Dress and Dignity

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7

As soon as sin began, legalism began. Adam tried to cover his shame by his own works. However that did not work. Just three verses after Adam makes his own garment, he tells God he ran from Him because he was naked. Why did Adam feel naked after making a garment of fig leaves? Because in the presence of God we are naked, clothed in our own works. Later in Gen 3:21 God clothes Adam in sheepskins, showing him that for his nakedness to be covered, the Lamb of God would have to die.

Only the death of the Lamb of God can cover our spiritual nakedness.

Many look at the modesty issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality abounds. But there is a greater danger in immodesty than sexual immorality. Only by looking at immodesty in light of the cross can we really sense its significance. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.

Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. We get a better picture when we read,

“A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 312)

So they weren’t really walking around naked in the Garden, as we think of the word “naked.” They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. He tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works), but that did not work. Likewise our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we see the modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame.

Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior. So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The further away from God we are the more clothes we take off. But the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress modestly.

In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, He clothed Adam with the animal skins  pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 8:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However in Luke 8:35, after he is converted, we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind,” he began dressing appropriately. This had nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would be a sexual temptation for anyone.

The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 8. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.

Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes go around naked because that is their culture. But they are called heathen tribes for a reason. And why did Paul say, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Paul writes that he is “crucified to the world.” What is “the world” to which he is crucified? Is that not the same as his culture? So it is the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.

At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off.”This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus, as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity.

At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are created in the image of God and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.

Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor.

“There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” (Ellen White, Counsels on Health, p. 364)

Please keep in mind that this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option. Let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not be guided by our  feelings or even culture.

Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the TV or video monitor and everywhere else, including in church?

Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be an appropriate way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross?




Dress and Dignity — 10 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for explaining the Nakedness of our Lord, and the real meaning of Modesty. I have always believed that we should dress modestly when we go to church to worship God. I see so many woman dressing inappropriately when entering God's House to worship.

  2. Such a great post!!!
    "As soon as sin began, legalism began. Adam tried to cover his shame by his own works. However that did not work". What a simple explanation about legalism/selfish works. The Gospel is simple and we try to make it complicated. I like this discussion very much. Thanks William for more thought provoking insights.

  3. Gen 3 is my favorite text in the Bible. Enmity, sinfulness, and the drama of humans doing and experimenting on what apppeals to them is charade of forthcoming struggle in life; downfall and success. Good thing is, God has planned ahead. Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for man's redemption.

  4. William,
    The Pharisees used to have a strong sense of modesty, and covered themselves with all sorts of garments--but they felt no need of the Saviour.
    It is practically and metaphorically possible, then, that moving away from the Saviour can cause "covering up" as well-but with our own garments.

    (By the way, does the last quote mean that men should not be OB-GYNs?)

  5. Many people dress modestly but have no need of a Savior.

    I have been to many women doctors who treated me without respect and kindness, and with contempt and even anger. Only a couple I have been to were kind. However, every male doctor I have been to has treated me with respect, compassion, caring and modesty. Women doctors arent' all they are cracked up to be so I don't search them out anymore.

  6. Thank you everyone for your comments and participating in this discussion. Jane and Andrew make some very valid points. Just like, just going to church does not make you a Christian, dressing modestly does not make you one either. Everyone who appreciates the Savior will want to fellowship with beleivers and dress appropriately, but that does not mean that everyone who fellowships and dresses appropriately appreciates the Savior.

    Jane, your comment shows why it is so important for both men and women, everyone to show human dignity. Simple human dignity should be extended by both genders to both genders.

  7. William, you said, "So they weren’t really walking around naked in the Garden, as we think of the word “naked.” They had a covering." That is the position that Ellen White takes but I also think there is a spiritual side to this business of nakedness. For instance in the letter to the Laodiceans, Rev 3, when it says, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Rev 3:18 NKJV) most scholars consider this to be symbolic.

    There are also some Old Testament texts that use the word, "naked" symbolically. For example:

    "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called Tender and delicate. Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, Take off the skirt, Uncover the thigh, Pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, Yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, And I will not arbitrate with a man." (Isa 47:1-3 NKJV)

    Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away. (Lam 1:8 NKJV)

    Again speaking of Jerusalem, "'When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,' says the Lord GOD." (Eze 16:8 NKJV)

    Consider also Hosea 2, Nahum 3 where scripture is speaking of entire groups of people. So the question is when Adam and Eve became naked was it only a physical nakedness or did they lose their white robes of righteousness in the same way as the one who fails to watch, "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Rev 16:15 NKJV)

  8. I am very thankful to God for this site and I still follow on ssnet although I get the emails. There are some articles that are written which I find very informative but in one of those articles captioned Dress and Dignity there is a miss print. The man possessed with demons and naked is found in Luke 8 not 18.

    [Moderator's note: Got it corrected, Thank you.]

  9. Thank you KK for your kind words and the correction. Its good to know someone has my back. 🙂

    Thank you Tyler for the verses building upon the point about the Ellen White Quote where I mentioned, "Likewise our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame" Your verses help make the point about spiritual nakedness even more clear.

  10. I find the article very inspirational. Without the righteousness of Christ, we will all be naked. E.G White says "The great Redeemer represents Himself as a heavenly merchantman, laden with riches, calling from house to house, presenting His priceless goods, and saying, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:18-20). {1SM 358.1}.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *