“[Modesty] is a condition of the heart. It is an outward manifestation of an inner knowledge and commitment. It is an expression that we understand our identity as daughters of God.” —Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president
The "For Strength of Youth" pamphlet that The Church has provided is an excellent resource and provides guidelines for dress and conduct. However, as a church member, I have wondered about how we teach these guidelines and our interpretations of them. As I do in my life with everything I read, I trust in the words of Jame 1:5. I ask, "But what does that really mean?" What was the intent and meaning? And what is God’s desire for us to learn from his teachings? Therefore, I have been asking myself for awhile now about the meaning of and teaching of modesty.
I have been discovering insights over the last few months, and today I came across a scriptural-based article that perfectly pulled my thoughts together on modesty. I was so impressed with a recent article by Rachel Held Evans that any addition to the topic I believe would dilute her points. Modesty is a topic I have been researching for some time now and desired to provide a scripture-guided context to the subject. But Rachel Held Evans in "Modesty: I Don't Think it Means What You Think it Means" did a much better job than I could; therefore, I provide you with some of my favorite comments from the article and a link back to her original post. The entire article is brilliant, and I struggle to choose my favorite. The following four quotes, I believe, give a good synopsis of the message.
1. "In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the apostle Paul writes “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.” The Greek word translated “modesty” here is kosmios. Derived from kosmos (the universe), it signifies orderliness, self-control and appropriateness. It appears only twice in the New Testament, and interestingly, its second usage refers specifically to men (1 Timothy 3:2). In fact, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty. (Ironically, I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitative trade practices—which would be much more in keeping with biblical teachings on modesty."
2. "And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves"
3. "Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart, so ladies, be sure to dress more modestly.” Instead he says to the men, “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away”! The IVP New Testament Commentary notes that at the time, “Jewish men expected married Jewish women to wear head coverings to prevent lust. Jewish writers often warned of women as dangerous because they could invite lust (as in Sirach 25:21; Ps. Sol. 16:7-8), but Jesus placed the responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting.”
4. "But our bodies are not something to be overcome; they are not dirty or shameful or inherently tempting. They are a beautiful part of what it means to be created in the image of God. These are the bodies that allow us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, the bodies that feel sun on our skin and sand between our toes, the bodies that nurse babies and cry with friends, the bodies that emerge from the waters of baptism and feast on the bread of communion. They are beautiful, and they are good."