what happens when we fail? We start to define ourselves by our failures too. But since we aren’t perfect and never will be, we will always experience failure from time to time; and our successes won’t always outweigh our failures. So what happens? We get caught in a downward spiral of failure, defeat and guilt.

When we allow our successes to define us, our failures will too. Click To Tweet

But God made us for so much more than that. When we were told to give glory to Him, it wasn’t just for His benefit. He loves us too much for that. It was for His glory, but also for our good. He knows we aren’t perfect. When we give God our successes, we give Him ourselves. When our successes don’t identify us, neither do our failures.

Your failures don’t define you. Neither do your successes. You are not a high-paying job or an employment insurance cheque. You are not a high GPA or a failed course. God and His love alone define you. You are a child of God.

The Son of God died for your sins, your imperfections, your failures. Then He rose, triumphant, over those sins. He defeated them. He gives you strength for your successes and grace in your failures. He is on your side and will never leave you. When you fail, He stays the same.

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What to Do when You Fail

Failure in life is inevitable. No one is perfect, and we will all mess up. The question is, how do you respond to failure? Click here to find out!

This week, I failed a test. A big test. A midterm exam, to be precise. When I say “failed”, I mean actually failed. Not “Oh I failed according to my standards…which is under a 90%”. I got an embarrassingly low mark.

Failing a test is unusual for me. In my three years of college, this is the first exam I’ve failed. I’m an A’s student. All my other midterms went really well. Failure isn’t an option I give myself.

I decided I wasn’t going to have a pity-party for myself. I reminded myself that it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life, I couldn’t feel sorry for myself, I couldn’t change what had already happened. I “got over it”.

Two days later, I just felt like a failure at life. I was behind in another class, behind in cleaning my apartment (I need to have a clean apartment to basically function), and totally unmotivated to do school. Unmotivated to do life, really.

While walking to the bus stop, I was praying. I’m not exactly sure what I was praying. Pretty much just being sad before God. My heart was crying out for something, even if my mind wasn’t aware of it. Suddenly, God spoke these words to my aching heart: the joy of the LORD is my strength. Yes.

On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul you increased. (Psalm 138:3)

Without realizing it, we start to get our strength from other things. I mean, we do our devotions and pray and go about our day. But do we actually daily claim God as the sole source of our strength? When we do well in school, we are motivated to keep going. But what happens when we don’t do well?

I had prayed before that test that God would help me to pass. I had studied and I really cared about this test. But He used my failure to teach me something. I realized that I hadn’t been relying on God fully for my strength. I was getting the strength and motivation to keep going from my successes rather than my Father.

There’s nothing wrong with finding satisfaction in a job well done. But there will be times when you don’t do as well as you want. When that happens, you lose your strength. But God’s strength remains steady despite our circumstances.

The joy of the LORD is my strength. The joy of God is unconditional and cannot be impacted by our circumstances. When we find our strength in His joy, we find that we can have strength through Him and rise above our circumstances.

If you feel like giving up in whatever you’re doing, pause. Take a deep breath. The God of the universe is on your side, and He always will be. His grace is sufficient for you. Your weakness only serves to bring Him glory. When we acknowledge our weaknesses and rely on God for our strength, He is honored and we become more intimate with Him.

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

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Figuring Out God’s Will for Your Life

It can be so hard to figure out what God is telling you what to do. How do you know what His will for your life is? It may not be as hard as you think. Click here to read more!

Have you ever read or watched Anne of Green Gables? It’s a wonderful novel and movie series about spirited orphan Anne Shirley fostered by a brother-sister duo who grows up to fulfill her dream of being a teacher. She has an incredible imagination as a child and knows that she wants to one day be a school teacher, just like her role model Mrs. Stacey. Of course, she goes on to charm and inspire everyone she comes in contact with and eventually marries the man she has always truly loved. It’s an all-Canadian story about cherishing the people in your life and following your dreams.

I grew up watching Anne of Green Gables (I think I’m due for another movie marathon now.) Somehow, I always thought my life would be like that, too. That when it came to going to college, I would simply follow my dreams. I would know what career I was called to. I also thought that I would be successful at everything I did and that it would all simply come together. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience an epiphany or revelation calling me to anything specific.

If you’re thinking about your future now, it’s likely that you’ve heard the phrases, “Follow your dream” or “Do what you’re passionate about.” But what if you just don’t know the answer to the pressing question, “What will you do for the rest of your life?”

I’m now in my third year of college, and I’ve been blessed enough to enjoy what I’m doing. But when I started college, I really wasn’t sure. So what do you do if you’re in those final years of high school or even a high school graduate and have no idea what you want to do with your life?

Consider God’s will, not just your own.

This one might sound a bit cliché, but when you switch your focus from “What is the best thing I could do for me?” to a perspective of, “What is the best thing I could do for God?” things change a bit. I had the desire to serve God in whatever job I did. I didn’t want to get a job just for the money but I wanted a job that would glorify God. If the goal is to glorify the Lord, it takes some of the pressure off. Now I’m doing what He wants me to do instead of trying to figure out the best career for myself.

Look at is as an opportunity to explore.

When I went to college, I really didn’t know if accounting was what I wanted to do. I did it mostly out of practicality, since I knew that business knowledge would be helpful in nearly any field. I also wasn’t going to be spending a lot of money since I was staying at home, so it wasn’t a huge financial loss if I decided I didn’t like it. Also, it was a two-year program—not a complete waste of time if it didn’t turn out to be everything I dreamed of. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it one hundred percent right the first time.

Take your God-given desires seriously.

My true desire as a young woman is to be at home raising my own kids and loving and inspiring other kids. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have much to say about being a stay-at-home mom—especially when that person is just leaving high school. Not a lot of seventeen-year-olds go around saying they don’t want a career. Sixty years ago, career women weren’t the norm. Now, women at home aren’t the norm. While my desire to be a stay-at-home wife and mom someday was real and honorable, it didn’t authorize a refusal of college education. One thing I knew I loved doing was teaching piano. I had been doing it for two years and loved it. I knew I wanted to continue teaching, but again, it wasn’t a full-time job at that point. By going to school for a job that could be part-time or full-time so that I could also teach piano and stay at home, I felt like I had made a good use of my tuition fund.

But what if you still don’t know? If you can’t figure out God’s calling in your life, do you just wait for Him to give you a revelation?

As Christians, we tend to think like this:

I need to do God’s will for my life. What is His will? I can’t figure it out. If I make the wrong decision, that means that I’m out of His will and it will take me who-knows-how-long to get back on track. I won’t be able to serve God properly and I will have messed up my whole life. I’d better just wait on God.

These conclusions are not true. We will not mess up God’s plan for our lives if we make one or two or seventy decisions. God has given us free will and the ability to make our own decisions. If God is telling you to do something, you’ll know. That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us. If you truly just don’t know what God is telling you to do, chances are He’s leaving it up to you. God is not there waiting for us to make one wrong move and mess up His plan. He will fulfill His plan no matter what you do. When your desire is to truly serve Him, He will honour that.

Take a deep breath and relax. God may be calling you to something specific, or He may be calling you to just make a decision. Instead of sitting around waiting for God to tell you what to do next, do something now. Serve Him and He will show you the next step.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:6)

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