Just mention the word modesty and chances are you will be misunderstood. The first things to come to my mind are burkas, long denim skirts, turtlenecks and culottes. Many times the topic is overlooked because battling preconceptions on the topic is just too much work; cultural influences scatter standards every which way; and let’s face it, this is not a topic our younger members think many of us are even qualified to tackle. But the thing is, these objections don’t make it any less important, scripture has plenty to say about the topic. We are specifically called to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); woman should dress respectably and in a way that professes godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4), furthermore the lack of discretion can actually render one less attractive (Proverbs 11:22). Although there is potential for cultural and generational disconnect, I believe there are effective steps we can take in helping our youth understand the importance of modesty.
Practical Ways to Teach Modesty to Today’s Youth
Promote respect for the authority of scripture
The Word of God and having a relationship with Him are things that have power to truly change a person. Let’s not think so highly of ourselves to suppose we can apply scare tactics and a little guilt in order to effectively adapt a person to godly behavior; after all, when modesty is addressed in scripture it is not just referring to the outward appearance but to the heart. Maturity takes time, but maturity won’t happen without the nurturing words that proceed from the mouth of the Creator. His Word must reign supreme if we hope to experience any measure of success.
I once knew a family who refused make-up, colorful fabrics and accessories for their girls because they did not want to attract attention; they worked so hard on their alternative look that it actually drew more notice than discouraged it. Christians are a peculiar people because they uniquely belong to God and own the vast treasure that comes with the privilege, not because they are striving to be extra-biblically strange. The intent behind each fashion statement should be to please God and to regard others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Promote respect for each other
Camaraderie and fellowship are important elements to any youth group. An important dynamic in such a community is learning how to serve others and prefer them as more important. Girls can help the guys by dressing less provocatively, and guys can serve the ladies by showing respect. Paul encourages, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3).
Scripture teaches that once the seed of God’s word takes root in a person’s life, it is our responsibility to take action by discipling them, to nudge them into a life of sanctification (Matthew 28:19). The practical experience of becoming set apart for God is a life-long process that requires fellowship, accountability, and sound teaching: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Dictionary.com lists “freedom from vanity” as one definition of the word modesty. Modesty should be perceived as a freedom from emptiness, from letting culture dictate how we present ourselves. We are no longer in bondage to the pressures and weight of society’s insistence. Let your youth understand that they don’t have to be ruled by these things, but rather put into subjection all things by the authority of scripture.
Promote good options
I have seen ads in malls and magazines that break my heart, young boys and girls dressed up like objects for sexual lust; these advertisers are guilty of broadcasting dishonor on these precious little members of God’s creation. It is apparent their employers don’t care; if they did they wouldn’t put them up in such compromising presentation. There are on the other hand, fashion statements worth repeating, styles and brands that show a little more consideration to modesty. There needs to be an open dialog concerning these things and done in a setting that allows for open discussion and a chance for the younger generation to be heard.
All for Him
The end of the matter is that we do all things to the glory of God which translates to obedience to God and keeping an eye out for our brothers and sisters. Let’s teach each of our youths to say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).