March 19, 2013

An Article on Modesty

This is a subject that has been on my mind and heart a lot recently. I'm working on a couple of posts with my own thoughts about it  and other things that go along with it but in the mean time I ran across this article and wanted to share. I feel like it does a very good job of scripturally explaining what God has to say about nakedness and modesty. When we go back to the Bible and really look at what His word says, it's a little hard to argue against it regardless of what our own opinions might want to be! Hopefully this will be an encouragement for someone reading, to seek the Holy Spirit over what is truly Godly modesty in these days and make changes in our attire if it doesn't line up with His standards.
                                                           Nakedness and Modesty
As taxes and death come to us with proverbial certainty, so too does immodesty with the summer season. As the temperature heats up, the world strips down; and all too often the church follows the world in its scantily-clad ways. Though the Bible demands we clothe ourselves in "modest apparel" (I Tim. 2:9), some view the issue from a subjective view which relegates "modesty" to the way one "feels" about the subject. This sentiment destroys any real meaning to the term and makes God nothing but a babbler.

To come to any real understanding on any biblical subject, one must study the passages of the Bible which deal with that specific subject. Modesty should likewise be studied in all of the passages in which God reveals His will on the subject. Modesty, which means "orderly," is closely related to the term "naked." If one is naked and in public view, one certainly is not modest. To be naked is obviously to be improperly clothed and hence, immodest (Rev. 3:18). However, nakedness not only refers to total nudity, but sometimes refers to one who simply is not clothed properly. This definition is utilized in James 2:15, where a brother was "naked," though certainly not nude. John 21:7 records Peter girding his fisher's coat and casting himself into the Sea of Galilee because he was "naked." The word "naked" translated from the Greek gumnos can mean "clad in the undergarment only (the outer garment or the cloak being laid aside)." Peter had taken his outer garment off to fish, which left Peter only with his undergarment. This was fine in the presence of other men, but in coming to shore and meeting the Lord, Peter clothed himself. Peter was naked because certain parts of his body were exposed that were considered naked by the Jews and God himself.

Nakedness, clearly condemned in both Testaments, is spoken about first in the garden of Eden. There Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness after the eating of the forbidden tree and fashioned themselves aprons of fig leaves to cover themselves. It was after this that they heard the Lord's voice call to Adam in the cool of the day. Recorded in Genesis 3:10 is Adam's response: "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked: and I hid myself." It must be noted that after Adam made his covering, he still considered himself naked. The Lord confirmed Adam's words in the next verse, saying "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" (Gen. 3:11). Adam had covered the bare essentials and still needed to be properly clothed, as the Lord made for them "coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). The aprons, from the Hebrew chagora were loin cloths or hip clothing that covered what the modern swim suit would cover. God then clothed them with "coats of skins" which implies they were not adequately or decently clothed with only their aprons. This garment, according to the Hebrew word kethoneth, was a long shirt-like garment that covered from their shoulders to the knee. This was God's definition of being clothed.

To corroborate this standard, the Bible reveals to us that when the thigh was left uncovered, God considered one's nakedness exposed. In Exodus 28:42, the priests, while serving above the people, were told to "make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs shall they reach." "From...even unto..." is a common Hebrew idiom in the Old Testament. It is from the Hebrew words min. . .veh ad. It means that both classes of objects and all that lies between them are included in the pronouncement. In the King James Version, this expression is sometimes translated literally ("from...even unto") as in Exodus 28:42, while in other passages it is translated idiomatically ("both...and") as in Genesis 19:4. In spite of this difference, the idea of inclusion is the same. Similarly, "from the least of them even unto the greatest of them" and "from the prophet even unto the priest" (Jer. 6:13) clearly cover both classes. Thus, "from the loins even unto the thighs" means that both parts are to be clothed. God instructed that in addition to the outer "coat" (Exod. 28:40), undergarments that went from the loins (hips) to the thighs (literally, to the rounding of the thigh) were also to be worn. God viewed the non-compliance of this act very seriously because in the next verse He said, "that they bear not iniquity and die" (Exod. 28:43). The outward coat of the priest normally covered the thigh, but God was also concerned with the different positions the priests might find themselves in while serving.

The same standard is applied to women in Isaiah 47:2-3. There the prophet declared that the Babylonians would flee as a daughter would flee the land and cross the rivers in exile. Isaiah said, "uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen." Isaiah speaks about the leg being bare and the thigh uncovered. Since the foot and lower part of the leg were exposed with common dress, the woman's nakedness was shown in the revealing of her thigh. In picking up her dress to "pass over the rivers" her thigh would be shown, and consequently, her nakedness would be uncovered.
The upper torso was also included in God's standard of modesty. John 21:7 depicts Peter without an outer garment. As Adam was naked with only his loins covered, so too Peter is also labeled naked, having on only his undergarment. Moulton's Greek Lexicon has the following comment on the Greek word gumnos which is translated "naked" in the New Testament: "...without clothing (Mark 14:51-52); without the upper garment and clad only with an inner garment or tunic (John 21:7); poorly or meanly clad." Thayer's lexicon in commenting on John 21:7 says, "clad in the undergarment only." When the upper torso of a man was fully exposed the word "naked" describes how the Scriptures view him. Incidentally, outside of natural revelation, there is no substantive difference between how much a man's body should be covered and that of a woman. Both sexes need to be "clothed." The word "clothed" means literally "to be thrown around." Since the garden of Eden, God willed both sexes to be clothed, which included the upper torso and the hip and thigh area as well.

This standard might seem too conservative for some, yet God has always been radically more conservative than the world's sentiments. It has only been over the last generation that the standards of the world have become so lax that even the most immodest clothing is now viewed as acceptable and even normal. If the standard of modesty is only relative, then the ultimate determination of what is modest and what is not modest resides totally within one's own heart and nowhere else. Yet, Jeremiah said, "Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). God did not leave the subject of modesty in the subjective arena of whims and preferences, but it is to be found in the objective venue of the authoritative word of God, "which hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).

—Holger W. Neubauer

(linked to the Modest Monday post. Click here to read it and other blogs on similiar subjects) 


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