Modesty is an out-of-style word that makes lots of people cringe, even in the church. Debates about modesty have divided believers for years.
No matter how long you search, the Bible has no list of do's and don'ts pertaining to modesty. There isn't a skirt length or style listed for all Christian women to wear. Modesty isn't a list of rules; it is a reflection of our hearts.
Fig leaves were the first clothing ever worn by man and woman. These were a sad attempt by Adam and Eve to cover their sin and feeling of shame and guilt (Genesis 3). But God, in His great mercy and grace, killed an innocent animal to provide them with durable, more suitable clothing.
Like Adam and Eve, we have all tried to hide behind "fig leaves" -- whether it be our clothing, our appearance, our titles, our family or our good deeds. When we, as women, wear clothing that barely covers our bodies, we are covering up insecurity or a need for affirmation or we are engaging in self-gratification.
Dressing modestly, however, acknowledges the beauty and power of femininity. It doesn't mean you're ashamed of your body. Modesty is simply valuing what has value.
As Christian women who are ambassadors for Christ and "citizens of heaven," which kingdom are we representing through our clothing and dress? The attitudes of our hearts directly affect the way we dress and the message our outfits send to the world around us.
Do we point others to Jesus? Or do we distract them from the Gospel? Our dress should be a reflection of whom we worship. Since Christ purchased my body on the cross, I am to steward it for His glory.
As a Christian woman, your body is the temple of the living God. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20 state:
"Don't you yourselves know that you are God's sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God's sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God's sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are."
"Don't you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body."
In the Old Testament, the Temple was cared for with great attention to detail. In Exodus, there are chapters of instructions given by God for how the Temple was to be set up and cared for. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two. This veil originally separated the people from God's holy presence. His sacrifice opened the door for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We are now the temple of the living God.
Questions to ask yourself before getting dressed each day:
• Does this display the Gospel or distract from the Gospel?
• Is what I am wearing going to bring someone down, make someone envious or cause them to struggle?
• Am I dressing to make myself known or to make Christ known?
• Do I find my worth in my outfit or in my identity in Jesus?
Our clothing reveals where we find our worth. 1 Peter 3:3-4 states, "Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God's eyes."
Modesty is more than we have deemed it. When people look at me, I want them to see Christ. I want them to see someone who has been changed by the Gospel and looks different from the world.
Jessica Pigg is the director of women's ministry at First Baptist Church Immokalee in Southwest Florida, where her husband, Timothy, is senior pastor. This column first appeared at the Biblical Woman website (www.biblicalwoman.com) of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.