By Women, For Women

“Modest Minds”

By Lydia Casey

“In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety . . .” (I Timothy 2:9, ASV).

At this time of year, most parts of the United States are experiencing cold weather, and you might think this is an odd time to write about “modest apparel.” It’s true that when we study this issue, we usually seem to focus on things like mixed swimming and the length of our skirts. But this time, I want to take a closer look at the word “shamefastness,” as the Greek word aidōs is translated in the American Standard Version. I chose this translation because Biblical scholars tell us that it’s the one most loyal to the ancient manuscripts, and it may help to use the ASV when studying a particular passage.

Marshall Patton’s analysis of the word “shamefastness” is contained in the Truth Commentary on I/II Timothy and is quite enlightening. He references Vine in pointing out that the term means “a sense of shame, modesty,” and that this kind of modesty is “fast” or “rooted in the character.” Brother Patton quotes another source (Synonyms of the New Testament, Trench) concerning the word “shamefastness”: “In it is involved an innate moral repugnance to the doing of the dishonorable act.” In other words, when we choose our clothing, we’re to do so in keeping with a consistent inner sense of modesty, seemliness, or decency, realizing that to do otherwise would cause us to feel shame.

I hope that, as “women professing godliness” (I Timothy 2:10), we are all attentive to the choices we make in what we wear every day. I hope that we don’t dress modestly on Sundays and Wednesdays, but relax our standards on the other days of the week. And I hope that we are passing our values concerning modesty down to our daughters, who learn by watching and listening to us every day. Can they see and sense in us that innate modesty mentioned above? Or are they learning from us that we dress one way when we’re meeting with other Christians, and another way when we’re headed to the beach or lake?

At times, I have become exasperated while shopping for modest clothes for my seven-year-old in today’s department stores. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that, unfortunately, a style these days is the skintight look. I recently bought a couple of shirts in the correct numerical size for my daughter, who is a very slender girl, and brought them home for her to enjoy. She tried one of them on, and it was ridiculously skintight on her, showing every detail of her upper-body anatomy. Skintight clothing is completely inappropriate for anyone to be wearing, much less a child. Yet, I have seen Christian women old enough to know better wearing clothing that is too clingy and revealing. A wedding gown can be inappropriately low cut in the back, too – not just in the front.

My daughter quickly understood the problem with the too-tight shirt, and I returned it to the store. She has already learned enough about modesty to know which Disney characters dress immodestly (Jasmine and the Little Mermaid, in case you didn’t know). Her innate sense of modesty is being cultivated. She is learning what modest clothes look like and feel like to wear. I am not teaching her to be ashamed of her body – not at all. Rather, her modesty should stem from a healthy respect for herself and a recognition of her inner worth and beauty as an incredible creation of the Almighty God (Psalm 139:13-16). Her father and I hope that this same sense of innate modesty will guide her throughout her teenage and adult years in helping her make choices that honor rather than mock God’s laws. The connection between lacking self-respect and choosing, for example, to drink alcohol or engage in premarital sex is well documented by those who study these behaviors.

At some point, most children start wanting the door closed when they bathe or get dressed – this is their way of asserting control over their own bodies and signals an awakening sense of modesty. We need to capitalize on that dawning understanding in our children’s minds and teach them how to carry that urge for modesty over into their choices of clothing. We rightly go to great lengths to train children to feel protective of the private areas of their bodies. That necessary teaching is even more effective when we back it up with instructions on how to dress modestly.

I know that I have been guilty sometimes of not recognizing that my seven-year-old daughter is getting older, and that her clothing needs to reflect the changes taking place. Time marches on, whether we realize it or not. A friend of mine told me recently that she was dressing her young daughter in a skimpy top for the warmer weather, and her husband expressed disapproval. My friend protested that their daughter was “only seven years old!” and her husband replied, “You just don’t know how guys think!” This man may not have been able to explain exactly why he disliked his daughter’s shirt, but he instinctively understood that she was getting to be at an age when her clothing was starting to matter. As a caring father, he wanted to protect her.

Some might worry that it is cruel to dress our maturing daughters in long pants or jeans, longer shorts, or Capri pants instead of shorts. No one wants her child to feel different at an age when young people just want to fit in with their peers. But as our children grow older and learn more about the gospel, about what true Christianity entails, they will understand that they will be taking stands and acting differently from others their whole lives. The world obviously does not appreciate what modesty means, but our daughters can grow up with “strength and honor” as their clothing (Proverbs 31:25) if they are trained properly from their very earliest years, with their sense of modesty becoming “rooted in the character,” as mentioned above.

I recently took my seven-year-old to see a stage production of “Cinderella.” We were able to meet the players after the show, and, although the cast was mostly composed of high schoolers, they looked grown-up to my daughter, who stared at Cinderella in awe and delight. She was thrilled when the young woman portraying Cinderella hugged her and spoke with her for a moment. She will surely remember that occasion. As her mother, I need to remember that right now my daughter is forming her impressions of what femininity is and what it means to be a young lady. She is beginning to show signs of developing that inner sense of what is appropriate to wear. Even the most rough-and-tumble little girls among our children need to be learning now what true modesty is. In so doing, our daughters can put on the “incorrupt apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (I Peter 3:4).  

Lydia Casey
Lydia [Humphries] Casey is a homemaker with three small daughters. Her husband, Evan, preaches for the Crestwood church of Christ in Crestwood, Kentucky. Before her marriage she worked in radio broadcasting and teaching, both in the US and abroad. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in English and Allied Language Arts. She was Evan’s “help meet” in Hungary for two years (1999-2001) while he was preaching and teaching the gospel there. Their residence was in Budapest. If you wish to communicate with her, you may do so by addressing your remarks to the editor at

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