Does Modesty Matter?

Show Notes:

Matt: Welcome. 

Today we have a question today from someone who sent this in named Ronnie. She asked, “Is modesty a biblical virtue or is it a relic of the patriarchy?”

J.D.: So for our listeners that are like, what’s really the question here behind the question? I grew up in the, the purity culture. Josh Harris was, wrote the famous book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the emphasis was on, girl you have to take care of your brother’s headspace. And basically it was almost presented as if the guy can’t help but think of you as nothing but a sex object. And so dress in a way that keeps him from thinking about that all the time. And it’s not that the modesty piece wasn’t important, it just left out what is even a bigger issue—the guy needs to not see women in that category. He needs to see them as fellow human beings made in the image of God. The extreme version of modesty culture was it kind of heaped all kinds of shame and responsibility onto the girls’ side for what really was the guy’s problem. That is unhelpful and untrue. It’s even dangerous as abuse can get blamed on what she was just asking for because of what she was wearing.

There was some correction that took place to that purity culture that so strongly emphasized modesty that I think was a helpful correction. But, you know, as with a lot of things we have to be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater when it comes to modesty. And so what I’m talking with my kids, my family, when I’m talking with people in my life about modesty.

Two tension points:

1.) Style’s change from generation to generation. Every generation sees what the next one wears as immodest. What is considered a modest bathing suit today would be considered scandalous 60 or 70 years ago.

2.) The second thing is that modesty is a genuine biblical principle. We are taking into account what other people are thinking about us. And so I tell my kids, there’s two anchor points when it comes to how you dress. First of all, what does your dress say about you? What does what you wear say about you? What does it draw attention to? Does it emphasize and flaunt the sexual parts of you that really ought to be reserved for a marriage partner?

Now again, it’s not your fault if somebody’s looking at you and lusting after you. We’re not saying that, but on the other side of that truth is you can dress in a way that certainly draws attention to that. And if it’s drawing attention to that and emphasizing that, you should ask yourself why you’re doing that. And is that really what God wants you, is that the most important part of you to present to the world?

The second anchor point I always say is what effect does what you wear have on other people? And again, I’ll just say it once more. I’m not saying it’s your fault that if they think of you in those objectifying ways, but we do recognize that how we dress can have an effect on somebody else and it can make them think about certain things. And I do want to make it easy for people. And I think a believer should be thinking about that. How can I make it easier for my brothers and sisters in Christ to not have one more thing that they’re trying to avoid looking at or thinking about because it just makes it too easy for them to get into not a good headspace.

Matt: I’m just kind of curious, because when we talk about modesty, it is typically our women dressing modestly, but it’s interesting. I remember back when I did college ministry, eight or nine years ago, on summer project, we had all these rules about what people were allowed to wear. And I remember somebody in the end of summer feedback form asked something like,”I don’t understand why you have all these rules for what women can wear, but you let this guy wear a tank top up on stage while he’s teaching every week.”

J.D.: Yeah, great twist on the question. You know, the other part of that is when I was in high school, pornography was only ever talked about as a problem for guys. Now we’re very aware that pornography is a temptation and a problem for females too. And I think you can and should acknowledge that. Now you can say generalizations are generally true without realizing that there are a lot of challenges for females just like there are males and God created them as sexual beings too. And there’s nobody for whom visual stimulation is not part of the of the sexual desires. And so I think a guy should ask a question if he’s on stage. Like, what is my dress saying about me? What is it drawing attention to? Am I trying to draw attention to my form or what makes me sexually attractive to females?

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