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The Importance of Modesty

Elisabeth Elliot: "Although I cannot control what other people wear, especially on the outside world, it seems disrespectful to me to see ladies in church in very short skirts or skimpy, sleeveless tops. I would imagine that it could be distracting to men who are trying to keep their minds on God."

Lisa Barry: If you've ever tried without success to convince a woman that men are affected by another woman's lack of modesty, you'll appreciate today's program. I've heard from many respectable men who say that a woman who dresses provocatively is a distraction. And I believe the men who say it's not a distraction simply prefer to enjoy it rather than shoo it away.

But how do you convince a woman of something she herself cannot feel or understand? Elisabeth Elliot offers some important thoughts on the subject of modesty, coming up next on this Friday edition of Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love," that's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, continuing my talks today on the subject of modesty. I have had piles and piles of letters from the last time that I dared to broach the subject of modesty. I expected a lot more brickbats than I got.

Here's a letter from a woman who says:

"I don't know if you will be under siege because of these week's talks, but I thought I would just say thank you for having the courage to play them. Yes, I am strongly convicted, and yes, I hang my head because of guilt, but I know the conviction is from the Holy Spirit and not you. Thank you for the reminder of what I am to be as a woman of God. Sincerely, Kim."

Thank you, Kim, for that.

Now here is a letter from some music missionaries called David and Patricia. David is writing this, I guess. He says:

"Patricia and I are worship leaders and teachers at our church, which is a mission outreach to children and youth in public housing and dysfunctional families. You can imagine the family situations and environments that these kids live in. Patricia is trying to help the girls understand God's heart in appropriate dress, dating, healthy attitudes towards sexuality, language, choices, etc., and I am doing the same with the boys. Most of them have been or are sexually active, even as young as six years old. This week's broadcast is exactly the resource we need for our kids.

"Keep teaching about modesty. You are on track; we need voices like yours, 'A voice of one crying in the wilderness.' We, too, dread summer and the skimpy fashions. Now, you need to know," says this writer, this man, "I am a recovering pornography addict; not as bad as some, but any is unacceptable. We are so thankful that the Lord Jesus is giving me victory over this past obsession, but every day is a struggle with so many temptations.

"I, once a body-builder, physical fitness expositionist, have become convicted about public nudity to the extent that I will not go out without a shirt or swim in public places. I used to wear Speedo string bikini swimsuits, but I have thrown them away so no one else will get them. In fact, we have thrown out quite a bit of our clothing and our daughter's clothing, which was immodest, rather than donating the items to Salvation Army. Why cause someone else to stumble?"

Well, thank you, David and Patricia, for that letter. It just fortifies my convictions, and I am very grateful for the tremendous response that I have had to this.

Here's one from a man named Jim:

"It behooves a woman to dress in such a way as to diminish a man's lust and increase his respect. Thank you for your timely remarks," he says.

Here's one from a woman:

"I wanted to comment on your subject today about modesty and older women teaching younger women. I, too, am bothered by those who come to church inappropriately dressed. Although I cannot control what other people wear, especially on the outside world, it seems disrespectful to me to see ladies in church in very short skirts or skimpy, sleeveless tops. I would imagine it could be distracting to men who are trying to keep their minds on God.

"And in fact, it is distracting to women like me, who instead of concentrating on the message or the worship, are sitting there thinking about how inappropriately the others are dressed. I think that one should dress with modesty and respect when they are coming into the house of the Lord. My mother used to tell me that Jesus is the King of kings and if you were going to visit the king or queen, you would certainly try to look your best. So you should do no less when you're going to God's house. I think she was right, and I try to convey that same attitude to my two small daughters.

"I also wanted to comment on the issue of older women teaching the younger women. You suggested that there are not enough older women. You are willing and available to teach and advise younger women in the church. We don't have enough of them in ours. While I do appreciate the friendship and advice of older women who have grown children, I also think that all of us should think of ourselves as potentially being the older woman. I do not think the older women must be seniors to fill this role. For example, I, being a 35-year-old mother of two children and married for 13 years, may be able to offer encouragement and advice to a young wife or young mother in her twenties just starting out."

Well, thank you for that one.

Another letter from a husband and wife, he says:

"I am a husband and a new father that has listened to your radio program for the last ten years. My wife and I thank you for your faithfulness in teaching and I routinely pray for your ministry. I am now an airline pilot--and my travels and exposure, to much vulgar and anti-Christian work environments. I appreciate so much your biblical and traditional advice. I'm always trying to get home to spend as much time as I can with my family.

"We wholeheartedly agree with your advice on how to raise children and the importance of Mother staying at home with children. As I am only beginning in the commuter airline industry, my income is limited, but I am looking forward to when we can support your ministry more."

Well, how very kind of you. Thank you very much, Scott, and thank you for this quotation from Robert E. Lee. In a letter to his wife, he said, "I pray God to watch over and direct our efforts in guarding our dear little son, that we may bring him up in the way he should go."

A letter from a man 61 years old:

"I really appreciate the radio program and the fact that one can send an e-mail transcript to a friend. I just had to send this transcript for this broadcast to my friend since the immodest dress of our younger females is one of his pet peeves, being a bachelor of age 46 who is actively seeking a wife. At my advanced age of 61, that sort of thing doesn't bother me as much as it once did, but I can't help noticing them either. I hope you can give him more ammunition to present to our pastor and our youth leader."

Another letter:

"Appreciate your ministry, your clear and succinct voice, especially on the top subjects of modesty. I agree with you 1000% and find it disheartening when I see Christian women not being the lights in this world and young Christian women not being taught by word and example."

Another letter:

"This week's program concerning modesty and woman's mandate to become a Titus 2 Woman have come at an opportune time. I have been affiliated with an affluent and prestigious Christian school for 14 years. Over the years, we've had a constant source of tension concerning the dress code, but the past few years the styles have radically changed and we have been on the slippery slope downward. I believe there are several factors involved.

"Today's materials are revealing. The classy linens and cottons of a few years ago with the Laura Ashley look especially have given way to sleazy, see-through, form-fitting materials of today. What is labeled a large on the store's shelf is in reality cut to fit a child of five or six and not a well-developed young woman who is overflowing from her tank top."

Getting rather specific here, isn't it? But I think we need to hear it.

"Cleavage is the norm within the classroom and the hallway; decorum and deportment have gone by the wayside. The girls look as though they are dressed to go to the beach or the bedroom.

"I once overheard one of our very sensually-dressed 10th graders inform a friend that her mother had said, 'If you have it, flaunt it.' Or they think more highly of having their daughters fit in than training them in godliness.

"Thank you for exhorting me to encourage our principal to encourage our faculty and students to dress appropriately and tastefully, and for me to take time to train the girls, as much as possible for me to do so, about dress and deportment, something that I believe should also be instructed in Bible and small groups from the arm of our church staff."

Here's one from another man named Chuck. He says:

"Thank you for your fine series of programs as well as having the courage and being obedient to teach them on the subject of modesty in particular, and on the subject of an older woman's mandate generally. As a man, I have perceived the existence both of a crying need and glaring lack of ministry by women to women in this area for essentially 20-odd years that I've walked with the Lord.

"I don't mean that in a harsh or critical way so much as to express the inner turmoil, lust, guilt, etc., which are stirred up inside me as a result of being in services and other fellowship situations where the way ostensibly Christian women were dressed amounted to a significant stumbling block to purity of mind and heart."

Thank you, Chuck, it takes a strong man to write a letter like that. I do appreciate it.

Lisa Barry: Well, I'm sure today's topic will provide a lot of fuel for discussion for the next few days, and that's good. Christians need to be thinking and praying about how to influence the world without being fashioned after it. Maybe as you listened to the letters being read today, it triggered a story that you could pass along to Elisabeth. In fact, there might even be a piece of paper somewhere with the beginnings of a letter intended for Gateway To Joy, but it never made it to the mailbox.

You know, there's something so binding about letting our friends know what we're working on or sharing something that was helpful. That way, important lessons get imprinted in our minds. And not only that, when we share our discoveries with others, they have a chance to benefit from them, too. So dig out that stationery and reveal your lesson learned today.

And when you write, we'd sure be thrilled if you were able to tell us that you are praying for Gateway To Joy on a regular basis. In no way do we want to suggest that you must do that or your letter has more significance if you do. But we're not ashamed to admit that we need you to make this program flourish. God makes us all interdependent. If the time is right for you to help, then we know you will and we thank you for that. Our address is:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. Or you can give us a call at 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 24 hours a day, 1-800-759-4569. A third option is our Web site; you'll find that at gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible, and people like you make it possible.

Monday, Elisabeth begins a series on the consolation of obedience. Be sure and join us then for another Gateway To Joy.

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