April 24, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
The first of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).
When it comes to fashion, I’m deliberately out of step. I don’t care if what I’m wearing is trendy or not—in fact, it’s my goal to resist the influence of others (from Paris or Hollywood or anywhere else) over my wardrobe. Like any man’s man, I relish being out of style.
I want to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, which is why my stained In-N-Out Burger T-shirt and old gray sweatpants are the most well-worn items in my closet second only to my single pair of jeans, which I wear any place a T-shirt and sweatpants would be inappropriate attire.
If you ever see me sharply dressed in public, it’s only because my wife and daughters, out of great concern for my appearance, buy me clothes on my birthday and for Christmas.
My wife and daughters, in contrast to me, do care about what they wear. They are lovely women with impeccable taste. Each one has her own unique style of dress, and I enjoy trying to find gifts that fit their individual styles.
“Adornment and dress is an area with which women are often concerned,” writes George Knight (who must have had teenage daughters). This is a good thing. God created women with an eye for making themselves and everything around them beautiful and attractive. But, as Mr. Knight goes on to observe, dress is also an area “in which there are dangers of immodesty or indiscretion.”
Many young women, though, are unaware of these worldly dangers. Several years ago I preached a message to our church from 1 Timothy 2:9 entitled “The Soul of Modesty.” Eventually, that message made its way into the hands of a young woman named Jenni. Prior to hearing my sermon, Jenni had no idea what God’s Word said about the clothes she wore, if anything at all. “Modesty used to be a foreign word to me,” Jenni later admitted in a testimony to our church congregation:
My friends aptly nicknamed me ‘Scantily.’ When choosing what to wear I thought only of what would flatter me, what would bring more attention my way, and what most resembled the clothes I saw on models or other stylish women. I wanted to be accepted and admired for what I wore. I enjoyed my attire, the undue attention I received, and the way it stimulated my feelings.
Perhaps you can relate to Jenni. Maybe modesty sounds unappealing to you. If we played word association you’d come up with “out of style” and “legalistic.” Maybe you think God is indifferent about the clothes you wear. What does he care?
But, as Jenni ultimately discovered, there is “not a square inch” of our lives—including our closets—with which God is not concerned. Even more, he cares about the heart behind what you wear, about whether your wardrobe reveals the presence of worldliness or godliness.
The evidence comes from 1 Timothy 2:9 where Paul urges “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” Like 1 John 2:15 this is a verse we’re inclined to ignore or reinterpret to escape its imperative. But we must not snip 1 Timothy 2:9 out of our Bibles. Rather we must carefully seek to understand how it applies to our lives, our shopping habits, and the contents of our closets.
Now, this chapter is primarily written for women, not only because that’s who 1 Timothy 2:9 addresses, but also because this is a topic of particular concern for women. George Knight is correct, and a woman’s experience will tend to confirm the relevance and importance of this topic. However, modesty does have application for men—increasingly so in our culture. And especially for fathers, whose primary responsibility it is to raise modest daughters.
I write this chapter as the father of three daughters, now grown. I write as a pastor with a growing concern for the erosion of modesty among Christian women today. I write because God’s glory is at stake in the way women dress. I write about modesty because God has first written about it in his eternal Word.
So let’s take God to the Gap.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
 George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 133.