Well, is it? Something that I’ve had to come to the realization of every time I approach this topic is that modesty has to come from the inside before it can be manifest on the outside. If it’s not in the heart, if it’s not the true desire of the person, then they can dress in whatever they want and still be immodest.
Frankly, it’s not so much the clothing as it is the attitude and the desire to bend the rules. The teenage girl that goes out to the store and buys an appropriate length skirt but does not have it in her to be modest will find herself rolling up the waistband once she’s out of site of her parents.
You see, as we’ve said before, what manner of person you are on the inside reflects on the outside. Now, modesty and chastity are linked in many ways, and there is a difference. I like the way Cindy explained it in comments on my last post when she quoted C.S. Lewis:
The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of “modesty” (in one sense of that word); i.e., propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a certain social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest,” proper or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or unchaste).
We’re all told to live chaste lives– lives that are pure and holy before God. We’re also under obligation not to attract attention to our bodies. The exhortations of 1 Peter would seem foolish if the context of the times were taken out of them. For example, the braiding of hair, wearing of gold, or putting on of fine apparel can easily be linked to those women who had a less than virtuous profession. Peter’s not arguing here that you should not take care of yourself, but that your inside is more important than your outside.
And that’s exactly the point. We should be people (women AND men) that are chaste people, a people concerned about the inner man more so than we are the outer.
In my mind, modesty and chastity are in a threefold band with humility. All three travel together and they all influence each other. Humility does not seek to exalt itself. It will evidence itself by modest clothing and modest speech. Chastity will see out purity, and so will try to hold itself to a higher standard– which will also result in clean living and modest attire.
Because it’s more than modest clothes– I mean, if you read that survey you’ll see that it’s not just clothing! It’s movement, how you sit, how you walk, how you bend over, when you stretch, how you step over something and how you run! It almost would seem that you could do absolutely nothing without possibly causing a brother to stumble!
Which is precisely why I think that the emphasis needs to be on the heart. The heart attitude to seek after God. The heart to do the best that you can to help your brother. The heart that desires to edify one another. And it also means that you have a heart that does not look for opportunities to lust. A heart that remains focused on things above. It really does go both ways.