By Deirdre Reilly, Crosswalk.com
Modesty is a term usually associated with women, particularly when it comes to the Bible. Many are familiar with this verse: “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” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
But is the Bible talking only to women — or should men pursue modesty, too? Here are some thoughts to consider:
Females Are Human, Too
In this day and age, many tired old stereotypes have been done away with, and one of them is that while men are sexual beings, women aren’t (or at least they should not acknowledge any sexuality). This just isn’t true. Women are indeed sexual beings, but it is important to remember that sexuality is not the overriding part of their personhood. A woman’s soul, created by God, is the most important part of her personhood. A woman is made by God, loved by God, and will return to God someday. So, in the same way that Christian women dress modestly for many reasons — to attract the right type of interest, to avoid drawing men into lewd thoughts, and to show respect for both God and self, men can honor women and God by drawing attention to their heart and minds — not just their bodies.
When I was a young girl, my friends and I often spent hours at the neighborhood pool. Every day a man in his thirties came to swim laps in the tiniest Speedo swimsuit ever made. Many moms said it made them uncomfortable — for themselves and for their daughters. So, the choices a man makes affect not only women but younger females, too, who deserve to grow up in a healthy, innocent environment.
Jesus Valued Women — Men of Today Should, Too
The Bible is written for men and women and illustrates God’s love for both sexes. In Jesus’ teaching, there was no prioritizing one gender over another — Jesus was talking to humankind, showing everyone, male and female, how to live and whom to love above all others — the Lord. Jesus valued women and spoke directly to women, which was uncommon during that time. John 4:27 tells us, “Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”
Shouldn’t men value women too, as Jesus did? A man deciding to be modest in dress shows respect for women and what parts of a woman he is interested in — namely her heart and her mind. When it comes to how you dress, you often get what you give; a man who wears tight jeans and tight tee shirts in an effort to show off his physical self should not be surprised when he attracts a woman who is only interested in his physical self!
Can Behavior Also Be Immodest?
Modesty is not just avoiding wearing tight or revealing clothing, although this is part of it — modesty is avoiding being showy in all ways.
Immodesty might not necessarily be dressing in clothes that are too tight, but instead, clothes that are worn in an effort to be boastful or draw large amounts of attention. Modesty, on the other hand, demands that you focus on the person themselves — and not the trappings, or outer layer, of the person. Respect naturally follows.
Can modesty extend to behavior, too? As we read in 1 Peter above, beauty should come from “…your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…” This is a beautiful passage that shows us where our true attractiveness lies — our spirit. Today, sadly, it is almost an act of courage to rely on our personalities and what we have to offer on the inside instead of flaunting what we have to offer on the outside.
The word “quiet” in 1 Peter also gives us a clue as to how we are to present ourselves as men and women. We should make an effort to listen and observe. The word “gentle” in this passage shows us we must treat others tenderly — which we cannot do if we are worried about being first, being the loudest voice in the room, or showing off our physical attributes.
Modesty Is a Trait of “Real Men”
Men are biologically different, and I believe they are gifted by God to be protectors and providers — to find work God approves of and apply themselves humbly to it. According to the Bible, Adam was in charge of the Garden of Eden; this was his job. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) God wants men to be leaders, protectors, and honorable husbands and fathers. While a man must sometimes call attention to himself and his skills to receive what is due him (perhaps at work), and also show his children how to be strong and advocate for themselves, a Christian man also should teach his children how to be modest in word and deed.
My youngest son played hockey in his youth and had many different types of coaches — some yelled and screamed from the bench, while others often boasted about their own glory days. My son’s favorite coach, however, was a shy person who said very little — but whose impact was enormous. In his own quiet way, he showed the boys respect (which they, in turn, showed him), complimented their on-ice accomplishments, meted out discipline when warranted, and imbued them with solid hockey skills that would last their whole careers. This coach was so quiet with the parents it seemed almost painful for him to receive our thanks and praise, but it is this unassuming, gentle man that my son most associates with being a true coach. He was a modest man and, in our book, a “real man” in the very best sense.
The Pay-Off: Living Life for God
All of this talk of men’s modesty does not mean that a man shouldn’t take care of how he presents himself. It is fine and good that men be clean, well-groomed, and dressed in clothes they’re comfortable in and that look nice on them. Also, a man should certainly “put on the ritz” for his wedding day or other fancy occasions! There are times in life when more is indeed more. Modesty, as we are examining it, speaks to overarching motivation. What really matters to a man can be discerned, in large part, by how he looks and acts.
Most of us are drawn to people who are humble, kind, and focus not on how they look but who they are — a child of the most high God. And we can be joyous in our modesty because with it we please the Lord: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/dusanpetkovic
Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.