The topic of modesty tends to make people shudder as they imagine a return to Puritanical ideals. Why? Because fashion is one of the great mainstays of personal freedom: we think people must be backward if they tell us how to dress.
Addressing the subject of modesty, my primary concern is not the world of fashion. Lisa Armstrong, Fashion Editor of The Sunday Times, says, “Modesty has been creeping back into vogue for some time.” That may be, but regardless of what we think is in vogue, my primary concern is not about what sells, but why it sells.
Puritan preacher Richard Baxter once told women in his congregation:
And you must not lay a stumbling block in [men’s] way, not blow up the fire of their lust, nor make your ornaments snares but you must walk among sinful persons as you would do with a candle among straw or gunpowder, or else you may see the flame which you would not foresee, when it is too late to quench it.
Baxter puts his finger on a topic that is near and dear to me: personal sexual purity. In a word, Baxter is advocating modesty, not just of dress, but of actions and attitudes. Baxter puts his finger on one of the primary motives for modesty: concern not to light the fires of lust in men.
Should we heed Baxter’s advice? I believe we should, but for Christians modesty should not be motivated by what preachers have said but what God thinks. Does the infinite, eternal God, with all of his concern for global affairs and natural disasters, really care about what a woman wears?