MODESTY AND DISTINCTION
Actually, the English word modest appears only once in the King James Version of the Bible:
1 Timothy 2:9-10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
The Greek word for apparel in this text is Katastole, meaning a long dress. Kata meaning down - a garment flowing down; and Stole - a long garment, covering or wrapping.
The Greek word for modest is Kosmios, meaning orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest, harmonious arrangement, or adornment. Modesty is also Biblically applied to one's demeanor or behavior. This same Greek word is translated good behavior in 1 Timothy 3:2 in the qualifications of bishops.
Therefore, sisters are instructed to wear modest long dresses (Kosmios Katastole). This Kosmios Katastole not only specifies that the article of clothing should be a dress, but also specifies that the dress should be of a suitably long length.
The definition of modesty involves both one's manner of dress and inward qualities. Biblical modesty starts within a person but is ultimately demonstrated by their outward appearance.
Modesty in the Ecclesia
The context of 1 Timothy 2:8-11, in which verses 9 and 10 address modesty, relates to public assemblies. Especially during public worship, women are cautioned to be careful lest their outward adornment pose a distraction both to themselves and to others. At all times, when we assemble ourselves together in the Ecclesia, we sisters should deliberately seek to cover our flesh with shamefacedness, simplicity and self-restraint. Our apparel should be Kosmios Katastole - a long, modest dress. Do short dresses, sleeveless dresses, tight dresses, sun dresses, and low cut dresses fit God's definition of modesty? If not, then they are inappropriate in any public setting, and especially in the Ecclesia.
Some do not apply this scripture to this "modern day." But God's view of modesty is not variable. It does not depend on the cultures that men create. It does not depend on the weather. We read of no special circumstances in the Scriptures which set aside this teaching and give liberty for women to display their nakedness. Therefore, we must assume that even in this evil and perverse generation, God still expects us to maintain His standards of modesty.
Some may reply: "Who can say exactly how much exposed skin is too much?" Consider this: Is anything more fleshly than the flesh itself? Does anything embody the carnal nature more than the body itself? Perhaps a better question to ask is: "What does God think of our flesh?" Understanding this, shouldn't we endeavor to keep as much of our flesh covered as possible, especially during the assembling of ourselves together - when we should be seeking to glorify God, and not ourselves?
Some other questions to think about:
How Shameful is Nakedness in the Sight of God?
As the social cultures decline more and more toward moral degradation, we ought not be surprised to see more and more nakedness. Regardless of how the world undresses and exhibits flesh, we must be aware of the shame of nakedness, and seek to dress modestly. Our dress and behavior must be holy, peculiar and different from the world. There is no doubt that the standard set by the world today is vastly different from the Biblical standard. The customs of the western world today urge women to uncover their bodies and the fashion of these latter days glorifies nakedness. Today nakedness is common and is displayed and viewed by many without blush or shame.
Should we amend the scriptural standards of modesty and discretion to comply with the prevailing opinions of our culture? Shall we follow God's principles only as far as the bulk of mankind would follow them? Do we claim our culture as our moral guide? Surely not!
Think of the kinds of people that are popular today in fashion design. Selah. These are the kinds of people (clearly at utter enmity to God's Holy ways) that are deciding what the women of America and other western countries will wear (or not wear). You do not have to purchase the high priced fashions of those like Versace to be affected by their ideas because their influence always trickles down through the fashion industry as a whole and copies of their trends are even seen at Wal-mart and K-mart.
There was a thought-provoking syndicated newspaper column written for the Chicago Sun-Times on June 8, 1979, by the late Mike Royko, who reportedly was not religious:
"Year after year, a handful of suspicious-looking characters who call themselves clothing designers issue their commands:Wear your dress short and wear boots and look like a hooker. . .
Now dress like a gypsy fortuneteller.
Now look like a farm wife.
Now wear spike heels.
Now show your thighs.
And every time the pimps of fashion give the word, all these enlightened female persons obediently trudge to the clothing store."
There is no comparison between God's Scriptural dress requirements and what is acceptable and popular at the moment in our evil society, which bounces around from one evil imagination to the next. God's moral requirements transcend all the ages.
If we depend on man to define nakedness we get a multitude of conflicting opinions. In some eras exposing the foot or the ankle in a public setting would have been considered nakedness. In other times there would be varying degrees of exposing the leg all the way up to the loins; and likewise exposing different levels from the neck down past the bellybutton to the loins. Even during the same time period opinions differ from one extreme to the other in different areas of the world.
What was Adam and Eve's opinion? After the fall of man in the Garden in Eden, Adam and Eve were aware that they were naked and sewed fig leaves together and made aprons to cover their nakedness. The Hebrew word for apron is chagowr which means a girdle or belt which apparently only covered the loins. God was not satisfied with man's solution to covering the shame of nakedness and made coats of skins to cover them. The Hebrew word for coats is Kethoneth which means a tunic or long coat. The same Hebrew word is used for the coats of the priests including the high priest (Exo 28:4, 39, 29:5, etc.).
It appears that even today in most of the western world that men and women have come to the same conclusion as Adam and Eve: choosing to cover their nakedness just in the area around the loins that an apron might cover.
Unlike the world in which every man "does that which is right in his own eyes," we must search out God's mind on the matter of specific nakedness in the Scriptures. We get a hint in Exodus 28:42 of a specific area of the flesh that God defines as nakedness. God required specific clothing for the priests to insure that their nakedness was covered -
And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:
There is another reference to nakedness in Isa. 47:1-3. This time nakedness of women is specified:
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:
God is using the illustration of a woman's shame in nakedness to foretell the shame that would come upon the nation of Babylon. In doing so, God gives us another definition of nakedness relating to a woman. Note the similarity to the previous definition regarding the nakedness of a man.
From these two passages we see that God views uncovering our flesh above the knee as nakedness.
What does Kosmios Katastole - long dress - modest apparel mean if it is not a definition of fashion that continues to this day for God's children? When the question arises, "when would clothing be too short?" we can feel confident in the answer, "at least when it is above the knee."
There is no verse in the Old Testament or the New Testament that presents a pointless moral teaching for the Ecclesia of God, and there is no human practice of a moral character which the Word of God does not claim to regulate (Heb. 4:12). These Scriptural definitions of modest dress and nakedness apply to all God's children in every age: Adam and Eve, the Israelites, the believers of the first century, and the Christadelphians of today.
We should not allow ourselves to be led by ungodly men, but by God. We should not walk (or dress) in the counsel of the ungodly, but our delight should be in the law of God (Psa. 1). We may take the warning of Rev. 3:18 to the Laodicean Ecclesia of our day:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
God knew full well that in our present time the Ecclesia would be dealing with both spiritual and physical nakedness that apparently is so common that it would not be obvious to many (but of course obvious to God!).
Nakedness is associated in the Scriptures with not thinking clearly: with drunkenness (Hab. 2:15) and with lunatic minds. In Luke 8:27 the Gadarene lunatic ware no clothes but when he was cured of his lunacy he was clothed and in his right mind (Luke 8:35).
Nakedness was also a sign of the degradation the people of God learned from Egypt. While Moses was communing with God, many of the camp of Israel fell to idolatry and evil actions which included various stages of undress: Moses saw that the people were naked and this nakedness was a shame . . . for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame. . . (Exo. 32:25).
In Isa. 20:4 prisoners were marched away naked so their shame would be public and magnified. Again and again the Scriptures portray nakedness as a shame (Gen. 9: 21-25, Rev. 3:18, 16:15, etc.).
How can we apply these lessons to ourselves? Let's now go to our mirrors and our closets. Do we see any shorts, dresses or skirts that expose the thigh? What about swimsuits? I have not yet found a swimsuit that can be considered modest by Scriptural standards. Many of the so-called modest swimsuits today barely cover what our undergarments cover. Surely if we were caught by brothers or any man besides our husband in our undergarments we would shriek with utter mortification and run for the nearest hiding place. Do we feel the same about being seen by men in our swimsuits? Is there a difference? It may be that any bathing suit you can buy today shows portions of a woman's body that only her husband should be allowed to see.
Male and female were created different, both physically and emotionally. From the beginning God set their distinctive functions - specifically, in the divinely established order of authority. This was God's express intention and He has instituted certain social standards to strictly maintain this difference. Any blurring of this difference between men and women is an abomination to God. The scriptures require godly women to carefully maintain their feminine distinction with modest feminine clothing and meek, quiet feminine behavior.
By nature there is a marked difference between the male and female, even in the animal kingdom. It is a shameful thing to destroy the lines of demarcation that God has established. It is not only a shame unto the person, it is an "abomination unto the LORD thy God":
Deut. 22:5: The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Around the late 1960's and early 1970's the unisex look was introduced. Webster's dictionary defines unisex clothes as suitable for both sexes, not distinguishing between male and female. Through the last 30 years the unisex look has not only become fashionable but also acceptable. The unisex movement coincides with the great increase in and promotion of open homosexuality in our society. The unisex movement also coincides with principles of the women's liberation movement which seeks a different place for women than that set out by the Creator.
With this departure from women's God-appointed role has come a serious breakdown in the strength of the family unit. In the 1960's runaway husbands outnumbered runaway wives 300 to 1. Today, runaway wives out number departed husbands nearly two to one! The divorces in America today are initiated by women two to one.
Like the Garden in Eden, the fall of our society in the latter days is a direct result of women's desire to act on their own, independent from any submission to man or God. Women have again boldly stepped out of their place and again the results are tragic, reaching even into the Ecclesias of the Living God.
Until the last few years women wore robes or dresses that covered all or most of their legs. This was true world wide. Only in the last generation has this standard of women's dress been changed in the world.
Over the last 50 years (for the first time in the history of the world) it has become not only acceptable but also fashionable for women to wear pants. Historically, W.W. II factories were the first time slacks started being worn by a large mass of women. At the same time short hair, cigarettes, and immodest behavior and dress began to become acceptable feminine behavior.
Historically pants pertain to men. Today pants still are the article of choice for the great majority of men.
The word breeches in the Bible may have reference to pants. The word breeches appears five times in the Bible: Exodus 28:42; 39:28; Leviticus 6:10; 16:4; Ezekiel 44:18 and it is always used in relation to men. When referring to clothing, the phrase gird up the loins is also found five times in the Scriptures and again is always used only in relation to men.
Job. 38:2-3 (40:7) - Then answered the LORD . . ., Gird up now thy loins like a man. . .
A man might wear a long robe or covering, but underneath that he wore breeches as not to show his nakedness. If he needed to work or fight which required running or climbing or such, he would tuck his coat in a belt and it would be out of his way. Yet his breeches kept him modest.
If the breeches which are mentioned only in relation to men in the Bible really are the same type of clothing as the pants worn by the men in our modern society, then women wearing pants today could fall into the category of being an abomination to God as stated in Deut. 22:5. It's a thought-provoking question that each sister must test on her own conscience.
Even today pants are a symbol of the man and the man's authority. The standard public restroom picture signs have a figure dressed in a skirt and a figure dressed in pants. No one is ever confused as to which is which, even in this permissive society. For years we have heard the saying, "You can tell who wears the pants in that family." Pants are not only men's clothing, but they have come to represent man's authority.
There is no question that pants pertain unto men, both historically and Scripturally. Today, it is acceptable in the western world for women to wear pants, but they originate from men. Basically, pants are a style of men's clothing that now many western women also freely wear.
Some say the abomination mentioned in Deut. 22:5 does not pertain to the present dispensation. However, there is a difference between the Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law. For instance, right in Deut 22, verse 22 prohibits adultery, verses 23-27 prohibit rape, verse 30 prohibits incest. God's moral laws stand through all ages and dispensations. Christ's death abolished the Ceremonial Law, but not God's moral laws.
Rom. 8:3-4 - For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,
Romans 3:31 - Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
God does not change His feelings about moral sin. Of the gross moral sins mentioned in this one chapter in Deut. 22, only verse 5 is said to be an abomination to God. It should be taken seriously.
Is it not still an abomination to God for women to wear that which pertains to a man? What if it is an abomination to God for a women to wear pants or jeans or overalls?
Can pants, shorts or jeans which show a woman's form, and hips (and even the outline of her undergarments) be considered modest apparel? That is a question for each sister to consider. Some sisters do not relate the men's breeches of the Bible with the "women's" pants of today. Some sisters consider their loose pants to be more modest than dresses and skirts. But even among these sisters most would not think of wearing even their most modest and formal pants to Memorial Meeting. There is something troubling about pants to most every sister.
Whatever we choose to wear, we must make our choices with the intention of upholding and establishing the clearest possible distinction between men and women that God set in order from creation. The holy women of old mentioned by Peter lived by the moral restrictions of Deut 22:5:
I Peter 3:5 - For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.
God visibly separated his people Israel from the world around them in food, dress, farming, worship, etc. You could always distinguish a Jew by his dress and his behavior. With these distinctions of separation, the Jews survived 1,900 years without a home land. The Jews today are one of the few existing ancient cultures. It was God's wise laws and providence that preserved their identity.
God also desires to preserve the identity of the Ecclesia. We must strive to remain separate in dress and behavior from the world around us that we might not be swallowed up into the masses of those who know not or choose to obey not God's Holy Ways. When Christ appears will he find the faith distinctively preserved in the earth?
A Woman's Most Important Clothing: Righteousness and Humility
I Peter 3:3-5 - Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
A sister's dress should be an expression of a meek and quiet spirit, intended more to please the sight of God than the sight of men.
I Peter 5: 5-7 - Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Job 29:14 - I have put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
Our earnest hope and desire is that by God's grace we may soon to be arrayed in another special type of clothing that God has designed - fine clean and white linen garments of salvation and robes of righteousness.
Revelation 19: 6-8 - And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Isaiah (61:10) speaks of being clothed with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.
First we must concentrate on clothing the heart with a meek, quiet spirit and with being clothed with humility and righteousness. If our hearts are clothed with this type of clothing we will delight to do God's will (Psa. 40:8; Rom. 7:22) and will make sure that the clothing of our bodies is pleasing to God.
Has God Spoken?
On any and every issue of life the first question we should ask is: Has God spoken? And if He has, we will not find his commandments grievous nor allow His Word to fall to the ground.
On the matter of modesty, dress and distinction, God has clearly spoken and we would do well to meditate on what He has said. We do not want to be as those who God says when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not (Isa. 65:12).
Let the king's daughters first be clothed with humility and with the robes of righteousness that we may be all glorious within (Psa. 45:13) and then let us clothe ourselves with distinctly feminine and modest coverings (Prov. 31:22) that the word of God is not blasphemed.
RETURN TO "ECCLESIAL" PAGE
RETURN TO INDEX