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Topics: Womanhood, Women, Women in Ministry

Modesty Wars

July 23, 2013

Modesty wars


By Nikki Daniel

Just when you think you’re getting along great with your Christian friends, an intense disagreement erupts. Yes, you know this war well. You’ve seen it on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. You’ve heard gossip concerning the topic. You’ve gossiped yourself about it.  It’s (dun, dun, DUUUN!), the Modesty War.

We all have different standards for modesty.  One believer feels that she’s immodest if she shows her shoulders or any part of her legs. Another believer is convinced that she is modest while showing off her figure in tight jeans and a cleavage-revealing shirt.  These sisters in Christ rub each other the wrong way and may find themselves arguing over the issue of modesty.

Two Camps

Many disagreements over modesty occur because we don’t take time to understand one another.  Many participants in the “modesty war” were influenced by one of two major camps.  The first includes those women who love checklists. Many have come from churches that are notably relaxed in the area of modesty. Christian ladies wore skin-tight skirts.  Women sang on stage while revealing too much cleavage. These women have experienced a culture that exercises little to no discretion when it comes to clothing.  Many of these ladies may have felt comfortable showing off their bodies in the past, but now feel a deep conviction about modesty.  Others in this camp have seen women dressing modestly and simply want to do the same. These ladies often feel that modesty checklists and clear guidelines are necessary to create a culture of biblical modesty.

The second camp stresses that clothing choices are a matter of Christian freedom.  It includes those who have come from strict and rigid homes and churches. The pastor’s wife wore a neck-to-ankle suit every Sunday. The ladies who sang on stage wore carefully measured skirts that hung at just the perfect length to please God. The women representing this camp may have been scolded for showing their knees or shoulders. Sometimes reacting to their upbringing, these ladies may tend to reject modesty check-lists or guidelines. Others in this camp have watched Christian women unashamedly dress in their own styles and they simply want the freedom to do the same.

These are two different groups of Christian women, who love the Lord, but come from very different experiences and have responded to those experiences in different ways. When seeking to live out their faith together in community, these differences can easily lead to conflict and hurt feelings.  What then?

A Heart Issue

The most important thing is that we all focus on Jesus and press into scripture to make decisions about our clothes.  Should we choose our clothes to make ourselves comfortable and happy?  No.  Should we choose our clothes to make others around us comfortable and happy?  No.  We should choose our clothes to honor Jesus, who died and absorbed the wrath of God for us.  Whether you refer to a checklist or take a more general approach to your clothing choices doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you make every clothing decision with a heart to honor Christ.

Become a Deep Thinker

Think deeply about modesty.  It’s easy to drift to one of either of these extremes: “It’s my body and I want to be free” or “I want to stay as far away from the line as possible.”  Take some time to think through the bible’s teaching on modesty. Trust Christ and not your own instincts.  Go to the scriptures and work on not trusting yourself and trusting more in Christ and his word.

Some Thoughts to Consider

For the “freedom in Christ” ladies, here are some questions to consider as you think about your clothing:

  1. Think through the question “How can I honor Christ with my clothes”?
  2. Am I quick to becoming defensive concerning legalism and dress?
  3. Am I open to correction and admonishment when I dress immodestly?
  4. Is there a line? (Is it okay to show any part of my breasts? Can a shirt be too tight? Etc.)
  5. Should I consider opening up to another believer (husband, mentor, pastor’s wife) to get thoughts on my current wardrobe?
  6. Do I use the argument of “freedom in Christ” to get away with styles that I hope will gain male attention or make me feel attractive?
  7. Am I trying to validate myself through worldly standards?
  8. Do I gossip about others who I feel are legalistic with clothing?

For all of you “checklist” girls:

  1. Ask yourself, “Do I feel loved and accepted by God because Christ has clothed me in his righteousness or because of my above average standards of modesty?”
  2. Ponder the question, “Can a lady make a poor decision about her dress but still honor Christ in her heart?”
  3. Can the women who I deem immodest actually have good intentions?
  4. Is it always appropriate for me to confront?
  5. What do I feel in my heart when I see an immodest Christian lady?  Spite? Jealousy? Judgment?
  6. Do I gossip about others who I feel are immodest?
  7. Do I search my own heart when it comes to modest dress?  What are my intentions?
  8. Am I trying to gain favor with God through my modest dress?

Culture Matters

Now what?  We are all getting along and focusing on our own hearts, but is there a way for both camps to have a joint standard? A personal observation is that modesty is always defined by a particular culture. Most cultures have parts of the body that are considered private. American culture is no different. So, in our culture, covering these “private places” is the norm.  If these places are exposed or highlighted, it’s safe to say that the clothing being worn is immodest (for both women and men!). Seek to stay away from being sexually alluring in public based on your culture’s idea of sexually revealing clothing. Yes, these standards are ever changing, but this is a safe way, without a checklist, to honor the Lord in the culture in which he has placed you. Identify sexually alluring fashion trends and don’t jump on that enticing, but deadly, bandwagon. Again, this is just one way of looking at the issue. Some will see it as incredibly legalistic and others will feel that it does not go far enough. It’s simply middle ground and a place to start!

Let’s be gracious with each other as we seek to honor Christ with our clothing!  To those coming from a legalistic background, don’t reject checklists for all believers.  They can be helpful tool to those who have never established healthy guidelines in their clothing choices.  To those coming from immodest backgrounds, don’t coil when a sister resists your checklist because she sees it as legalistic. Understand the journey she is on to experience and walk in the freedom of God’s grace.

Let’s all seek to honor Christ with our bodies while doing our part to end the modesty war.


Nikki Daniel is a pastor’s wife from Augusta, Georgia. Her husband has been the pastor at BereaBaptistChurch ( for over ten years. She has two fun-loving boys, Noah Spurgeon (4) and Isaiah Newton (3).  She enjoys working from home as a freelance writer and graphic designer. Nikki graduated with a BA in Advertising from the University of Houston and a MATS degree from Southern Seminary.





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