Mulling Over Modesty – Jess Whitlock

Jess Whitlock

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety, not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but which becometh women professing godliness with good works” (1 Tim. 2:9-10, Emph. JW). The church is not to conform to the world in the areas of speech, drinking, dancing, cursing, worldly actions, et al. (Rom. 12:1-2). So why would anyone think that it would be appropriate for the church to conform to the world in dress! The word “modesty” comes from a Greek word, kosmios. This word is defined: “Orderly, well arranged, decent, modest” (Vine’s). “Respectable, honorable” (Arndt & Gingrich). “Well arranged, seemly, modest” (Thayer). Even the English defines it: “propriety in dress, speech or conduct” (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary).

Since modesty means “propriety in dress” the opposite then, would be nakedness. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden as they partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree. The text says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons (Gen. 3:7 [the NKJV has “coverings”]). Earlier they had been naked (2:25) and were not ashamed! When the Lord God called for Adam, they hid from God (Gen. 3:8-10). Why? They were afraid because they were naked…so Jehovah made for them “coats of skin” (Gen. 3:21 [the NKJV has “tunics of skin”]). The aprons in Hebrew are chagora, similar to Tarzan’s loin cloth. God was not pleased, and the coats or tunics comes from the Hebrew kuttoneth, i.e., a long covering from the shoulders to the knees. Then, God considered them to be clothed and not naked.

Consider God’s pattern for the clothing worn by His priests. Aaron and his sons were instructed to prepare “tunics of fine linen” (Exo. 28:39-43). In order to “cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs…” (Exo. 28:42). The similar standard was given to the women. The daughters of Babylon were to flee the land and cross the rivers in exile. “…Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate…remove thy veil, strip off the train, uncover the leg, pass through the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen…” The foot and lower leg were commonly visible, just as today, but in lifting up the dress to pass over the waters the upper thigh would be exposed. God considered that as “nakedness and a shame.”

In John chapter 21 Jesus enables the apostles who had been fishing all night without catching a fish, to cast their net on the other side of the boat. They did so and caught 153 fish! When the disciples realized it was Jesus giving the commands, Peter “…girt his coat about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea.” (John 21:7) The ASV has a footnote that reads “he had on his undergarments only”! Now, compare the material found in most swimsuits today with the material found in undergarments! Recently I was waiting in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I saw three women get out of their cars in short shorts and each one immediately started tugging on the hemline! Why? If they had wanted more material, they should have paid for it when they went shopping the first time!

As a teenager, Dad taught us that when we worship God on the Lord’s Day, we are attending a memorial service. Therefore, when we dress, we needed to think what would we wear to a memorial service for him? Should we do less for the Lord?

Since the time of Adam and Eve, it has been God’s will that men and women put on clothes in public appearances. In our text the word “shamefastness” comes from the Greek aidos, i.e., “a sense of shame, modesty” (Vines & Thayer). “a sense of shame and reverence” (Robertson).

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