Why Modesty? Ask a Man!

Photo of a boy, a young man and an old man

From Modest Clothing Bible Study by Ray and Elaine Powell


II Samuel 11:2-4, 27, "And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. . . . But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD" (KJV).

One Man's Point of View: A Letter From a Friend of the Powells

Dear Christian Sister:

We hear much about the sin of David, but seldom does anyone mention the sin of Bathsheba. It is true enough that David's sin was very great and Bathsheba's very small. David committed deliberate adultery and murder; Bathsheba only carelessly exposed herself before David's eyes. Yet it remains a fact that Bathsheba's little sin was a stepping stone to David's great sin.

David was not wicked. He was a man after God's own heart, yet in the presence of an unclothed woman, he was weak, and it would be a rare man who was not. Your brethren in Christ are not wicked, but they may be weak.

Romans 15:1-2, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification" (NASB).

You may think I am making too much of too little. You may suppose the case is not so serious as I have represented it to be. But consider, you are a woman and cannot experience the passions of a man. A man's passions are easily excited by the sight of a woman's body. Most men, true, will be better able to resist your allurement than David did Bathsheba's. They will not go so far as to seduce you. But how do you know that they can resist the thought and desire of it? A man can have great pleasure in merely looking and lusting, even though he goes no farther.

Matthew 5:28, "But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (NASB).

Some Christian women today, who would recoil with horror from the very thought of wantonly displaying their bodies, yet do nevertheless display themselves habitually by the manner in which they dress. I do not write to accuse them of intentional wantonness, but to instruct. I write to make you thoughtful where you may have been thoughtless before. Remember, you are a woman and cannot see yourself as a man sees you. I am a man and know what it is to be tempted by such sights.

Short Dresses

Some women will quibble about how short is too short. Rather than making sure their dresses are plenty long, they will make them as short as they dare, while still persuading themselves that the hemlines are long enough. Do you ask how long your dresses ought to be? See that your legs are well covered below the knee, front and back, while you are bending over or sitting down, and you will be safe enough. Be careful here; it is not enough that your legs should be covered only from the vantage point of your own eyes. When you bend over or sit down, the front of your dress will naturally hang lower, so as to cover more of the front of your legs, but the back will be drawn up so as to cover less. Very often I have seen women sit down and carefully arrange the front of their skirt so as to cover the topside of their thighs from their own view, while leaving parts of the sides and undersides of their thighs exposed to the view of anyone sitting across from them. This will be unavoidable if your dresses are so short that they only cover you down to the knees while you are standing erect. If you would be safe, your dresses should cover you well below the knee in all postures.

Low Necklines

It is not only low necklines which offend, but also large or loose ones. You may stand erect in front of your mirror wearing a large or loose neckline and think it perfectly modest. But bend over a little, so that the material of your blouse falls away from your body, and immediately the most provocative and tempting part of your anatomy is exposed to the view of any man who happens to be standing in front of you. The same is true, of course, when you dress with the top two or three buttons of your blouse unbuttoned. This looks provocative, even if nothing were actually exposed by it. Let your neckline be high enough and small enough to be in fact a neckline, and not a chest or shoulder line, and you will be safe. This means that if the neck hole of your garment is large enough to slip over your head, it is probably too large!

Sleeveless Blouses

Sleeveless blouses always reveal too much. Little as you may be able to understand it, your underarms and the parts of your chest or your back which immediately adjoin them can be attractive to a man, and a sleeveless blouse cannot help but display those parts. You must also bear in mind that others will see you from all angles and in all positions, and the armholes of a sleeveless blouse will often allow a man to see inside the blouse, especially when your arms are uplifted or outstretched, thus displaying part of your chest, and probably some of your bosom. The same is true of a short sleeved blouse which has very large or loose sleeves. This may be perfectly modest as long as you keep your elbows at your sides, but as soon as you raise your arms you create an opening through which a man may see inside your blouse, and this is a great snare to his heart.

Sheer Clothing

It ought to be unnecessary to say anything about clothing which is so light or so sheer that a man may see through it. The obvious and undeniable design of such clothing is to thwart the purpose of clothing and expose your body rather than cover it. When a man sees a woman thus attired, what can he think but that it is her intention to display her body to his sight? You ought to be careful also not to wear any material which is so light or so thin that it may be seen through when you are standing in direct light, such as in front of a window or doorway. Finally, reject any material of a very coarse weave. Wear clothing, not netting.

Tight Clothing

Dress which explicitly reveals your form is as bad as that which reveals your nakedness. When a man sees a woman dressed in tight clothing that reveals and displays every curve of her form, his passions will certainly be excited by the sight, perhaps not so quickly or so strongly as they would be by the sight of her naked form, but excited nonetheless. Tight clothing is called "revealing" by the world, which is exactly what it is, and as such it is an obvious violation of God’s purpose for clothing.

Specifically, woven material with some stiffness and body to it will conceal your form much better than anything made of knit, stretchy, or soft clingy material. This is of the utmost importance, especially for a woman who is large in the bust. Sweaters, tee shirts, and knit blouses by their very nature cling to your body and reveal and display the shape and form of it. You must take a man's word for it that the shape and form of a woman's body, even though it is covered with clothing, will draw his eyes, inflame his passions, or arouse his imagination, just about as quickly and surely as the sight of her actual skin.

I do not say that it is impossible for a woman to wear a sweater or knit top which is not too revealing. What I do say is that the sweaters and knit tops many women wear are too tight. They might do better if they would wear a sweater several sizes larger than they usually do. A woman who is very small in the bust may fairly easily wear sweaters which are loose enough to conceal her form, but the larger her bust, the more difficult this will become.

Understand also that you will accomplish little by exchanging tight sweaters for tight blouses. A blouse of woven material in its very nature will conceal your form better than a sweater, but any top may still be provocative if it is too tight. Likewise, an "empire waistline," which girds the garment around the body immediately below the bust, unavoidably displays your bust more prominently. Again I tell you, I am a man, and know very well what it is to be tempted by such sights. It may take only a moment's involuntary sight to turn a man's heart or imagination into the wrong channels.

Note to Men

As a word to the men, at times you may not have complete control over what comes before your eyes, but there is one thing you can control--your eyes! You can control how long you gaze upon a woman. I challenge you to make the covenant that Job made, "I made a covenant with mine eyes: why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1, KJV).

End of "One Man's Point of View: A Letter From a Friend of the Powells"

Does Your Clothing Tempt Men to Look Lustfully at You?

After reading the above letter, use the following guidelines as you evaluate your own wardrobe. What does your clothing say to the opposite sex? “I am available,” or “Private, keep out!”

Does your clothing reveal too much skin, tempting a man to look lustfully at you?

  • Does your neckline tempt others to “catch a glimpse” (especially when you bend over)?
  • Does your sleeveless top reveal your undergarments (or more)? Have you tried standing in front of a mirror and moving your arm and body into several different positions to see what your sleeveless top might reveal? You may find that it is best (and safer) to avoid sleeveless clothing.
  • Do your blouse or dress buttons gape open and reveal a “peek” at your undergarments? Have you tried standing in front of a mirror and moving into several different positions to see what a person beside you may see?

Does your outfit hug and accent certain parts of your body, thus causing a man’s eyes to be drawn there?

  • Does your dress or skirt hug your hips and direct attention there?
  • Does your dress or skirt make your body profile easily distinguishable?
  • Does the material of your dress or skirt conform closely to your body’s shape and therefore accent your figure?

Does your clothing tease a man's imagination?

  • Is your clothing made of a material that is sheer, semi-transparent, fishnet, or other types of fabric that cause a man to look closely to see what he can see?
  • Can you see your undergarments through your blouse? Some women wear a lightweight undershirt to aid with modesty, both to limit see-through and to protect against front button gaping, but the top shirt should still be thick enough that the undershirt is not clearly visible.
  • Do you wear flesh-colored undergarments so that they cannot be seen through sheer material? This gives the appearance of near-nudity and can cause others to look closely to see if flimsy material is all you are wearing!

Copyright 2010, W.R.P. Publishing, all rights reserved. Used by permission. Copies may be reprinted for non-profit personal or educational use only.