Tag Archives: modesty

Tattered Jeans and Our Outward Appearance

I was greatly encouraged as I sat and looked up podcasts of one of my favorite preachers. This minister happens to be a lovely lady whom I’ve been very encouraged through her ministry in the past 6 years or so. I’ve not had great access to the Internet recently and I’ve certainly not had enough to stream or download videos in Africa. Upon watching 3 of her teachings and downloading a 4th, I noticed that she was wearing only 2 outfits between the 4 podcasts. What was interesting is that two of them were in random churches she was visiting and the other two were in her home church within a year of each other. Her full outfit was shown on the home church screen and I noticed that the pair of jeans she had on were a bit frayed in the back as if they’d been stepped on often. This isn’t a high-definition camera either and it was clearly obvious that her jeans were tattered in the back…and I smiled.

I smiled because here I am currently sitting here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my hometown wearing borrowed clothes because all of my summer clothes are currently 12,000 miles away save a t-shirt or two.I smiled because this woman is well-known and while she always looks decent and put together, she’s clearly not consumed about what she wears.I smiled because it conveyed that she was more invested financially in the Kingdom that her own wardrobe. I smiled because the reality is, none of us should be consumed by our outward appearance, but we are often and this was a redeeming example to look to.

I remember coming across a post on Facebook from another well-known woman in ministry a few years ago. She wrote how she had just had her hair colored for a conference because as she said, “let’s be honest ladies, God may look at our heart, but women look at our hair”. I quickly scanned the over 1,000 comments that were growing by the minute and many said things like, “ I could never speak to that many women unless I lost weight”, or “I would color my hair too and maybe have liposuction and a nose job”! The comments weren’t all so extreme, but many reflected insecurities that would’ve intimidated them from speaking to a group of women on the scale this minister was going to do. I love this particular speaker as well and I don’t fault her at all for saying what she said. I get it. I think that we all do. However, is that the way we should view ourselves?

Do we care too much about our outward appearance? Do we try to buy the newest and greatest things only to make up the outward appearance? And are we critical of ourself and others based on how we are dressed? One glance at Facebook or Pinterest reveals that women care about their outward appearance a lot…oh and babies, puppies, and pumpkin everything, which is perfectly acceptable ;)

Quite honestly I rarely pay attention to what either of these women wear when they’re speaking or how they’re highlights look. I just happened to notice a unique top being repeated and it made me look closer. The reason that I don’t notice if these two women are dressed in expensive clothes or have a $200 hair do, is because I’m not watching them to see what they look like outwardly, I’m watching them to see who they are inwardly. I listen to their words because they bring life and truth from God’s word. I hear their maturity of having walked down paths ahead of me in life. And I receive their impartation of hope and identity to be the daughter of God that I’m called to be.

That’s what I want to do for you, whomever you are reading this post. I want you to feel empowered to be YOU (and yes even if you are a man—sorry you endured this female encouragement)! I don’t want you to feel like you have to go spend a lot of your paycheck on making up your outward self or keeping up with popular trends. Yes, I want you to be confident and feel comfortable, but I don’t want you consumed with it. I want you to be so excited and consumed with Jesus that you look to Him in all that you do. That you spend more time in His word and encouraging your faith, than you spend time doing your hair and makeup everyday. I want you to realize that your inward beauty is what REALLY matters. When you spend time on your purity of heart, no one will notice your tattered jeans, unless of course they do and it makes them smile :)

What are your thoughts? How have you struggled with your outward appearance and how has Jesus helped you in this?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Matthew 6:25-30

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness-1 Timothy 2:8-10

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. 1 Peter 3:3-5

Skirts, Flirts, Hurts & 5 Questions About Modesty


In coming across a well spread article on modesty, I began to have some red flags go off in me while reading it. While I’m sure the author is a Jesus-loving lady, I disagreed largely with her thoughts and I wanted to share some thoughts of my own taken from my journey regarding modesty.

While I didn’t grow up attending church and being taught on biblical modesty, I was taught self-value. I may not have entered a church at 2 years old, but I did enter the dance studio. Which means that as I grew, I took on my parent’s tall lean build and my “Dance Team” cheer skits were often shorter than others. My identity was formed in a typical MTV generation culture where women were viewed as sexual objects. Being raised in a time where media showed unfaithfulness, fornication, pornography, and impossible standards of beauty for women, what else was I to think? I didn’t know any better and I longed to be found beautiful by the opposite sex. This caused a long hard road of heartache, but out of it came great redemption from the love of God and his beautiful plan for my life to be pure and pleasing to Him. It is because of my experience in the freedom of Christ that I share these questions with you.

#1 Is There a Clear Line Regarding Christian Modesty?

Don’t worry! I’m not going to tell you that a way to measure modesty is by the “hallelujah” test where you raise your arms to see if your shirt is too short (an embarrassing and ridiculous test if you ask me—just wear long layers underneath your top). Nor am I going to give you a list of dos and don’ts. Instead I want to challenge us to think, ask questions, and seek to be those who fully love God.

The short answer to this question is no, there isn’t a clear line which is why there are so many views on this topic. I’m not saying that I have all the answers, but I feel it’s important to start by looking at what Scripture has to say about this topic.

1 Peter 3:3-5 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

It appears that both Peter and Paul were on the same page and I agree with them. I believe that all scripture is from God and that woman should dress as to reflect Jesus properly. I believe these scriptures equally mean that we shouldn’t be materialistic or obsessed with our outward appearance and our wardrobe. I also believe that there are some absolutes when it comes to modesty such as not having your breasts and other private parts hanging out (in a Western context, more on this later). Beyond the absolutes though in regards to manner of dress AND disposition of personality, I personally believe that daughters of God must listen to the Bible and to the conviction of the Holy Spirit themselves.

The reality is that someone could submit pictures to me of a woman wearing a particular outfit and I could give my personal opinion or even submit it before a panel of Christian men and get their opinion. If we all deemed the outfit inappropriate, one might be motivated not to wear it. However, until a person desires to please the Lord for himself or herself and listen to Him, they won’t have the personal conviction and proper motivation to please Him by what they wear and how they act.This is in my opinion where legalism can come into play and why many rebel against the “standards” that are set by others. It is one thing to comply with a dress code for a job or for a church service, but unless someone comes to a mature place to understand what pleases Jesus, they’ll often view these dress codes as legalistic and thus miss an opportunity to see His views.

The place modesty should start is in serving Jesus, not ourselves. When we get our focus on serving Jesus, we will seek to be pleasing to Him in all that we do. In so doing this we can eliminate the mentality of, “How close can I get to the line without crossing it?” and the attitude of flaunting our wardrobe and accessories. We can then be empowered to be as abandoned to the will of God as possible and become what God has always desired, a heart that is fully His. A heart that chooses Him, honors Him, and one that is quick to repent of sin and be near to Him. It’s important to know that Jesus doesn’t condemn us and shame us into submitting to His ways, BUT He will correct us and lead us into righteousness for His name’s sake as we choose to do His will. (Psalm 23:3) I say this to clarify that Jesus delights in us doing His will and doesn’t beat us up when we sin. He loves and takes pleasure in helping us mature in righteousness and become more like Him.

I’d like to say too that modesty is more than just our outward appearance. Modest clothing doesn’t always equal modest behavior. Any woman or man can be fully clothed and still be operating in a seductive and lustful spirit. By contrast, someone else may not be modestly dressed, but they might have a genuine heart to seek God and aren’t aware of how to dress. As believers we can teach and share with others, but it is not our place to judge based on non-absolutes that aren’t clearly defined in Scripture. Which brings me to my next point…

#2 Are We Teaching on Modesty in the Right Spirit?

I stated earlier that my “cheer skirts” were short. School dress code prohibited shorts or other skirts to be any shorter than fingertip length with arms fully extended by your side. Therefore due to my genetically long monkey arms, my fingertip length for shorts/skirts was considered “dorky” back then and I would’ve been made fun of mercilessly. When summer time came with no school restrictions on my outfits, I typically wore “short shorts” and tank tops where my midriff showed some. Where I’m from in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it gets into the 100s and the less you wore, the more comfortable you were. That was all I knew.

When I made Jesus the Lord of my life my junior year of High School at 16 years old, much changed in my life. I was so hungry for God, I attended church a few times a week, read my bible everyday, but I was still a baby in Christ and had plenty to learn (and I still do!).

Often after youth group, some of us would go for Tex-Mex and I’d get free food like chips and pop from the waiters. I’ve always had a strong personality, a deep love for people that caused me to talk to everyone, and then there’s my vibrant red hair. This combination definitely caused me to be noticed more than I realized. At this stage in life I didn’t have a strong identity in Christ, nor did I realize that I was drawing impure attention from men. I knew I wasn’t sleeping around and wearing super revealing clothes so I thought that in comparison with other girls, I was doing great! I just couldn’t see my blind spot.

One day during my senior year of High School, I had a talk with some of my male youth leaders that changed my life forever. They spoke with me about my strong personality and how that combined with how I dressed, men were turning their heads and giving me attention that wasn’t pure. These leaders shared the struggles men have with sexual sin and it helped me understand the realities of lust. They celebrated my leadership “command the room” type personality, my desire to connect with people, and they helped me find a righteous balance. They spoke in such a tender Spirit led way that I didn’t walk away feeling ashamed. Instead I left the conversation feeling beautiful and I desired to protect the beauty that God had placed within me. Their talk left me realizing that my personality gave me an opportunity to point people to Jesus and that put a joyous responsibility on me and it is partially why I’m secure in who I am today.

There were other love centered rebukes in the years that followed and I appreciated the insight and the correction that came with being held to a righteous standard. However, there were a few other instances where I was told in rather harsh ways that what I was wearing wasn’t proper and even that the way that I swayed my hips in worship could be distracting for men. Those moments always left me feeling embarrassed and degraded rather than corrected in love. For a short while I became more focused on how I moved while worshipping Jesus, than focused on actually worshipping Jesus.

The point in sharing these two examples is to emphasize the contrast of confrontations. One group sought to turn what God had given me, a people loving outgoing personality, into a pure hearted and modest awareness that displayed Christ; whereas the other sought to correct an outward appearance based on personal opinion without welcoming the love of God into the situation.

I think that as believers we MUST meet people where they are and speak in love. We can’t assume that they’ve had the best examples growing up or that they understand their new identity in Christ. I believe there is a way to teach modesty to women and men in a way that helps them fall more in love with Jesus and who He’s created them to be. I often think of how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8 with tenderness and empowerment to walk away from a place of sin with renewed hope. This approach can cultivate a desire for one to yield themselves to Him not only in their outward appearance, but also in a manner of heart.

#3 Have We Become Victims to Culture and Society?

There are common mentalities in the world today that provide opportunities for people to not own responsibility for their actions or to be held accountable to a moral compass that sets boundaries. Simply put, people don’t like to be told what to do. These ideologies have crept into the church and have given believers an excuse to do as they please instead of being accountable to God. If we profess to follow Christ, the Bible should be our final word of authority, not the society around us. I believe that when our desire is to please the Lord in every area of our lives, He will help us. As believers, we must all become responsible for our actions and our attitudes. When we stand before God one day He isn’t going to ask how many people made us stumble. He will ask if we partnered with His word to overcome the temptations we found ourselves in and if we turned away from sin.

I had plenty of excuses with my MTV background and my flirty skirts to play victim to circumstance. I faced plenty of temptations in the area of sexual sin as well as being involved in impure relationships in my teen years. Instead of remaining in a place of hurt and insecurity, I sought the Lord, read His word, and invited His loving correction into my life. I’m grateful as this turn of heart caused me to experience freedom and I ended up marrying a holy, Jesus-loving man, whose heart towards me is pure.

My husband grew up as a missionary in East Africa and as a single man, he was a missionary in Burundi. This offered him unique insight into modesty as it relates to cultural differences. Almost every time he would preach in a church in Burundi, women would begin to openly breastfeed their babies. I understand that this varies from the typical American church service where women would never do this, but in Africa and many parts of the world this is completely normal. Hello—hungry babies + moms hungry for word of God=breastfeeding in service and anywhere for that matter. So here was my husband having prayed and prepared a word, continually faced with the onslaught of up close and personal breasts as he preached. He said to me, “It wasn’t their fault that their babies are hungry and that they chose to feed them during service. It was my responsibility to have my flesh crucified so that I was only looking to Jesus and focused on what He wanted to say to the people. There was no excuse to entertain lust just because there was an opportunity for it, for I’m accountable to God’s Word.” I realize most men aren’t going to be preaching in a cultural context like Burundi, but the same principle applies if they see a woman dressed improperly or if presented with pornography.

There are natural chemical responses in our bodies that manifest physically when faced with a sexual temptation. Particularly for men being more visual than women, they can get an adrenaline rush just from seeing a woman’s body. I agree that it’s not their fault that their bodies are made to respond like that because in the context of marriage it is wonderful and holy. HOWEVER, it is the man’s responsibility to deal with their response to culture and society in a way that glorifies God just as much as it is for a woman to dress and behave in a way that glorifies God. This means glorifying God both inwardly in their thought life as well as outwardly by turning away their eyes. The influence of the world doesn’t give believers the right to play victim to unrighteousness. We are held to the same Biblical standards regardless of others actions.

#4 Are We Protecting the Hearts of Others?

When people dress or act inappropriately it is often rooted in insecurity from a lack of identity in Christ. This insecurity produces selfishness that can lead to pressures to compete and compare with others, which can ultimately lead to compromise. If we honor the opposite sex selflessly as brothers and sisters in Christ, then we have an opportunity to mature in our identity in Him. This produces a pure heart that wants to protect others.

Proper identity in Christ as a son or daughter teaches us to honor, love, and protect those around us by treating them as we would the Lord Himself.

When a person reaches a place where they love the opposite sex purely and serve them with the heart of Christ instead of operating out of insecurity, God releases maturity into their hearts that can carry them into a healthy marriage. My single years taught me to be a sister to other men and to keep my heart guarded for the man I’d marry someday. Holding to this posture as a married or single person can help us create safe environments for godly relationships to flourish so that we can purely partner together for His kingdom.

#5 Have We Truly Experienced the Freedom in Christ that Sets Us Apart from this World?

Unrighteousness living presents “freedom” as being whoever we want to be and doing whatever feels good. The freedom in Christ produces what others could view as “restrictions”, but it ultimately gives us authentic liberty. Modesty isn’t limiting who we are; rather it’s releasing us into who God made us to be. Let me say to all the ladies reading this; there is incredible beauty in being a daughter of God. There is likewise a heavy burden in being a daughter of this world enslaved to what others define as beautiful.

When I read the blog that I mentioned in my intro, I was sitting in an Islamic context with women physically covered up all around me. This could be why the blog struck me as so bizarre as it conveyed that the more covered up a woman was; then the less men would lust, which I disagree with. I don’t know if that author is familiar with Islamic culture, nor do I pretend to be an expert, but I do know how oppressive that religion can be for women in various ways. In the manner of dress, they are typically covered up from head to toe, often in strict culture having only their eyes visible. The rationale behind this is because women’s bodies elicit lust and men simply can’t control themselves. Islam teaches that it’s the woman’s fault that men lust and that she must cover up her entire body. The Bible on the other hand teaches us to deny OURSELVES, crucify OUR FLESH and put to death the lusts of OUR SOUL. Herein lies my problem with Christians who teach that it’s not the man’s fault when he lusts after a woman. I wasn’t there, but from what I read, Bathsheba was only taking a bath! I’m not sure how it was her fault that David lusted after her. We must remember what Jesus said, “if anyone even looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). If we say that it’s exclusively the woman’s fault that a man looks and then lusts after her, how then is that any different than Islam? If we suggest that women should only be covered in large baggy garments, how is that releasing freedom to the daughters of God?

I share this because the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ is not bound in legalism and oppression that the world offers. There is HOPE in Jesus that liberates us from sin and separates us into righteous living (right standing with Him). He calls us out from serving our flesh and into finding our beauty in who He has created us to be. This freedom doesn’t permit us to make others stumble. Rather, our modesty becomes worship to the one true living God.

*If you’d like to encourage someone with this blog, share it! If you’d like to comment on this, I’d love to hear from you. :)

I’m working on expanding this into a short book and would love your feedback! (Jan 2014)