This appealing title struck my interest as beauty is certainly a reoccurring thought in my mind. I enjoy learning from Godly women on this topic, and thought you might be interested as well.
This article is taken from the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (posted on the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website). The following is the third in a series of columns on the issue of modesty by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This series originally aired as a three week radio broadcast, beginning June 16, 2003. Nancy’s radio program—“Revive Our Hearts”—is heard on more than 250 stations. Nancy’s article:
In preparation for this series on modesty I purchased several popular women’s and teen magazines, most of which I was not familiar with. I spent a few days just leafing through these magazines, trying to get a flavor for what women are being exposed to today. And I have to tell you that I had a real awakening.
In fact, after spending those hours I was much more sympathetic to why it is such a challenge for young women today to appreciate the value of modesty and to want to dress modestly or even to have any clue of what it means to dress modestly-because there are so few examples in our culture of what modesty looks like. I also realized why so many Christian women today think they are modest-because in comparison with Seventeen magazine or Cosmopolitan, they are. The problem is that we’ve been using the wrong standard to determine what’s modest.
We need to understand the difference between the world’s philosophy of clothing and appearance and the Christian philosophy, based on the Word of God. You see, our outward appearance-whether it’s the women in those magazines or the women in your church or your own choices-reveals a way of thinking. It reveals a philosophy; it reveals what women truly believe.
For example, the world promotes the philosophy that beauty is physical and external, whereas the Word of God helps us to understand that beauty is fundamentally spiritual, and therefore, internal. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as external or physical beauty. Some women possess unusual physical beauty. But we recognize that the heart of beauty is something that is internal and spiritual.
The world’s philosophy of the body and clothing is that the body is all-important, and that the spirit is either secondary or simply doesn’t exist. The Christian has a different philosophy. She understands that our earthly bodies are temporal-they are going to deteriorate. No matter how much we fight it, our bodies are going to die. The wise Christian recognizes that the spirit of a person is what really matters.
The woman who adopts the world’s philosophy, believes that her body is her identity. It becomes the basis for her security or insecurity. So you knock yourself out trying to achieve this beautiful model’s figure, and that becomes the basis for your security. Or, on the other side, perhaps you have your fifth child and you’re forty pounds overweight; you can’t get the weight off and you start to feel insecure about your body. In the world’s philosophy the way you feel about your body is the way you feel about yourself. But the Christian woman recognizes that her body is not the sum total of her identity. Rather, it’s what is inside-the presence of God dwelling within her-that is the essence of her identity.
The world’s philosophy is that you are the product of evolution and as a result you are the highest authority there is and, hence your body belongs to you. No one else has any say or control over it. The Christian philosophy, on the other hand, is that your body did not just evolve as a result of chance, but that God made your body. It’s not by chance that you look the way you do. Your body doesn’t belong to you, but to God. And, if you’re a married woman, your body belongs to your husband as well. For that matter, if you are ever going to be a married woman, your body belongs to someone else and you’re just preserving it for him. As 1 Corinthians 7:4 teaches us, the married man has authority in a godly and loving sense over his wife’s body as the wife does over her husband’s body. So from God’s standpoint, our bodies are not our own.
In the world’s philosophy people dress in order for other people to notice them. But the Christian philosophy is that we do not dress primarily for others, but to please God. If He is the one we’re trying to please, our objective should be a desire to reflect his glory, even in the way we dress.
In the world’s philosophy the purpose of clothing is to reveal the body. The purpose is for sexual attraction. Some do it overtly and crassly-exposing most of their bodies. Many of the women in our churches would not do that. But some have adopted the philosophy of showing a little bit to tease. That can be just as seductive, if not more so, to Christian men than some of the more extreme forms of immodesty on the covers of magazines at the grocery store check-out. The Christian understands that the purpose of clothing is to cover the body. We’ve already seen in Genesis 3 that God gave Adam and Eve clothing to conceal their nakedness.2 And so the Christian philosophy should be, “I want to draw attention to the life of Jesus within me. I want others to see a reflection of the beauty of Christ.”
The world’s philosophy is if you want to be loved, you have to be beautiful, sensual and alluring. Now I grant that women who are sensual and physically stunning will likely receive a certain kind of male attention and love. But physical beauty will never get you the kind of love you were created for, the kind of love and attention that your heart as a child of God really longs to have. The Christian woman recognizes that she’s already loved by God in a deeper and richer and more meaningful way than she could ever be loved by any human being. Therefore, our hearts as Christian women should fundamentally seek to be beautiful for God, i.e., to cultivate the kind of beauty that he finds attractive.
The world’s perspective on clothing is driven by fashion. But the Christian’s philosophy is driven by the heart and the Word of God. Now, let me ask which of those philosophies is revealed by your physical appearance and your clothing choices. What are you communicating? When people look at you, what do they learn about what you believe? Christian modesty is first and foremost a way of thinking. It’s a way of thinking that manifests itself in the way that we dress, talk, and act. So ask yourself based on these two philosophies, “Am I living according to the world’s way of thinking or am I reflecting God’s heart and his way of thinking?”