What Is Modest Dress For Christian Women?

Spring is upon us and clothing will change. As preachers, we need to remind our congregations about the importance of modest apparel. God has set a dress code for Christians.

Would you please explain 1 Timothy 2:9-10 in regard to modest dress?

ANSWER: Vs. 9 & 10 discuss the woman’s character in the church. Vs. 9 says, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” The phrase “in like manner also,” suggests that there are things for women to consider about their role in the church, just as there are for men. The word translatedadorn is the Greek word kosmeo, which is where we get the term cosmetics; it means, “to put into order,” or, “to arrange.” You will sometimes hear a woman say that she has to put her face in order, meaning that she needs to apply cosmetics and various kinds of things. Adorn here carries the idea of making ready and could be translatedbeautify. Read this way, the text would state, “In like manner also, let the women beautify themselves.”

There is to be a specific way in which they are to beautify themselves, and therefore, we know that not everything that a woman does to beautify herself is acceptable in the sight of God. What does it mean to “make yourself ready” or to “put yourself in order?” Notice the way women adorn themselves in vs 9 —“modestly.” In I Timothy 3:2, the word is translated respectable. Understand that decent, modest dress is not a holdover from by-gone days; it is the command of a sovereign God. Decency in dressing habits is not embracing the efforts of a past generation to be prudent; modesty is the command of the holy God. The text commands that women dress self-consciously every day to the glory of God.o

Dress Today To The Glory Of God

When a woman chooses what she will wear, she should think, “I will dress today to the glory of God; I will adorn myself in modest apparel.” If the apparel is not modest, it does not glorify God. The word modest is the opposite of provocative, seductive, and revealing. As vs. 9 continues, it also says that women are to be clothed withpropriety. Propriety means reverence for God, and it actually signifies a sense of shame. We do not want to do anything or dress in any way that would dishonor God! Oh, how that is lost in our culture today, including church culture. Furthermore, the text continues by saying, “In moderation.” The word means discretion and is translated elsewhere as self-control, or sensibly. One is to be dressed in attire that is marked by discretion, or in common terminology, not showing everything! In I Peter 3, we find that the issue of dress is not just an outward issue. You cannot be godly from the outside in, or measure a skirt length to find out who is godly and who is not.

Some people may dress very modestly and be headed to Hell

Some people may dress very modestly and be headed to Hell; the real issue for the person of God is the heart. I Peter 3:3 says: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Vs. 9 of the text tells us how women in the church should not dress. There is nothing inherently wrong with braided hair, but in the cultural context, the braids were fastened by jeweled combs and pins made of ivory and silver. Paul depicts women who wore their hair very high, filled with expensive jewelry. The braids were just a way of holding all those jewels in place, so it is not the braiding that is the problem, but what the braiding represents—gaudiness, extravagance, and showiness. Women of that time lavished gold and jewels all over their bodies to communicate their wealth or importance.

Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman historian, describes a dress of an emperor’s wife that today would cost $500,000. Dressing in this way is a proliferation of self, but the goal of the Christian is to glorify God. Vs. 10 continues this thought: “But, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” There is a way of dressing which is proper for women who profess reverence to God. The point is this: a woman cannot revere God if she disregards what His Word says about modesty. Therefore, modest dress is paramount to godliness!

– Mark N. Posey