Modesty: The Heart Of The Matter — Michael Grooms

What do your clothes say about your heart? The attire people wear is often an expression of who they are. For some, it is a t-shirt with a logo, slogan, or picture that expresses an interest or attitude. It may be the wearing of particular brands or individual styles that relate to a culture. These things are not inherently wrong, although they could be. The point is that clothing tells you something about a person. When it comes to modesty, the way a person dresses speaks volumes about the heart of that person.

You see, dear reader, modesty is a matter of the heart. In 1 Timothy 2:8-10, the scriptures address the heart and the role that modesty plays in respect to the heart. First, Paul writes to the men and tells them to be men of prayer, lifting up “holy hands.” A study of the scriptures reveals that the term “holy hands” is a reference to a pure heart (James 4:8; Matt. 27:24; Isa. 1:15; Ps. 24:3-4; 26:6; 73:13). Paul is telling the men to have a pure heart devoid of wrath and doubt that will enable them to lead a life of prayer. He then turns his attention to the women and instructs them to dress in such a manner that reflects a heart of propriety and godliness. In particular, the situation that Paul addresses in this scripture is one of the women being excessively lavish, but the principle established applies to any apparel which would not be proper for one professing godliness. In other words, it is a matter of the heart! Modesty, as it applies to attire, means to have propriety or conform to a standard. The standard to which we conform is God’s. This passage applies to both men and women, as both are instructed to conduct themselves in a manner that professes godliness and purity of heart.

Another passage that addresses the state of the heart relative to clothing is 1 Peter 3:1-6. Peter admonishes the women to not focus on the outward appearance (arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel) but rather to adorn themselves with “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God.” The Holy Spirit reveals in this passage that such is reflective of “the hidden person of the heart.” Regardless of whether the question is too much or too little, too tight or too revealing, too low or too high, the issue is the same. The issue is the heart.

Christian, you bear the responsibility of helping others get to heaven! You are to shine with a light that is seen in your good works and bring glory to God (Matt. 5:16). If you dress in such a way that causes others to stumble, you bear the responsibility for that action. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 8:12-13 that to cause another to stumble and wound their conscience is to sin against Christ!

Notice the following passage:  “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:12-13, NKJV).

You and I will be judged before God and will give an account of whether we helped others to reach heaven or put a stumbling block in their way. This author has noticed that often when a post is made on social media concerning modesty, there are usually those who will protest that the person wearing the clothes is not at fault, but the person who is doing the looking and lusting. Those who make such arguments fail to acknowledge that God holds a person responsible for their part in influencing the spiritual fall of another. No person is responsible for the choice someone else makes, but all are accountable for the way they influence the choices of others. Not only are we to avoid influencing others to stumble, but we bear the responsibility of helping to restore those who do. Galatians 6:1-2 places the burden of restoring someone who is “overtaken in a trespass” on the shoulders of “you who are spiritual.” The answer to the question long ago asked by Cain (Gen. 4:9) is “Yes, I am my brother’s (or sister’s) keeper!” The heart of one who is spiritual is one that is caring and protective of the souls of others. If a person dresses in a way that is provocative and leads another to sin, they are not revealing a heart that is spiritual and cares for the salvation of others.

Look again at Romans 14:12-13.  Notice that the sin addressed in this passage is the sin of putting a cause to fall in the way of another! May it never be said of a disciple of Christ that he or she was the cause of another losing their soul! Jesus said of one who causes a disciple of His to stumble that it would be better for that person that a millstone be hung around their neck and they were cast into the sea (Mark 9:42). This should cause all Christians to think very seriously about their influence upon others.

The person who sins is responsible for their sin.  No one can make you sin.  That is a choice you make.  Jesus condemned lustful thoughts.  HE said that if a man looks at a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery already in his heart (Matt. 5:28).  Lust is a very serious matter.  All sin begins with either lust or pride.  The word of God states, “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).  James tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).  We are called by God to be holy as we live in a world full of sin. If we are to succeed in that endeavor, each of us must be vigilant to guard our hearts. Jesus said that such sins as “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies” proceed out of the heart (Matt. 15:19). The windows to the heart are the eyes. If one is to guard their heart, they must guard their eyes.

The song that many children learn to sing states the case well: “Oh be careful little heart, what you see!” It is a fact that what one chooses to look at with their eyes will affect the heart. Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). The case has been made that a person who dresses immodestly is responsible for their part in casting a stumbling block, but the person who chooses to look and lust is entirely accountable for the sin of their heart. The sins of both reveal their heart.

Christians, let us strive to be pure in heart. Let us strive to get to heaven and conduct ourselves in such a way as to help others to get to heaven. If we do this, then such matters as immodest dress will no longer be an issue for us, for we will desire to reflect a heart devoted to God in all we do. Each of us must bear the responsibility for the decisions we make in life, and we each must realize that the choices we make often affect the spiritual well-being of others. How you dress says much about your heart. What do your clothes say about your heart?

Michael serves as the pulpit minister for the Boiling Springs congregation in Boiling Springs, SC.  He is also a member of the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger.

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