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 Vol. 8, No. 12 

December 2006

~ Page 15 ~

Man's Objections to
God's Standard of Modesty

By Michael S. Hatley

The "New Testament Doesn't Tell Us What Is Modest" Argument

It's true that God does not tell us in the New Testament which parts of the body must be covered in order to be modest in his eyes. He does tell us in the New Testament that we must be chaste (Titus 2:4-5) and not be a stumbling block to others (1 John 2:10). In order for our clothing to meet these New Testament requirements, it must cover our bodies from shoulders to knees. How do I know this?

The same way advertisers know it. Sex sells and bare thighs, cleavage and skin tight clothing are regularly used to attract attention in advertisements. The same way prostitutes know it who advertise their sexuality with bare thighs, bare shoulders, bare backs, low cut tops, skin tight clothing and see through clothing. The same way the Director of Education, Sibusiso Mkhonda, in Swaziland, Africa knows it, who banned miniskirts in school there to minimize the fornication between students and teachers. Mkhonda states, "If you are exposing your thighs some people may get attracted to that and make advances" (BBC News, July 19, 2000).

The same way Vice Chancellor Vijay Khole of Bombay University in India knows it who decided to ban women students from wearing miniskirts, shorts and tight tops in order to reduce rape. Khole made this statement to reporters, "An attire should be such that it should not be offensive or cause distraction to fellow students and lecturers" (Press Trust of India, June 23, 2005). The same way authorities in Malaysia's conservative Terengganu state know it who plan to ban non-Muslim women from wearing miniskirts or figure-hugging dresses to work as part of a drive against indecency ( "Malaysia plans mini-skirt ban" story). The same way both the Century Amusement Park, in Zhengzhou, China knows it who allowed women over age 18 wearing miniskirts shorter than 14.8 inches to enter for half price in the summer of 2005, and Chinese attorney Liu Quangen knows it who believes that this type of marketing is harmful to social ethics and morality (The Epoch Times, July 7, 2005).

Most every heterosexual male knows it. Most women know it, too. God designed the human body and the human mind and he knows which parts of the body are sexually stimulating to members of the opposite sex. He covered those parts with the clothing he made in Genesis 3:21. That garment covered the shoulders and reached the knees.

The "Old Testament Teachings Can't
Be Applied to Christians" Argument

We know from Romans 15:4 that God expects Christians to learn from Old Testament principles and examples. Some church members are willing to learn from "whatsoever things written aforetime" only as long as they agree with what was written aforetime. In order to prove that abortion is a sin, they will quote Exodus 21:22-23 and Proverbs 6:16-17. They have no problem with sermons on drinking that point out Proverbs 20:1, 23:31-32 and 31:4-7. They are willing to use Leviticus 18:22, Deuteronomy 23:17 and Judges 19:22-23 in order to show the sinfulness of homosexuality. They cite Exodus 20:16, 23:1, Leviticus 19:11 and Proverbs 6:16-17 to teach God's view of lying. And they probably have no problem agreeing that to have one's buttocks publicly exposed is shameful as taught in Isaiah 20:4 and, therefore, not acceptable for a child of God.

But these inconsistent members of the church suddenly have a problem with "applying Old Testament principles to New Testament Christians" when it is suggested that Christians who expose their thighs are shamefully naked in God's eyes as taught in Exodus 28:42 and Isaiah 47:2-3. Why are they unwilling to believe that the shoulder to knee covering clothing that God saw as modest in Genesis 3:21 is not what he sees as modest today? These Christians want so badly to continue in their thigh, shoulder, belly and cleavage revealing fashions, or at least, not condemn those who do, that they have convinced themselves, somehow, that our eternal, unchanging God now considers a woman in a miniskirt to be chaste, even though he condemned such attire in Genesis, Exodus and Isaiah.

The "We Don't Know How much of the
Thigh Must Be Covered" Argument

Some Christians point out that neither Exodus 28:42 nor Isaiah 47:2-3 tell how much of the thigh must be uncovered before we are revealing nakedness. If we equally question Genesis 6:14, Acts 20:7 and Acts 2:38, then we must conclude that we don't know how much of Noah's ark was made of gopher wood, how many Sundays in a year we are to observe the Lord's Supper, or how much of our body must be immersed in baptism. Faithful Christians don't question any of these amounts because we are not trying to get around what is being taught in these passages. We understand that if a certain part is not stated, then all is implied. All of the ark Noah built was made of gopher wood. We are to take communion every first day of the week. The entire body is to be buried in water during baptism.

But to read Exodus 28:42 and Isaiah 47:2-3 and assume that since God didn't state "all of the thigh," then it must be OK to expose some of the thigh, is similar to Nadab and Abihu assuming that "some strange fire" is acceptable to God (Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 26:61), and Uzza deciding that "some touching of the ark" is justifiable (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). It is a mighty shaky assumption on which to risk an endless eternity.

The "Modesty Is Determined
by Culture and Conscience" Arguments

Some Christians argue that the culture in which we live determines modesty. If culture determines modesty, then an interesting fashion is becoming acceptable in our society, and therefore modest. Unfortunately, I once witnessed this fashion first hand. I saw a woman wearing her pants so low that when viewed from behind, she was exposing a variety of cleavage that, thankfully, we don't often see here in northeast Arkansas. This fashion trend requires the pants to be worn very low and colorful thong underwear to be worn high enough to show over the top of the pants. If culture determines modesty, then when that fashion is worn during the worship services of the church, we can't say a thing about it, because "that's just our culture."

Some believe that each person's individual conscience determines modesty. If so, then the man who believes he must be covered from neck to ankles and wear long sleeves in order to be modest, will be seen by God as immodest in a short sleeved shirt, because that would violate that man's conscience. But for the woman who is perfectly comfortable in public in a bikini, God would see her as being modest in a bikini, because that wouldn't violate her conscience.

The ultimate result of allowing culture or conscience to determine modesty is that utter nudity cannot be condemned. The culture at a nudist colony is that the complete lack of clothing is normal and expected. The people who go there believe that a hundred men and women spending the weekend together in their birthday suits is a natural, beautiful thing. Their consciences are clear.

"O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death"(Proverbs 16:25). We plainly see in these two passages that our consciences can lead us to death and hell. Romans 12:2 begins with these words, "And be not conformed to this world..." Culture isn't our guide, either.


God cares how Christians dress (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:1-5). He did not leave it up to man to determine what is and isn't modest (Jeremiah 10:23). He expects Christians to learn from the examples and principles in the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:16). We learn from his Word in Genesis 3:21, Exodus 28:42 and Isaiah 47:2-3 that clothing that covers from shoulders to knees is what he considers modest.Image

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