Modest Dress with Propriety and Moderation
by Tim Nichols
perceived extremes regarding any Bible principle do not alter the principle.
There really are some Biblical principles that relate to dress. The fact
that some well-meaning people have gone to extremes regarding them does not
remove them. Whether you admire or disapprove of the veiled women among some
religious groups who cover themselves from head to toe or those who wear
only the plainest possible garments of black and white, does not change the
truth that there really is a sort of dress code that God imposes upon His
children. It is sad that Christians sometimes suppose that the plain
garments of the Amish and some other groups are extreme in one direction
while seeming not to notice that the clothing worn by so many around us
every day of the week is extreme in the other. Television and movies may
very well have become the measures by which some have wrongly ascertained
the norms, not recognizing that these examples are extremes and often beyond
the limits imposed by God's word. If the lines between what is appropriate
and what is extreme are not always easily defined, they exist -- and the
Christian can certainly find a manner of dress that is absolutely within the
bounds. There may be a "gray area" between how far one can lean over the
side of a high cliff and yet be safe -- and how far is too dangerous -- but
most of us seem to know how to remain on the safe side of that line without
claiming that we have found its exact location. If there is an extreme that
might be called "excessive modesty" (an oxymoron?) on the one hand, there is
a more dangerous extreme that inspiration calls "the attire of a harlot"
Paul was not just giving his opinion when he was inspired to write that
Christian women ought to "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety
and moderation, ... which is proper for women professing godliness, with
He was simply telling the truth. Modesty is first of all a condition of the
heart and it is expressed or, conversely, shown not to exist by outward
behavior and dress
The word that Paul used
means "orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest" (Vine's). It is a quality
that must be possessed and expressed by one who would serve as an elder (1
Timothy 3:2 --
translated "good behavior" and not connected with apparel in this case). It
follows that a decent person will wear decent clothing and behave decently.
The inner person will be expressed by what is on the outside
The word for "propriety"
(translated "shamefacedness" in the KJV) conveys the idea of "a sense of
shame, modest..." (Vine's). It is not the idea of awkwardness that would
cause one to become easily embarrassed without cause. It is more a sense of
the point at which shame is in order and a keeping of oneself from that
which ought to cause shame -- in order to remain free from it.
The word for
"moderation" (translated "sobriety" in the KJV) "denotes soundness of
mind... 'sound judgment' practically expresses the meaning...." (Vine's).
These words obviously impart an obligation upon a woman to give careful
thought to how her dress might complement her good works in "professing
While there may be some
disagreement as to the exact point at which the line is crossed from
acceptable to too tight, too short, too much flesh exposed, too flashy, too
inviting of lustful thoughts... there is plenty of room for morally right
choices to be made before those lines are approached. These principles can
be followed. Maybe a few suggestions will help the process along.
Before leaving home,
look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Why am I wearing this?" If your
self-learned motive seems to violate any of these (or other) Bible
principles, then it is time to change your outfit.
Look in the mirror and
ask, "What will be the likely impression that others will have when they see
me wearing this?" You might want to picture specific people, -- the elderly,
the young, the brethren, the opposite sex.... Are you able to foresee any
result of wearing what you have on that might hinder your profession of
godliness? If so, then it is time to change your clothes. In the end, this
is not a matter of merely avoiding criticism from others. It is a matter of
really, from the depths of your heart, wanting to live a life that will
glorify God. "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify
the humble with salvation"
Other Articles by Tim Nichols
Thoughts About the Difference Between Character and