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The Bible and Modesty: It’s About More Than Personal Choices (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: For Part 1 in this series on the Bible and modesty (“Where Modesty Starts”), click here.

Have you ever seen someone do something really stupid, and then say, “Well, it’s a free country”? Or see someone make a decision that harms another person, but do so in the name of their “personal choice,” because they don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves? The culture that we live in praises individualism. It teaches us that whatever is done in the name of personal freedom and individual choice is the ultimate good.

But that’s not what the Bible teaches. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) says,

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

You do not belong to yourself. None of us do. We first and foremost belong to God, who bought us with a price. And then, a la Phillippians 2:3, we belong to each other.

What does it mean that we belong to each other? One thing it means is that our choices about modesty affect our community. None of us live alone on an island (well, at least most of us don’t), which means that our heart posture results in choices that affect other people. If we desire for the outward expression of our inward posture to reflect modesty and humility, we have to consider our context and community.


“If we desire for the outward expression of our inward posture to reflect modesty and humility, we have to consider our context and community.”


That might mean that even though I feel perfectly comfortable wearing jeans with holes and snags ripped all up the front when I’m out with my friends, I’m not going to wear them to my Granny’s house…because as a woman in her 80’s, I know they bother her and make her feel uncomfortable. She’s part of my community. And in that particular context, I’d rather dress in a way that allows us to have a conversation that doesn’t center around whether or not she needs to take up an offering to buy me “fixed pants.” It’s my attempt to consider her desires as more important than my personal choice.

When it comes to modesty, considering your community and context doesn’t mean seeking their approval…but it does mean prioritizing their good. It means placing the well-being of others as greater than your individual freedom.

Modesty in the context of finances might mean choosing not to plan a multiple-day bachelor party out of town, because you know that some of the people in your wedding party are financially struggling. Modesty in the context of clothing might mean not posting Instagram pictures of yourself in a minidress, because you know that the middle school students you lead are looking to you for a standard. Modesty in the context of your community might mean not constantly talking about the new relationship you’re in to a friend who just went through a breakup.


“When it comes to modesty, considering your community and context doesn’t mean seeking their approval, but it does mean prioritizing their good.”


Before spending money, getting dressed, posting pictures, using words, or a myriad of other things, it’s a good rule of thumb to ask these questions (in this order):

  1. Does this honor God?
  2. Does this honor my context and community?

Final note on this: interestingly, as it relates to modesty in the way we dress, the Bible does not give any specific wisdom as to what’s too tight, too low, too revealing, or what the once-and-for-all appropriate length for our shorts is. God could have included that in the Bible. But He did us one better: He gave us the timeless wisdom of putting others before ourselves in every context and community through every century, in every nation, at every age.


“He gave us the timeless wisdom of putting others before ourselves in every context and community through every century, in every nation, at every age.”


In his kindness, He gives us the ability to adhere to modesty as a bit of a moving targetbecause what is totally appropriate for me to wear to a pool day with my gal pals is also not appropriate for me to show up wearing for work. Unless I am a lifeguard…but I’m not. Context and community are key.

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