In light of my previous post, modesty is far more than about how short a skirt is or low-cut a blouse may be. Biblical modesty is the cultivation of the inner person that befits a daughter of Sarah (1 Pt 3.1-6). Modesty is part-and-parcel of living a gospel-centered life. How then might we invest gospel-driven modesty in our homes?
1. We must instill in our sons a love for modesty that complements their hatred for immodesty. We default to immodesty if we don’t have other alternatives. If they shouldn’t consider “that” attractive then what should they consider attractive? This means mothers must model biblical modesty (1 Tim 2.9-10;1 Pt 3.1-6) and fathers must praise them for it.
We should use language of beauty when women display a “gentle and quiet spirit.” This will drill into them that beauty is this and not that. He must know that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the eye of our Creator. Our sons must know that our sin perverts beauty, and Christ must change our heart-eyes so that we see what God sees. This is not to say we must consider “looks” irrelevant, but that we must not define a person by them.
Fathers are certainly to blame for off-colored comments, cat calls and grunts. When our sons see our eyes follow a woman sauntering by, he assumes it’s okay to watch women saunter by. As we instruct our sons about beauty we must be able to ask them, “Son, do you see Dad watching those things?” or “Son, do you ever hear Dad talking about women that way?” Lord willing, they will say “no.” And our daughters will know what kind of man is best for them to marry.
Further, I’m afraid mothers are trying to become more like their daughters than the other way around. We can’t expect young ladies to understand modesty when their mothers compete for the same attention. I want to ask many women, “Aren’t you 40? Why do you and your 12-year-old dress alike?” The hidden person of the heart is so 16th century, I suppose. I’m eternally thankful for a mom who was a daughter of Sarah (1 Pt 3.6). She dressed modestly, walked with dignity, served with humility, carried herself maturely and honored my dad highly. Because of her example I knew what sort of woman I should marry (and did!). Her example didn’t keep me from every indecent thought, but it did inform who I wanted to wake up with each morning.
2. We must teach our sons to avoid temptation. So let’s not put them in over their heads, which is something very difficult for them to judge. Young men lack sense (Prov 7.7) and there are some places that are just stupid for them to go (Prov 7.24-27). Knowing where the sweet-talking mistress lives, why would we insist they use her street to come home?
I’ve heard horror stories about our local high school. I’m sure some are apocryphal, but if they’re even half true I’m terrified. Perverse sexual behavior in the halls, latch-key lives that open more than the back door, locker room sex education. If I wouldn’t want my son watching/hearing any of that on TV or screen then why would I want him to see it live? We wouldn’t intentionally subject our children to physical harm, so why would we freely subject them to spiritual harm?
The alternative is settling for some level of allowable immodesty. If you wouldn’t want your son peeping in your neighbors bedroom window then why allow him to watch another couple doing the same thing on TV? Why is one indecent and the other not? If I wouldn’t want him seeing sexually explicit material in print, then why subject him to seeing it in person? If I would chastise him for looking a friends sexually explicit magazine in a school locker, then why tolerate him looking at it being acted out by the lockers?
However, we must also teach them how God intends we resist temptation. We cannot make hermits of our sons. They must confront evil and tempation. They must know there is a real enemy after their soul who will use any means necessary to derail their holiness (Eph 6.12; 1 Pt 5.8-9). That lustful (or greedy or angry, etc.) thought is a means to an end: treasuring something more than Christ; loving hell more than heaven. It’s thievery, wanting something that’s not yours.
As we instill an avoidance instinct we must also instill a resistance instinct. If a stranger approaches my son with some sort of proposition then I want him to yell and run. If Satan approaches my son with some sort of proposition then I want him to resist with Scripture (Phil 4.8, for example), prayer and getting the heck out of the situation. Avoid the fight if you can, but fight like mad if you must. And “having done everything, stand firm” (Eph 6.10-17). If they are Christ’s, God will not leave them to destruction.
3. Sin is not what we do, it’s who we are. The most well-equipped son with all the tools of biblical avoidance and resistance will still find a way to violate women and pervert beauty. It’s amazing how vividly I can remember images I haven’t seen in 25 years, but can’t remember the Scripture I memorized yesterday. Not even becoming eunuch eradicates sin. Changed scenery is only a temporary fix. We must have a changed heart.
In the end, we must not make our son’s purity about self-righteousness, but Christ’s. We must leave them hoping in God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ rather than any self-discipline of the will. It will do him no good to have the purest mind, but a Christless heart.
I talk a much better game than I play. I leave the thousand other things that should be said to those more qualified and mature. God have mercy.
C.J. Mahaney writes the following in his book entitled Worldliness:
Dads, I want to urge you to take responsibility for your daughters’ dress. Fathers are absolutely essential to the cultivation of modesty. When a young lady dresses immodestly, it usually means her father has failed to lead, care for and protect her. Without a father’s care and protection, she may be daily exposed to the lustful minds of men.
My three daughters are grown and married now, but from an early age I sought to impress upon them the importance of modesty. Before an article of clothing became a permanent part of their wardrobe my girls had to get my approval. This wasn’t always easy—for them or for me. Modest clothing is hard to find. Sometimes, they’d arrive home after an all day shopping trip only to hear me say: “That’s not gonna, work, my love. I’m so sorry, but exhaustion from shopping doesn’t excuse immodesty. We’re not going to compromise.”
We confronted this very issue several years ago. Pastors gladly live on used clothes. When our oldest daughter was 3-years-old she came into some shorts that had writing on the backside. What possible reason would there be for writing on the back of a 3-year-old’s shorts? They were quickly relegated to play-at-home shorts and even then were to be worn backwards.
I see no reason for any girl (especially Christian or those being raised in the gospel) to want such writing except to say, “Look here!” They mustn’t then wonder later why all guys want is to get into the very shorts they’re advertising! “You can’t deal me all the aces and expect me not to play,” crooned the country star. Yes, there is a word to be said to our sons as well.
Some may say, “C’mon, Maxwell, shes just three and they’re just cute shorts.” To that I say, “Shes not just three. She’s already three and already processing and learning the definition of modesty. I’d rather her learn that from Scripture, not you.” I understand the nature of total depravity, which means that I and my son are like dumb oxen and stupid birds (Prov 7.22-23). We need no help luring our eyes to inappropriate places. Men will take the bait every time. Therefore, I don’t intend to teach my daughter to set the hook.