by David Campbell


On a recent newscast a reporter stated that the Muslim population in England was debating on whether they should force their women and young girls to wear a burqua.  A burqua is a covering that goes from the top of the head to the top of the feet.  In the head covering there is a cloth screen opening for the eyes.

This debate over wearing burquas is not occurring between Christian scholars or church leaders.  However, in Western culture the disrobing of our women and men is a legitimate point of discussion.  In a TV interview a woman recently discussed her upcoming disrobing in Playboy magazine.  She stated that it had been her desire from the time she was a young girl to appear nude in this magazine.

On TV, in magazines, catalogs, store ads and displays, and movies, one may find various degrees of nakedness.  It wasn’t long ago that millions saw a planned nude display on the Super Bowl half-time show.  The female artist wore a tear-away garment indicating her intent to display this part of her body.  This act caused some alarm and concern, the company was fined, and the Super Bowl denied culpability.  The incident was soon forgotten or quickly dismissed. Shock will cease with continued exposure.  The question we may ask is “what is the next shocker?”

The term “modest” in the Bible comes from the Greek word, “kosmious,” meaning orderly, well arranged, decent, or modest.  The definitions of “decent” and “modest” have various connotations as words change in time, place, and with different persons.  What might be called “modest” by me may be considered either prudish or suggestive to you.

The word “orderly” is used in the qualifications of the elders, and is used again in I Timothy 2:9 for clothing that is to be worn by Christian women.  This implies that modesty can be both an inward as well as an outward expression.

In the time of Christ the clothing for both men and women was quite similar.  An outer garment or cloak (himation) was worn over an inner garment (chiton) as shown in Matthew 5:40.  The women had the same outer garments and inner garments.  Both wore a girdle or sash that might be as simple as a piece of rope.  The body was covered from head to feet.  Adornments to this clothing could be simple or elaborate depending upon the status and wealth of the individual.

The tendency in our society is for men and women to engage in various stages of undress during the warmer months.  When we observe modern fashions we can see that the showing of more flesh is considered to be in vogue. Some women have complained, in a variety of forums, that it is difficult to find modest clothing for themselves and their teenage daughters.  The “modest” apparel which is available is often poorly designed or unfashionable.

Unfortunately the dress of both men and women in worship is often reflective of what we see in the general public.  Women wear short skirts or dresses, tight jeans, tank tops and low cut jeans to worship without having given much thought as to the appropriateness of such attire.  Men have shown themselves to be just as irresponsible with unbuttoned shirts, sleeveless t-shirts, or shorts.  Also, casual wear is much more common today than in times past.

Have we lost all respect for the All Mighty Creator of the Universe?  Is it really appropriate to wear clothing that draws attention to our bodies when we have assembled to worship God in spirit and in truth?  If God cared enough to give His best, why don’t we care enough to give our best?

American society is viewed by the Islamic world as decadent and sinful.  If the only means of judging our society is television, movies, and celebrity magazines; then we must agree with them.  We Christians must maintain a higher standard than the world around us.  Let it never be said of us that we are contributing to the problem.  Instead we should be an example to others.  The words “decent” and “orderly” are a part of the definition of “modest,” and we are commanded to worship in a “decent” and orderly” manner (1 Corinthians 14:40). The conclusion of the matter is that what we wear is an outward expression of our inward motivation in our worship to God.