The Heart of the Modesty Issue

I have written about modesty before. I have written about why we need to modest in “Men are Pigs?” I have written about why Jesus expects us to be modest in “Jesus Doesn’t Care What I Wear.” But….where does modesty start? What is it all about? What does modesty really mean?

It is not just about clothing. It is about the heart.

John MacArthur put it like this, “How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshipping God? Or, is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty, or worse to attempt to lure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshipping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and her appearance.”

Paul Washer says this,

“Modesty is rarely seen in this generation of Christians. Many who claim Christ are as uncovered, lewd, and brazen as the world. This is going to make you mad, and I’m talking to boys and girls. Radical Christians are those who do not dress sensually in order to show off their bodies. If your clothing is a frame for your face, God is pleased with your clothing. If your clothing is a frame for your body, it’s sensual and God HATES what you’re doing.

I do not so much have to pray up when I’m preaching under a tent in inner-city San Antonio, but I have to pray up and know that I am walking with the Lord when I walk into an average Baptist church because of the way most people dress. And you say, “It’s legalism.” No it’s not. They’re commands in the Bible. It doesn’t say we’re all supposed to dress like a Puritan, but it does say we’re supposed to be decent and cause no offense or stumbling. “Well you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Yes you can! Jesus said you can; by their fruits you will know them.

Here are some very important questions that I always ask young men. Are you attracted to her biblical beauty or are you attracted to her sensuality? Sensuality proceeds from a wicked heart. In Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of men proceed the evil thoughts, fornication, thefts, murders, adultery, deeds of covetousness, wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, evil, slander pride and foolishness. Also sensuality is a deed of the flesh. Galatians 5:19 The deeds of the flesh are evident which are immorality, impurity, sensuality.

A woman can properly be called beautiful. A women can properly be called elegant. But a woman who is sensual has an evil heart.”

See if we as women get dressed to draw attention to ourselves in a sensual way or to be a distraction to others focusing on God, then we are wrong.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

1 Samuel 16:7 says …”for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

“So how do I know if I am dressing modestly?”

Check your heart. How is your spirit? What is your intent? Why are you dressed the way you are dressed? What is your goal? Are you going to do everything you can to draw everyone’s attention to God or are you trying to draw there attention to you?

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of 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. 1 Peter 3:3-4

That does not mean that we are to have NO personality, and we are supposed keep our heads down and not speak to people. That would be the opposite of honoring to God. It simply means that we are to adorn ourselves on the inside and place value on that above all else. We are to have a graceful, selfless attitude so that we do not draw vain attention to ourselves so that others will constantly see the beauty of Jesus Christ in our lives, and speech, and actions. It is possible to have a friendly, outgoing personality AND the gentle, selfless spirit that God considers of great price.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry, and her clothing is silk and purple. Proverbs 31:22

This is the proverbs 31 woman. This girl takes care of herself, and presents herself with grace and dignity for her Lord. She does not neglect her appearance in the name of “spirituality,” nor does she draw attention to herself with her body. She possesses the graceful femininity that God has cultivated inside of her, and dresses accordingly to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. We can literally get up, get dressed, put our makeup on to the glory of the Lord, and to present ourselves with grace and dignity to others in His name.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 1 Timothy 2:9-10

This is why God says, don’t let your beauty defined by your clothing or your jewelry or the way you do your hair, but in everything you do, point people to Jesus Christ– not yourself.

Be honest with yourselves. Don’t deceive yourselves because the God you claim to love and serve has asked you to have this attitude. Yes, modesty is an attitude that begins in our heart. One that seeks to bring attention to God… and not you.

God does not mean we should not wear gold or braid our hair or wear nice clothing, but he does mean we should not make the outward appearance the preoccupation of our adornment. We need to consider our inward adornment and the inward adornment of others to be of great price– far more than rubies. This is how we become godly women, and women who exult God.

True beauty seeks to draw attention to Jesus Christ above all in everything she does and in everything she puts on. She knows that what she wears is an accurate expression of what is in her heart.

As Christian women, what we wear must flow from an understanding that we bear the image of our Creator who created beauty; that we are redeemed sinners living in a fallen world; that we are servants who need to be ready to do the will of God to his honor and glory. Modesty is an attitude of the heart that seeks to give glory to God, serve others, and put self to death. Its most visible expression is what we wear.

Especially in church, ladies. It is so sad that Christian men can not come to our churches and be safe from distraction away from the Lord. When you go to your wedding, you can dress like the center of attention- the bride. Church, however, is the time for worship, humility, meekness, a broken and contrite spirit, and a time for confessing sin. It is about God, not you. If you take that spirit away front the church service knowingly, God will not hold you guiltless. You will answer for it all.

Ladies, it all starts with the heart. What does the Bible mean when it talks about “shamefacedness” and godly fear? Well, just that. It means shame.

Am I ashamed to be a woman?
Am I ashamed of my clothes?
Am I ashamed of my husband?
Am I ashamed of my hair?


I am ashamed if I in any way would ever contribute to someones else’s evil thought, lustful thought, thought of illicit desire, or that I should distract anyone from proper worship of God. It is that kind of shame. Any woman with a proper sense of shame will dress in such a way as not to be alluring and not to be the source of temptation. She will be sensitive to this kind of sin, and reject anything that is immoral or dishonorable to God. She will be so broken over this kind of sin that she would never come close to doing anything that offends God or generates a sinful attitude in another person’s mind.

This ought to be the attitude of every Christian woman. No desire beyond what is honorable to God and her husband. {even if she does not have one yet} No desire to flaunt her sensuality, but a sense of shame that fits true modesty and faithfulness to her husband. Even and especially for a single woman that same modesty, that same beauty of godly character should become the most attractive thing about her.

C.J. Mahaney describes immodesty this way, “Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or a low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride on display by what you wear.”

Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. Isaiah 3:16-24

The women who are haughty, the women who are lustful, the women who draw attention the themselves for their own evil intent and purpose will be judged. This is the word of God. To adorn ourselves in nice clothing is not evil, but to over do it, to adorn for the sake of lust and flaunt ourselves and draw sensual attention to ourselves is evil, and particularly so among the congregation of the saved.

Let’s examine ourselves, and make sure that what we wear is an accurate expression of what is in our hearts, and let our hearts be broken before God, and fear his judgement, and seek to express our love for him in obedience to his word.

Let us have pure hearts and clean hands. Let us be women who are marked by self-control and godly fear whose lives are a testimony to Jesus Christ and not a reproach. Let us make sure that we are telling people of the beauty of Jesus Christ by our attitude of modesty. Let us be women who walk in true beauty and grace, and let us seek what the Lord would have us seek as godly women- to do all to the glory of our Lord and Savior.

And, girls, let’s not just talk about it or think about it or agree….. C’mon, let’s do it.



  1. As I get older and have really come to love myself, its really become important to dress appropriately. I’ve always been told I dress “so old to be so young”, now I’m stuck with finding the middle ground. I thank you so much for this post and others like it!


  2. WOW. I love ALL of your posts on modesty. (Yes, I read them all!) I would love for you to do a guest post on my blog Modern Modesty. You are SO much more eloquent than I am with words! Thank you for being a Godly woman that is standing up for right!

    Lauren from Modern Modesty


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