Modesty is Relative

What does it mean to be modest in 2021? Are there still standards for how a woman should dress in public? How I dress as a worship leader is different from how I dress at the gym.  At the gym, I dress according to the day’s workout. I’m there six days a week now that I’ve started training clients. For a workout, I wear clothes I’m going to sweat in. It’s hot and humid in Belize, which means most often, my shoulders are bare. But, that’s not how I dress to stand before the congregation at church. My shoulders are covered, and my skirts are knee-length.  Do uncovered shoulders make me immodest at the gym? At 58 years old, I’m focused on being appropriate and comfortable. Modesty is relative.

Different Rules

During my workout time today, I was the only female present.  And I was wearing two shirts. I had a regular t-shirt on, and underneath was a tank top with spaghetti straps. Towards the end of the workout, the outer shirt was soaked. So I took it off. At that moment, I was struck with a memory from when I was five years old. It was a warm night, and my brothers had taken off their shirts. But I was not allowed to do the same. I cried, I begged, but the answer remained….a firm no. That was the beginning of my education that the rules for boys and girls were different, and in my opinion, unfair!

Is It Fair?

There is often judgment attached to women’s clothing. I’m guilty of it. When a young woman comes into the gym wearing a sports bra and bike shorts, my first thought is a judgmental, “really?” But is that fair? She’s dressed for the gym in 90-plus degree heat with no air conditioning. And once again, I’m reminded that modesty is relative.

Cultural Differences

Depending on where we live in the world, the rules are different. But there are rules. How about women in a dress above the knee and straps off the shoulders at church? Do we shun them or make them feel welcome? When we traveled to a Baptist church in Ukraine, I was the only woman my age not wearing a head covering. Everyone was polite but not particularly welcoming. The following week I returned wearing a scarf on my head and they greeted me with hugs and kisses as a sister in Christ. Modesty is relative.

How Should a Woman Dress?

In 1 Timothy 2:9, we find the word modesty as it relates to clothing, hair, and jewelry. It is for a specific time and cultural setting. So like my cultural experience in Ukraine, the expectations in today’s society vary. But, as Christian women, our values do not change.  Our goal is to be appropriate.  I won’t demand another woman to dress like me to display modesty. In a day where there is so much divisiveness in the Christian community, it’s important to find common ground.

Common Ground

We can find areas of common ground in the word of God.

  • Women should dress in strength and dignity. Proverbs 31:25
  • We should dress for service. Luke 12:35
  • Believers clothe themselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27
  • We should wear the armor of light. Romans 13:12
  • Believers need to put on the new self.  Ephesians 4:24
  • We should all put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:11 & 13
  • Believers should put on love. Colossians 3:14
  • We must put on faith and the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:8
  • Believers should dress in humility. I Peter 5:5

Stop Passing Judgment

Let’s remember that we need to “stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  Romans 14:13.  I fully understand that there are those who have a more literal view of what modesty is for a woman. However, keep in mind that modesty is relative to the culture we live in.  So as citizens of Heaven, it’s not our earthly clothes—more importantly, it’s our spiritual clothing that matters most!

Let’s Reflect: What lessons have you learned about modesty throughout your life? As a believer, how should you dress?

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, You clothe us in Your righteousness. You adorn us with a crown of grace. You alone set the standard of modesty. Keep us appropriately dressed in Your presence. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Modesty is Relative

  1. I love this and agree with your thoughts. I’m not sure how Christians became the modesty police but we’re doing women a disservice. You and Gods word said it better than I ever could – modesty is relative.

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