Western culture needs to reclaim some sense of morality. It’s up to Christians to lead the way. Unfortunately, in many aspects, culture has greater influence on Christians than Christians have influence on culture.
There is no greater example of this need than immodesty. Without exaggerating, I cannot walk out my front door without witnessing immodest behavior. It’s everywhere.
On one hand, I fault Christian parents and to a lesser degree, church teachers, for the avalanche in modest dress and behavior. Ultimately, parents are responsible for teaching their children.
But then I ask myself why the parents fail(ed)? As a fellow parent (of now-grown children), I question my own past fathering effectiveness in this area as the behavior hasn’t always been what I would be proud to see.
In the end, each person is responsible for their own choices. Parental teaching can only go so far. But in aggregate, children who were taught Christian values and love for GOD are more likely to practice godly modesty.
As I have studied afresh the topic of biblical modesty, I conclude that one reason many Christians have given in to the pressure of cultural immodesty is that most of the focus has trended on outward behavior rather than on the reasons why modesty matters and the necessity of surrendering our will to Jesus’—the One a Christian claims to follow.
For this reason, I believe the Christian community needs fresh teaching on modesty, teaching that gets at the heart (pun intended) of the matter and focuses first on the logic of why modesty is needed.
For example, how many times have you heard a discussion or Bible class on modesty devolve into the fact that:
- Each person is responsible for their own thoughts and actions, or …
- How, exactly, we are to determine what clothing is modest vs. immodest?
I believe the fact Christians ask this question is indicative that we’ve missed the mark, that we’ve misunderstood, or that we have a heart issue.
So we need to go back to the beginning and start over.
Will you join me?
In the Beginning
You probably know that, in the beginning when GOD created Adam and Eve, they were nude.
GOD brought Eve in naked to meet Adam (also naked) and introduce her to him. Nudity is GOD’s gift to marriage.
22 Then the Lord God built the rib He took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to him. 23 So Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” 25 Now the two were naked, both Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:22-25 OSB)
In the beginning, Adam and Eve walked around the Garden naked “in public.”
The Septuagint’s Greek word translated “ashamed” in Genesis 2:25 means “to dishonor, make ashamed.”
In modern English, the word ashamed means to feal embarrassed, humiliated, or guilty because of one’s characteristics or actions.
So what Genesis 2:25 is telling us is that, although they were nude in the Garden, Adam and Eve did not feel any embarrassment or guilt.
Adam and Eve felt no shame because they had no awareness of their nakedness. They didn’t feel guilty because they didn’t know.
In GOD’s original design, a man (Adam) and his wife (Eve) could be nude “in public” because there was no awareness of their nakedness.
Sin Changed Everything
When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their inner makeup was changed. Immediately, Adam and Eve had a greater awareness. Suddenly, they knew they were naked!
Adam and Eve’s sinful eating brought about knowledge of three new and destructive concepts:
- Knowledge of evil
- Knowledge of nakedness
- Knowledge of shame
GOD’s design was for (wo)man to be free of these, but deception and disobedience changed everything.
The knowledge of evil obtained by eating the fruit created the knowledge that they were naked.
The knowledge of nakedness produced the knowledge of shame (because of their public naked condition).
The Natural Reaction to Shame
7 Then the eyes of the two were opened, and they knew they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 Then they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden that afternoon, and Adam and his wife hid themselves within the tree in the middle of the garden from the presence of the Lord God. 9 So the Lord God called Adam and said to him, “Adam, where are you?” 10 He replied, “I heard Your voice as You were walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 Thus He said, “Who said you were naked? Have you eaten from the one tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”
(Genesis 3:7-11 OSB)
As soon as Adam and Eve realized they were naked in public, their reaction was:
- To cover their nakedness
- To hide from GOD (as He was walking in the Garden)
The natural human reaction to realizing we are naked is to hide our nakedness.
Adam and Eve did not hide their nakedness from one another. They hid from GOD.
This condition of an awareness of the shame caused by our public nakedness is the biblical definition of modesty.
Do not miss the importance of that ? statement.
Let me repeat: The biblical definition of “modest” is an awareness that public nakedness is shameful.
What Did Adam and Eve Hide?
If Adam and Eve were embarrassed because they were naked in the Garden, and they tried to hide that nakedness with some plants, logically, what did Adam and Eve attempt to cover? Certainly not their entire body.
Most likely, Adam and Eve tried to cover their genitals.
Fast-forwarding to the first century A.D., the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians discussing the role that individual Christians play within the church, saying:
23 … And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment.
(1 Corinthians 12:23b-24 NIV)
Scripture teaches that we have presentable parts and unpresentable parts. Presentable parts are perfectly fine to be seen publicly by everyone. These parts cause no shame when others see them.
Our unpresentable parts are those parts we would (or at least should) feel ashamed for anybody and everybody to see. If we are honest with ourselves, this is intuitive; it isn’t complicated. How do innocent little children behave once they are old enough to be aware that they are naked? What parts does a child intuitively cover?
In part 2 of this series, we will look at how the three types of knowledge impacts human sexuality.
Want more teaching on biblical modesty? Check out my video lesson entitled Re-Thinking (Biblical) Modesty.