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Run in such a way that you may win." » I Corinthians 9:24

What Even IS Modesty?

If you were to look up the word “modest” in a dictionary some of the synonyms you would see are “unassuming,” “humble,” and—my favorite—“unflashy.”

One of the things I love about all those words is that they can be applied both to our attitudes as well as how we dress.

So what does having a modest attitude have to do with how we dress? Everything! Our attitude and beliefs show up in every area of our life, including how we dress. Several years ago, after leading many discussions and Bible studies on the area of dressing modestly, I realized that dressing modestly has little to do with fashion issues and everything to do with our heart.

You see, when our hearts are truly set on pleasing the Lord and honoring those around us, being modest in how we dress comes so easily and naturally. It’s when we are struggling with pride and selfishness that dressing modestly becomes an issue. The modest heart says, “I want to dress in a way that pleases Jesus and honors my brothers and sisters in Christ,” but the immodest or prideful heart says, “I want to dress in a way that makes me look and feel good,” with little regard for how it honors the Lord or others.

Now, I am not saying that, in order to dress modestly, you have to wear drab, out-of-date clothes. In fact, we will be having a whole session at Finish Well on how to dress both modestly and fashionably. But what I am saying is that having a modest heart means that our first priorities are to please the Lord and honor others. In essence, the modest heart is not focused on self, but on others.

It’s More Than Clothes

There are several guidelines that I could give on what it means to dress modestly such as not showing cleavage, not wearing clothes that are too tight or not wearing skirts and dresses that are too short. But rather than focus on a bunch of rules, as important as they can be, my bigger concern is your heart.

I would encourage you to grab some quiet time with the Lord and ask Him to show you if your heart is modest or not. James 4:6 says that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I DEFINITELY don’t want the Lord to oppose me. I am in desperate need of His grace every single day.

As far as some practical advice is concerned about dressing modestly, one of the easiest ways to know if your outfit is modest or not is to simply stand in front of a mirror and ask the question, “If Jesus were standing here next to me, would I in any way be ashamed or feel uncomfortable?” And think in terms of those lovely synonyms, “unassuming,” “humble” and “unflashy!”


Sarah Jeffords is a wife, mother, and homemaker, as well as co-author of God’s Girls Beauty Secrets. She loves worship, leading Bible studies, scrapbooking, and baking—and of course raising her two sons for the Lord with her husband, Mike. For information about Sarah, click here. Find out what Finish Well sessions Sarah will be teaching!

  • Tina Lawson

    Well written article.

    I am writing under an assumed name because I want to publicly confess a sin that I’m sure I’m not the only Christian woman to have fallen into.

    At my job I dress in very modest conservative business attire above and beyond what the company requires. At this job there was a man I liked so I did something about it.

    I wore a shelf bra that supported my breasts but did not cover them. In
    my modest business blazer this could not be seen. However, before
    putting anything on this man’s desk I would unbutton the two top buttons
    of my blouse which let him see my full bosom when I bent over. After
    two days he was staring at me whenever we were in a room together and
    seemingly looking for every excuse to talk to me. I rationalized my
    actions by saying that it was because he liked me and not because I had
    caused him to lust, because after all I was the most modestly dressed
    woman there (Really!)

    • Sarah Jeffords

      Hi Tina! It seems like you have truly repented to the Lord for what you did, and so at this point I would just receive the Lord’s forgiveness and move forward. I will join you in praying for this man that lust would have no place in his heart. As godly women, our goal should be to move a man’s heart through godly living and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control) and not win him through mere outward appearance. This type of godly character will attract men who love the Lord and whose head will never turn toward another. I will be praying for you as well that the Lord will bless you with a godly husband who loves Him, in His good and perfect way and timing! God bless you 🙂

      • Tina Lawson

        Thank You for Your Support

        I have accepted God’s forgiveness but I still think “weaponized clothing” for lack of a better term is something that needs to be talked about in modesty discussions. There are more than a few Christian ladies who while dressing modestly will also open a button or unzip a zipper and pose very immodestly in front of certain eyes. They then tell themselves it’s OK because they are “dressing modestly.” I agree 100% with what you said but this “angle” should really be discussed more widely.

        Well, God in his mysterious ways has given me a husband; the very same man I mentioned in my original post. (I used the wrong tense in addition to the wrong name.) Two days before my original post I had just taken care of him after being neglectful of my wifely duties the week before. He told me he hadn’t been so frustrated since he saw down my blouse at the office. We talked a little more about it and my actions did not make him actually like me any more than he did but it just gave him a lot of impure thoughts that made it hard for him to concentrate on his work, hobbies or even an actual relationship with me. He told me that talking over coffee when I was modest was the best thing about our dating days because he got to know me without being frustrated.

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