Modesty Lets Our Light Shine

Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA star Stephen Curry, flipped through a Style Weekly and shared her observations with Twitter:

Those thoughts sparked a Twitter debate on the virtues — or lack thereof — of showing off one’s figure with bare clothing. One reply asked, “What’s wrong with not being covered up?” With only a few characters, Ayesha Curry, a professed believer in Jesus Christ, injected modesty — and salt and light — into the social stream.

Modest Clothing Is a Witness

It’s doubtful that anyone was shocked by Ayesha’s observation. Immodesty is commonplace and our cultural sensibilities have shifted somewhat rapidly. There was a time when bikini-clad women in thirty-second commercials were a phenomenon. Now we hardly blink as not only commercials, but Facebook and Instagram feeds, fill with “bare” apparel. Hardly anything shocks the conscience, except maybe a woman who holds to a godly standard of modesty.

That’s the nature of being salt and light. We show ourselves to be set apart — distinct. We are a walking testimony of a holy God who has also called us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15–16). Our clothing plays no small part. It’s often the first thing people notice, and it sends a message, just like our conversation and our attitude. Our clothing tells people what is important to us.

“Our clothing tells people what is important to us.”

Immodest clothing says, “Look at me. Focus on my body.” But as believers, we live to point people to something more. We are witnesses to a lost and dying world in need of a magnificent, all-satisfying Savior. We want them to know of the saving power of Christ, and his ability to transform from the core. Clothing may seem a small matter, but if we name the name of Christ, the world around us is watching. When we embrace a standard that is not of this world — or tweet about it — it shines.

Modesty and the Light of Christ

As much as we want to glorify the Lord in our choice of clothing, clothing is not the main issue. In a sense, clothing should be a nonfactor, the thing that fades to the background, so that the greater can shine. Modest clothing draws the eye — not to the outer body — but to the light of Christ within.

As women who love the Lord, our primary pursuit is to adorn ourselves inwardly (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3–4). Both of those passages, which speak to women and clothing, point to our true focus — growing in godliness. This is the “clothing” that our Lord regards as beautiful. As we grow in such things as love for God and man, humility, and selflessness, we are changed deep within. And those changes can’t help but manifest outwardly. As we bear fruit, our light shines brightly. The world is able to “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Immodest clothing says, ‘Look at me. Focus on my body.’ But as believers, we live to point people to something more.”

Interestingly, our choice of clothing is part of that outward change. This is why we need not burden newer believers with a ton of rules about dress. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, his ways become our ways. We become more aware of what pleases the Lord. We become more sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit. And we notice our choices begin to shift, sometimes right in the dressing room, as we seek to clothe ourselves outwardly in a way that reflects the holy work being done inwardly.

Choosing to Dress as a Living Witness

Too often modesty discussions among believers devolve into a list of do’s and don’t’s, which inevitably change over time, and from one person to the next. There was a time when bare arms were scandalous. And who can forget the yoga pant wars?

Our choice of clothing is personal and particular. As women, we know what flatters us, what styles and colors we gravitate toward, which fabrics we prefer. These considerations and more — including what we consider modest — factor into an ultimate purchase. But how often do we consider our witness?

We have been bought with a price; we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). This is a truth that threads its way into every facet of our lives, including our apparel. Whether to buy a particular outfit may not be about right or wrong. It may not even be about whether one could justify it on the edges of “modest.” It may simply be whether it is profitable as a witness of Jesus Christ. Will it glorify the Lord? Or will it dim the light within?

“Modest clothing draws the eye — not to the outer body, but to the light of Christ within.”

As with every aspect of our Christian lives, the Lord gives much grace and he gives wisdom liberally. We can and should seek him on this issue, as with any other. He is able to give us a heart of modesty, to give us eyes to see our clothing as he sees it, and to guide us into a manner of dress that glorifies him. Even as we go through a process of change, those around us will notice.

Being salt and light isn’t about being perfect. Our light shines, and our influence is felt, even as we are being transformed.