Sarah Dressed For Abraham
On the subject of modest dress, you will always find folks who push back against the Bible's description of what is proper and modest. Yet, the Bible leaves little doubt what God wants in the matter. The word "kuttoneth" (describing a tunic which covered the body from the shoulders to the knees) fairly well settles the question of what length is acceptable on the side of modesty. However, some Christians chide the use of Hebrew. Okay, let's just let the English text speak. Adam and Eve were naked and they knew it, so Adam sewed fig leaves together to cover what today's underwear would likely cover (Genesis 3:7). Yet, when God arrived on the scene, Adam and Eve were found hiding because they were still naked (vs. 10). God made them tunics of animal skins and clothed them properly (vs. 21). He made them tunics rather than briefs. The Hebrew word kuttoneth helps clarify the extent of the body covered - shoulders to knees.
Other passages help our under-standing by making clear what God considers "naked." In Exodus 28:42, priests were to wear breeches that covered the loins and the thighs. Some get hung up on "to the thighs" and argue that shorts which end at the top of the thigh fit the definition just fine. Yet, Isaiah said uncovering the thighs was considered shameful (Isaiah 47:2-3). The standards of society show little sign of becoming more modest. So, it is up to disciples to cover themselves properly.
Regarding the clothing that is immodest, we must remember that much of what is acceptable today would be deemed "the attire of a harlot" by Solomon (Proverbs 7:10). Harlots seduce victims by showing as much of their bodies as they can with as little clothing as possible.
Now, to Sarah. Sarah set the "gold standard" of modest dress, as did women of similar moral fiber. Sarah dressed to honor her husband, whom she called "lord" (1 Peter 3:5-6). Her beauty was for him and him alone. She and other modest women did not dress to be on display for all to see. Their adornment, arranging of the hair, and wearing of gold was meant to accent the "hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4). Paul said that women should adorn themselves in "modest apparel, with propriety and moderation," and in such a way that is "proper for women professing godliness with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Sarah was a modest person. She had a gentle and quiet spirit that was very precious in the sight of God. She respected her husband, and she showed her submission to him in the clothing she chose. Apparently, Sarah was beautiful (Genesis 12:11; 26:7), but she did not need for everyone around her to get cricks in their necks turning to peer at her beauty. Her husband had the only eyes she wanted to capture.
How this fact has gotten muddied in the minds of Christians through the years is beyond me. New Testament Christians can be heard to argue for a lessened standard than the one espoused by God, Sarah, Isaiah, Paul, and Peter. Whenever the subject of modest clothing is brought up, eyes roll, knees jerk, and aggravated breaths are unleashed, as people prepare to argue that swimsuits and shorts are okay with our Creator.
If I use the Bible as my only standard of right and wrong, I could not possibly justify some clothing that people wear for recreation, or even what they wear to go shopping. I once preached in Macon, Missouri, and one particular winter day (when the outside temperature was about 5 degrees above zero, and it was snowing sideways) a young woman entered Walmart, to a great whoosh of wind from outside. All eyes saw the nineteen year old brunette enter the store wearing a parka that was unzipped to reveal a half-shirt underneath. She wore snow boots on her feet, and between the boots and coat were acres of naked leg. The girl was wearing shorts! Her intention was realized when every mouth gaped and every head shook in disbelief. Two older women in the checkout line near me discussed the matter. One said, "That can't possibly be comfortable on a day like today!" The second woman said: "It doesn't matter to her. She wants everyone to see her body." Bingo! That old woman was no prophet, folks. Her observation was obvious to all of us!
Consider the following stark contrast to godly Sarah. Many young Christian brides today choose wedding dresses which expose the tops of their breasts and the whole of their backs to public view. These girls often grew up being taught to practice modesty. They may have grown up around the preacher and his family, and now they force him to see a part of their bodies that should be reserved for their soon-to-be-husbands.
Brethren, modesty is not a complicated or controversial issue. Rather, people are simply tired of fighting with the world, and have decided it is much easier to just leave the subject alone entirely, or to remove the "teeth" from what the scriptures really teach. It truly takes an exercise in mental gymnastics to justify shorts, bathing suits, and cheerleader outfits with the Bible. Some fashions are just plain old immodest, and they always will be. Some clothing will never rise above the attire of a harlot, no matter how many people say it's okay.
Why don't we just face reality!