Modesty: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit and Baptism

Image © Lars Justinen

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. Mark 5:15 NKJV

When the demoniac became converted, he was clothed and in his right mind. So today, the closer we come to Jesus the more appropriately we dress. In Genesis 3, when Adam realized he was naked, he tried to make a garment of fig leaves and work out a way to cover his nakedness. As always, man’s works failed. God covered Adam’s nakedness with animal skins, meaning an animal had to die to cover his shame. This pointed Adam to the cross, where Jesus would die to cover our nakedness.

I believe we grieve the Holy Spirit when we refuse to acknowledge our nakedness physically and spiritually. The demoniac was physically naked (Luke 8:27) and so was Adam (Genesis 3). When they both met God, they both became clothed. So physical clothing is a part of the gospel. One way we show the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our need of a Savior is by dressing appropriately.

When we let Jesus’ righteousness cover our naked souls, we also cover our naked bodies. This is what happened in the Bible with Adam and the demoniac.

Jesus’ message to Laodicea draws a close parallel between physical nakedness and spiritual nakedness.

you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 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. Revelation 3:17-18 NKJV

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of the need of a Savior to cover our spiritual nakedness, we dress appropriately physically as well.

While the Bible uses men in illustrating the need for modesty, we usually use women today. We talk about how men are stimulated by sight; so women need to be careful how they dress. In discussions on modestly, I can always count on a woman saying she dresses modestly to keep men from lusting after her. To me that sounds a bit arrogant and assuming. It places a focus on sex rather than Jesus. I have listened to Christian people talking about modesty in a way that would make you think sex was the focus of their life instead of the cross of Jesus.

When we accept the Holy Spirit and acknowledge our need of a Savior, we dress appropriately, because we sense the presence of God. Truly modest people don’t assume their beauty is a stumbling block. When we are truly modest, meek and poor in spirit, we cover up, because we realize people need to see less of us and more of Jesus. Our dress is not in response to who may or may not be turned on. Our dress is in response to the Holy Spirit telling us we need a Savior. After all, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, and those who have the Holy spirit, glorify Jesus in their words, actions and dress. When we do so we make the Holy Spirit happy!



Modesty: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About the Holy Spirit — 40 Comments

  1. How do you know if you are dressing appropriately or not, and how do we know if our dress grieves the Holy Spirit or not? It is important to remember the underlying principles about dress and not draw a line in the sand about what is the right or wrong way to dress. Thank you for sharing your comments!

    • I figure if we ask God to let us know, we will know if we want to know. 🙂

      But here's a hint: Are we dressing to draw attention to ourselves - which goes against biblical principles? As Christians, we want to represent our Father and focus attention on Him.

      That doesn't mean we can't dress nicely. In fact children of the heavenly Father are princes and princesses and I think that means dressing nicely. 🙂

      You said it well when you wrote:

      It is important to remember the underlying principles about dress and not draw a line in the sand about what is the right or wrong way to dress.

      It's not our business to set up specific standards for anyone else, nor are we obligated to follow somebody else's standards.

      PS Some people may dress very plainly and in an old-fashioned way to draw attention to themselves. There's no virtue in that either.

    • Dear Daniele,,as we live Christlikeness, we know ourselves mainly what thing we should ought to do...hence we should live as the shining firms in anyway. ..sin no more... take away your one eye if it brings you to sin.

    • How we know if we are not dressing right in my perspective is when we realiize is this what the Lord wants us to dress like in our own ways or is this what someone else is telling us to dress like this. Well how we know if our dress greives the holey spirt is when we think in our mind is this what God wants me to be like or if this i what someone wants me to feel or be like.

  2. Daniele you ask a good question. I did some searching of the Scriptures and Spirit of Prophecy and could not find an exact definition of modesty or even nakedness, because even what is exactly nakedness varies from culture to culture, yes even Christian cultures.The funny thing is, if you ask this question in your local Sabbath School class you will get some very specific answers, but those specific answers will vary from class to class around the world. And each class will have members being led by the Holy Spirit. Even though I believe we are to be crucified to the world, which would include our culture, I would have to say in this case culture would have to play a role in determining what is and is not appropriate. Like Inge, I believe the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, including the truth of how to dress to please the Holy Spirit. I especially believe this because the Bible speaks of the importance both physically and spiritually.Adam knew he was naked without a Bible or even a culture to tell him exactly what "naked" was. It was a spiritual instinct. I believe that same Spirit can speak to each one of us, as it did to Adam. By the way, as has already been said, we don't need to judge others and tell them to dress EXACTLY as we do [emphasis on "exactly." of course all cultures have general guidelines.]. Adam did not need anyone to tell him he was naked. He figured it out on his own, and I believe the Holy Spirit will help us figure it out on our own. If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, just like Adam and the demoniac, it will be made plain to us.

    I might add that even though in the article my main point is that we dress with the gospel in mind instead of sex, that does not mean we exclude sex and impure thoughts from being factors in determining what is appropriate or pleasing the Spirit. Of course clothes that would encourage impure thoughts could in no way be pleasing to the Holy Spirit. And I believe the more we focus on the cross and the gospel the more the Holy Spirit will reveal to us personally how to dress to please Him.

    • Thank you for this insight and point of view. I have never heard it from the point of view of the Holy Spirit in correlation to dressing. Great read

    • Thank you for your reply! Yes I think culture plays a huge part in the way we dress. But I believe the principles underlying are the same wherever you go.

  3. Women dress differently in the church according to the culture. In the Phillippines, I saw ladies wearing their best clothes and stunning make-up. In China, most women have simple clothes.Personally, I feel more comfortable in the Chinese context. However, dressing in the Philippines gives a positive impression on people about their attitude toward faith.

  4. Here's the thing we must realize, there is no earthly culture that doesn't need the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit and Word of God. There is earthly culture, with as much variation as one might hope to find, and most who love this earth will find one suitable to their personal taste, then there is the culture of Heaven and Godliness.

    Which will be seen in our life?

    • Your use of the "culture of Heaven and Godliness" makes me think you may have some "heavenly modesty standards" in mind, as opposed to what I see as William's suggestion that the Holy Spirit will guide individuals to modesty in their culture.

      Do you believe there is a standard of modesty that applies equally around the world?

      To be honest, your reference to "the culture of heaven" reminds me of people who talk of "the music of heaven," firmly believing that their preferred music is the music of heaven. Of course, that leaves out the music of all other cultures.

      And now that I am on the "reminder" journey, it also reminds me of what many of our missionaries of the past did: They taught American culture as much as they taught the gospel. And now we still have Christians in other parts of the world that cannot seem to separate the gospel from American culture - leading to such absurdities as required church wear for men including a white shirt, black tie and heavy black suit jacket in the steaming tropical climate of certain South Sea islands. Even GC officials are not excluded from the requirements. One arrived with a tie that was not black and was required to give up his tie and put on a black one conveniently kept handy at the church. And that's not all the churches keep on hand. They keep black suit jackets for any visitors who might come without them. (No one told me whether or not they have requirements for ladies and extra clothing stored for them. 😉 )

      By the way, if any from those parts of the world are reading this, maybe you can share with us what the requirement for women is. 🙂

      • That is an interesting thought about teaching the gospel with/through the American culture. I will have to think and pray on that. This concept is important because I think that the Ten Commandments are viewed the same way. There is an inherent principle in each commandment and from what I have experienced and observed we get hung up on perceptions of keeping a commandment a particular way instead of applying the principle.

      • Inge, I read your comment above and it made me think how some "dress codes" can be a distraction from spreading the gospel. Do we really want to force people to change their clothing just to sit and enjoy the Sabbath with us? or do we want to welcome them with open arms and be joyus that they've joined us?
        This has recently effected my life personally. I just recently moved to a new city and started attending the SDA church in that area and I was wearing a lovely dress which I thought was modest and well covering every "distraction" but still felt like I looked nice in it and the very first thing that happened when I walked into the church was a woman handing out the sermon schedules and she looked me up and down with a disgusted face and said nothing when I greeted her with a "Happy Sabbath!" I was very saddened by this and almost turned around right there and left thinking "I do not want to be in a place where the first thing that happens is someone judging me, a fellow SDA!" but then I decided that it was more important for me to hear the morning message than to leave.

        So we stayed for the message and it turned out to be a wonderful and much needed message. It was a sermon about being open to visitors, new church members, and non members so that they can see the love of Jesus in His church. The pastor had mentioned how we shouldn't make snarky comments when a lost brother has come back after walking away from the Lord. That rather than scold and say "it's about time" we should welcome and say "I'm so happy you're here". He spoke about not judging people and we need to get over our impulse to do so. It made me think I should give that woman that gave me the rude once-over another chance, rather than never go back to the place that made me feel unwelcome by just one glance. I still dress modestly and I personally believe dressing nicely (however a culture deems it) is a way to show respect at church. And even though that woman made me feel small and unwelcome I will still smile and greet her with a happy Sabbath the next time I see her. Hopefully the smile will be infectious and she will smile back. My whole point here is even if we dress modestly to avoid attention from the opposite sex, even people of the same gender can be distracted or in her case rude to new people. I hope anyone that reads this doesn't greet anyone visiting their church with a rude look, we want to welcome visitors, not chasten, or scare them away from the benefit of fellowship

        • Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. I am heartened by your decision to "overcome evil with good" by smiling at the unfriendly woman. She seems to be in need of experiencing the love of Jesus. Perhaps you can help her.

          May God continue to bless you and give you an "infectious" smile. 🙂

        • Ray, I'm sure the recommendation to wear dark suits didn't come from the top of Mt Sinai, like the Ten Commandments. In those days people wore robes, and Jesus wore robes too. 😉 (At one time, Ellen White also recommended a "reform dress," and a few years later, she said that the time for that fashion had passed.)

          So what we wear to church is very much a function of culture - something the missionaries clearly forgot to teach the people of the Tongan islands. It's sad that the missionaries left such a wrong impression because it can lead to a Pharasaical religion focused on externals - though I'm sure that's not what they intended. That said, it is all too common among many of us that we fail to distinguish between cultural preferences and biblical principles.

          Culture is a big factor in the areas of dress, music, order of service, etc. And people will have different preferences, and that's fine - as long as all realize it's a matter of preference and not God's way (which is really *my* way) vs the world's way (which is really the other person's preference).

          • Yet the moral, holy principles behind the dark suits, robes and reform dress do come from the Creator don't they? Whatever the culture or fashion, it will be adapted to those Divine principles by the servants of God who are called peculiar and holy, but never odd or fanatical.

            Those in this life who are preparing for eternal life will adopt the heavenly principles in this life wherever they are, and whatever the prevailing fashions.

            Yes Inge, today we are not expected to dress as Ellen did in her day. I know some who have advocated we should. I have also observed those who adopt the principles with the current fashions very tastefully.

          • Robert, I believe you are confusing the issues. It was my argument all along that principles will be expressed differently at different times. Thus the robes, dark jackets and reform dress were appropriate to the time but are largely inappropriate now, depending on the situation. You appear to agree with this in your first paragraph. Nevertheless, you begin your paragraph with "Yet," implying disagreement. That is confusing.

            Moreover, William, in his original post clearly suggested that the Holy Spirit will make a difference in the way we dress. It would be helpful if you did not post in a way that appears to be argumentative when you actually agree.

  5. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when discussing the modesty issue.

    1) We like to judge other people. How many times have I heard something like this: "If you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, you will be led to dress this way, or act in this manner!" Often what you are really saying is that in your opinion I think you should be dressing this way or acting in this manner> I had an interesting discussion recently where two individuals were trying to convince me, with scriptural quotations, that I should be thinking and acting in a particular way. The trouble was that the two individuals were diametrically opposed in their advice/judgement of what I should be doing. Both were well intentioned but both could not be right!

    2) In our expectation of modest behaviour, we need to make allowances for both background and development. I have a fairly good memory and can remember some of the brashness and awkwardness of my teenage years. Quite frankly, I am glad that many of my adult mentors in the church of my youth were willing to close their eyes to my immaturity. Their silence, and encouragement is probably one reason I stayed with the church. For all my immaturity, I felt welcome and nurtured. It was not a case of judging me for my wrongs but encouraging me for those actions that showed that hidden among my immaturity was an adult waiting to emerge.

  6. Thank you all for your comments. Inge and Maurice, I especially connect with what you are saying. Years ago a family member by marriage had a brother, who was an Adventist missionary in Africa. Many of the women came to church without shirts or tops. The missionaries gave the women shirts, but were surprised when the following Sabbath they all showed up to church with holes cut out of their shirts to expose their breasts. The missionaries were quite confused as to why, but later found out that in their community only prostitutes covered their breasts. Apparently in their culture the prostitutes were covering their breasts to sexualize them and make merchandise of them. The women coming to the church wanted nothing to do with that.

    When we read the word "modesty" in the Bible we all get a picture of what that means. Each of our pictures may be a little different, depending on culture, and we should let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth, instead of just assuming our picture is the correct picture, and thinking everyone needs to change to become like us. Too many times American missionaries have gone overseas to make people become like Americans instead of Christians.

  7. Amen. When we "turn our eyes upon Jesus", the things of this world "will grow strangely dim". When we lift Jesus higher, He will draw all men unto Himself. Our work should be focussed on leading people to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will do His part to convict and convert. Sometimes we spend so much of our energy telling people what to do, say, wear,etc. We forget to tell others about Jesus with living and edifying words,but more importantly, through our actions.

  8. Thank you William for this enlightening presentation on ‘Modesty… and the Holy Spirit’. Wearing clothes is not something I have aligned up with the gospel message before: And yet from my secular teachers when as a child I learned of ‘cave men’ who dressed in animal skins. Later in Sunday School I learned the reason why, and in Sabbath School I learned of the sacrifice those animals made by shedding their life for my ancestor’s clothes and of Jesus the Christ who shed his blood to cover up for my sins: I was so excited at your message, I copied and printed it for myself and a friend. I hope that is OK.
    As to other comments, I can see that the ‘dress code’ have different experiences for some folk. I myself led my children to read in Exodus 19:10 ( And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes) with the purpose that clean clothes were required of God before worship – and my emphasis was ‘the best you have to honour God’. I remember the struggle with women wearing hats to church and our wise Pastor who intervened and said ‘the wearing of hats is not going to get us to heaven’. He left it up to us, and not many women wear hats anymore. About this time of changeover, a sweet young thing of about 18 years wore her hair out to church. I guarantee not one set of eyes that day was focusing on God when they saw her gorgeous golden locks. I then knew why Paul suggested that women cover their hair. As a child and later teen years my mother (from Norfolk Island) would not allow me to wear slacks, ‘because the boys look at your bottom’ (they do in Australia too!): In Vanuatu while I was on short medical missionary trips we were asked to wear skirts and sleeves. The men there are very jealous of their women’s thighs and do not want them to be seen under jeans or shorts by others or be exposed to visitor’s. Likewise pale women’s shoulders are not well regarded either. Local women though are often topless at home or near, because everyone realises that babies need to have access to them on demand, even to toddler stage or more. Actually, topless in any age, is locally well tolerated and respected by all, because of their God-given (sexless) feeding purpose.
    Godbless today. Mrs A Stolz.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, which is from cultures a little different from our North American culture and thus has different standards of modesty.

      You mention Norfolk Islands, Vanuatu and Australia. Where are you now? I assume you are still somewhere in the South Pacific?

  9. Yes Inge, thank you for the invitation to share requirements for women in other countries than North America; this is what I tried to do. I remain at present on Norfolk Island. At nearly 100 years – this October, my mother is the oldest person and oldest Islander – that is ‘Pitcairner’: Because my father is Australian, and I was born and bred there, she never regarded me as an Islander. However most folk now on Norfolk have mixed blood as I have, and I fit in. Even though the Island is now considered a territory and part of Australia, there is a definite different culture here on Norfolk to Australians, who generally follow the American way of life and thinking. To find my ‘roots’ I went twice to Pitcairn Island the last time with my then 11 year old son. I learned some traditional (Tahitian native) culture such as plaiting with Pandanas leaves, and how ‘grass skirts were made (from the bark of a type of mulberry tree) and noticed the food was very similar to what I remember my grandmother cooking on Norfolk with sweet potatoes, yams, and green and ripe bananas. Because of my familiarity with Island food I felt I fitted into Island missionary work too with my nursing speciality in women and children. Both on Pitcairn, and on Norfolk I discovered the women were very modest in dress but also capable of being very carnally minded – and yet God-fearing! I hope to return to medical missionary work again one day. Godbless today, Mrs A Stolz

  10. Oh how very thankful I will be when nothing needs to be worn! Adam & Eve walked with God in the evening, clothed only in a 'robe' of light. Healthy physically, beautifully created, brilliantly minded, and knowing only each other and their Maker.
    Meanwhile I am thrilled when 'old' sheep return to the fold, when 'young' lambs gambol, and the Shepherd loves every single one of them 'as they come'. He leaves it to the work of the Holy Spirit to lead them gently home. Perhaps it would be a good idea if we did the same.
    I have worshiped God in China, South Korea, London, Norfolk Island, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Papua New Guinea, Austria, Germany, France, Tasmania, Alaska, Scotland, Canada, Belgium, Japan and US of A. When hearts are in tune with heaven, nothing else matters.

  11. I hope I won't be too annoyingly counter-cultural by pointing out that shame--an alien state of mind--was not originally associated with being naked (Gen 2:25). I find it interesting that a "consciousness" related to physique, was not an "issue" when the Creator declared His satisfaction with "everything that He had made" (Gen 1:31). It only became one AFTER Adam violated his relationship of oneness (Gen 2:15,19) with his Creator (Gen 3:7-8). It might be that our, just about, worldwide wearing of clothing is an admission of original wrongdoing!:)
    Curiously, though, I've observed that persons in an actively manic state, like the "demoniac" in Mark 5, generally have a desire to remove clothing. Dress (or undress, as the case may be) therefore becomes an external reflection of internal (spiritual) realities.
    The "demoniac" in Mark 5 is introduced as one having an "unclean spirit" (Mk 5:2). Persons with "unclean spirit(s)" behave in manifestly questionable (even repulsive) ways that often marginalizes them from their family/community (Mk 5:3; Gen 3:22-24). Scripture never presents this state of "uncleanness" in ANY positive light (Zech 13:2; Mt 10:1). The "unclean spirit" is the birthplace of dysfunction and confusion (Mk 9:17-18,25; Rev 16:13). Adultery and fornication, which falls on the spectrum of sexual dysfunction, Jesus attributes to the internal workings of our human spirit (Mk 7:21-23; Jam 1:13-15).
    It is the Creator's intention that humans take care of themselves, each other and our environment. No one who truly understands this mandate will desire to think, speak or behave in a manner offensive to their Creator or the other beings of His creation (Mt 22:37-40; Rom 14:21). Let's be about our Father's business of unselfish love (1 Jn 3:10; 1 Pt 3:8).

    • Lynrol, Gen 2:25 does not mean uncovered, only unclothed with physical garments as we now clothe ourselves with. Man(male and female) were created in the image of God physically, mentally and spiritually, and the Psalmist tells us that God clothes Himself with light as a garment. So we would conclude that Adam and Eve were also clothed with such a garment of light in their holiness, which after their sin, disappeared, leaving them naked, ashamed, and seeking coverings for their now naked forms. Remember God's question when Adam told God why he had hidden himself? Sin had removed the garment of light.

      • As our conversation has progressed, I wonder if when God asked Adam,"who told you that you were naked?" was God actually pointing out to Adam that he had just incriminated himself, and that his statement "I was naked" was an admission of guilt? In other words, the naked feeling came when Adam convicted himself of guilt.

        • Sinners will always be self-convicted. While "I was naked" may or may not have been an intended admission, it was irrefutable evidence, leading to God's accurate conclusion and revealing question.

          • Inge, follow the stories of the fall, the flood, the tower, and the destruction of the wicked cities of the plain. In every case God comes to "see"(raah: meaning to inquire, investigate, etc).

            Of course God doesn't need our confessions, but the rest of His creation is benefited when the guilty acknowledge their guilt, showing God is just. God doesn't need to prove anything, but creatures are benefited from the proof. Adam's confession was for our benefit, which is why the Divine record has been given to us for "our admonition".

        • William, I believe that God designed the human brain to function in a manner that would benefit Him, as its Creator, for His intended purpose(s). He designed and constructed it in such a way that it would only do good for Him and the recipients (Gen 1:26,31; 2:15). Bearing similarity to the body, which was not intended to experience disease but when disease became our reality, contained the alert system we call pain. When "evil" (Gen 3:22) became our reality, He also designed the brain with an alert system we call "conscience" (Jn 8:9). Sin/evil has compromised the operation of the brain, as God designed it, including the conscience (1 Tim 4:2; 1 Cor 8:7), but the Gospel promises RESTORATION (Heb 9:14; 10:22).

          I find the reality that became theirs in Gen 3:7 interesting. They went from a "good" brain/mind which didn't allow them to perceive that they were physically naked, to a "good AND EVIL" brain/mind which did. I believe that the presence of "EVIL" in the brain/mind, like the presence of disease in the body, triggers a "pain" response of shame, guilt and fear (Gen 3:8,10). The perception of their physical nakedness worked in tandem with newly-evoked shame and fear to alert them to the presence of the "disease" of "evil". I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with the "alert" system, because like an allergy sufferer needing the intervention of a physician to identify the allergen as well as manage the allergic response, even so sinners need their Creator's care. I believe the question God asked Adam (Gen 3:11) was all a part of His "disease" awareness outreach. The outreach was followed by a foretold, temporary measure (Gen 3:21; Heb 9:8-10) until RESTORATION is accomplished (Heb 9:14-15).

          It is the presence of this "diseased" mind that presently drives the complex relations between the genders--one that the Creator originally intended as a blessing (Gen 1:28; 2:18,24). It drives some females to attire themselves in completely self-serving ways, oblivious to its effect on others...male and female. It also, unfortunately, drives even clergy to abuse appropriately attired females--and you'd probably think I have knowledge of some current clergy scandal (1 Sam 2:22)!

          Praise God for His "disease" REMOVER AND RESTORER (Jn 1:29; Isaiah 1:25-26)!!

      • Robert, I'm much more acquainted with Earth's present shame, fear, alienation (Gen 2:25; 3:10,23) and their fallout than I am with the "garment of light" mentioned in your response. Such a garment would effectively resolve the present issues of persons who, may or may not, dress for self-centered reasons. However, your "garment" does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Creator's current covenant to put His laws in our minds (Heb 8:10) or "unclean spirit". His law of supreme love to Him as our Creator and His creation (Mt 22:37-40), is a potent antidote for sin (Ps 119:10-12; 37:31). He has even committed a perpetual Helper (Jn 14:16) to enable us in getting there (Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 3:3,6)...or as you said, to be clothed "with light as a garment" (Eph 4:18, 22-24; Ps 104:1-2).

  12. The subject is pointing us towards the Holy Spirit and His promptings. I believe when He speaks to us we have to leave all the dictates of our culture that run contrary to God's way of life. The Holy Spirit will acquaint us with the culture of heaven as long as He is present in our lives. This will lead us to ponder on and use Phil. 4:8 as a filter and blueprint for the way we conduct ourselves before every human eye. When God made a "covering" for Adam and Eve I believe He meant to say "cover yourselves because you have become naked". They accepted and cooperated. We should continue in the same spirit and exhort our fellow brethren to follow suit not by might but by God's Spirit. I strongly agree with the contents of the script "Modesty: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About the Holy Spirit". Let us hear His voice as He propels us towards purity.


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