“Play not the Peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you be well deck’t.” Unless you are a huge history fan, you probably didn’t know George Washington had a list of rules to live by that he shared with others. (This was rule #54!) He was known for his humility or modesty and thought it was an important quality of well bred people.
In modern society, modesty has come to mean how much of the naked body a female exposes to the world. I remember vividly having to measure the distance between the bottom of my shorts and my knees in order to attend summer Bible camp. While we don’t want our kids to have clothing that exposes private areas, I always bristled at the idea that it was somehow my fault if a man lusted after me. I had been in urban areas enough times to have men catcall in the middle of winter when everything was covered but my eyes. I wasn’t convinced an extra inch of covered leg would matter to those men.
What most Christians fail to realize about modesty is that ultimately it isn’t about the length of your skirt or whether a man takes off his shirt in public. It’s about the heart. Out of curiosity, I went back and examined the scriptures normally used to remind women (no one seems to care about men’s clothing) to cover as much as possible. What I found was that George Washington was on the right track. Almost every verse paired modesty not just with “proper” attire, but also with the idea of avoiding being flashy or flaunting yourself (or your wealth) by strutting around with “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” 1 Timothy 2:10 (NIV).
In fact, this idea is further confirmed by what Peter wrote. He echoed Paul’s sentiment, but then he added what God wants instead. “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV) God has never wanted His people – men or women- to focus on calling attention to their outward appearance, while neglecting what is happening in their hearts and minds. God doesn’t want his people – male or female – to be focused on using their outward appearance to broadcast their sexuality to attract a partner. God doesn’t want His people to place their value on how “hot” they are or whether or not they can afford the latest designer clothes.
True godly modesty does mean your children – boys and girls – will not want to call attention to their bodies by exposing as much flesh as possible. They won’t spend every waking moment obsessed with how their muscles ripple or how their hair looks. They won’t try to see how sexy they can look while still being clothed “modestly”. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice and be attractive to others. The problem is where the focus and the heart are centered. God wants the energy your children have for those sorts of things to be more focused on making sure they are beautiful on the inside – the way God wants them to be. That godly beauty will radiate out of them and they will be more beautiful dressed in rags than a vain person clothed in the sexiest, most expensive clothing in the world.
Recently, I saw a Christian post bragging about how a young lady looked incredibly sexy while still wearing “modest” clothing. Honestly, even though her body was clothed thoroughly, her face radiated sexuality. She in reality was more immodest than someone with a pure and innocent heart who had a slightly shorter skirt. Teach your children to be considerate and not tempt others with their clothing, but teach them the most important part of modesty. True, godly modesty is resisting the urge to call attention – sexual or otherwise – to your appearance, but to radiate the beauty of someone who accurately reflects God’s image in his or her heart. If your children can understand and embrace that truth of modesty, they won’t have to worry about attracting others with their appearance. People will be drawn to them like moths to a light.