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Hanging Up on "No Hang Up's"

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” the blond woman shouted into the microphone. Her tight shirt crept farther upward as her right hand shot into the air, wholly unveiling a swollen pregnant stomach. I struggled to keep my jaw from dropping open.

Was it just my Middle American sensibilities showing through—my Bible belt upbringing? Guilt flashed through my mind. Who was I to disapprove of her clothing? Was I being judgmental? Her purpose on stage was to reach the lost for Christ, yet at the same time, I wonder if the woman knew how much more she was communicating, beyond “Praise the Lord.”

When visiting Los Angeles a few years back, the woman was not my only case of "culture shock." Although the fashions in my hometown are far from Puritan, Los Angeles standards took skin-baring to an entirely new level. My experiences during that visit helped me understand what it meant to love brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of cultural differences. I had no right to condemn others while in desperate need of grace myself.

But this brings one to wonder, how does modesty relate to Christians from other backgrounds? A friend of mine once asked a relative from California, if she thought her clothing could possibly be a point of visual temptation for the guys in her life. Her relative replied that the men in her area didn’t “have that hang-up.” Does this mean residents of L.A., Miami, Honolulu, and other places where cultures differ, are exempt from modesty? Or could it be that there is more to modesty than guarding the purity of guys?

In my observation, many who choose to dress modestly do so that their “freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9) This is an admirable, Biblical pursuit. But I believe if all of the guys on earth were blind, unfeeling, and devoid of all visual “hang-ups,” there would still be a need for modesty. Why?

God desires it of us. “I desire then….that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10. Italics mine.)

These verses are not banning jewelry, but highlighting the heart. In his sermon, “The Soul of Modesty,” C.J. Mahaney said, “Your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation.” If humility and worshipping God is given first priority, our clothing choices will naturally reflect that.

This perspective changes the situation, doesn’t it? Instead of dressing according to the "hang ups" of those around us, we’re choosing our clothes carefully as a form of worship to the God of the universe. Instead of being accountable to men for our actions, we are accountable to God for our hearts.

For women professing godliness, whether in Los Angeles or small town America, we each are given the same command. God desires modesty, no matter what we are accustomed to having before our eyes.

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That was great, Hannah!

Hi Hannah,

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a message! I'm glad you liked what you saw on my blog.

This post is fantastic! Such a good point - that modesty is an issue of the heart, of living a godly life before our Lord.

I hope to visit your blog often. Feel free to pop in to mine as well again. God bless,

Emily

Yet in that passage does not God define “respectable apparel” as a lack of costly attire and jewelry? As a lack of braided hair? I maybe taking the verse too literally, but can we say that jewelry or costly attire is really appearing humble before God and accepting him into our hearts? Can wearing such material creature comforts while other of God’s children starve and die of malnutrition and disease? Doesn’t wearing jewelry defy Jesus’ teachings “Love your neighbor.” Love is pure and selfless, and keeping such an item when it could save those fellow human beings that we share the earth with, especially when God expressedly forbade it, isn’t that a sin against not only the Father but the Son as well? If worshipping God was our first priority wouldn’t we take all of his words to our bosoms and get rid of this shameful display of wealth while others lie dying because they cannot afford food or good housing?

We also have to take into consideration that we add cultural connotations to scripture sometimes. Perhaps modesty of the heart, letting God show us what is appropriate, is the key.

Love your post, as always.

Suzanne Eller

I can relate to the culture shock. I come from a small town in the midwest and one of the first trips I made with my new husband was to Las Vegas (he loves NASCAR races). I was more than a little bit shocked to see the clothing (or lack there of) native to that city. It also made me realize how important modesty is in our daily lives!!

By the way, it was such a pleasure to have stumbled across your blog! I will certainly be back for more:)

Dear Anonymous,

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul is addressing immodest and pretentious dress. It is not inherently sinful to wear jewelry, expensive clothing, or braided hair, if the motive behind the actions are right. I highly recommend listening to C.J. Mahaney's sermon "The Soul of Modesty", where he deals with this question more in-depth. Here's a portion from his sermon:

"Now, it would appear that the most acute problem that Paul is addressing at this time, were women who through their dress—through their ostentatious dress—separated themselves from the poor and identified, sinfully, with the wealthy. The dress here that is described by Paul… would have been part of the culture caricature of wealthy women, or at worst, part of the attire of prostitutes. Please don't misunderstand. The issue here isn't braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire, in and of themselves. The issue here is the association through this attire with values that are clearly worldly and not godly. At this time, dress of this kind was a statement of association, a statement of identification with the world, and ultimately drew attention to that individual."

You're right— we definitely need to be willing to sacrifice all for Christ's sake, and following Him does need to be our first and foremost priority! However, wearing nice clothes and jewelry does not defy Jesus' commandment to love our neighbors. You see, it's the motivation behind the expensive attire and jewelry that Paul is addressing, not the articles themselves. However, I think you do have a point. Extremely costly clothing draws attention to the wearer, and spending undue amounts of money and time on appearances is being a bad steward of the gifts God has given us. We must make sure that our priorities are set straight, and our hearts are in the right place.

I just found your website. Great job. I will be coming back :)

Ula

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