What makes our modesty distinctly Christian?

August 11, 2012 · 9 comments

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by Gloria Furman

I’ve never read an entire book devoted to the subject of modesty, but I’ve read several articles and chapters on the subject.

These articles and chapters focused on things like bathing suits, movies, wedding dresses, and lipstick.

And none of the articles ever began like this book does:

“In the pages that follow, we will not focus on your wardrobe.”

Challies and Glenn (two guys) have written Modest, a book about modesty for both men and women that does not include measurements for skirt-lengths or lists of movies.

So, then, what is Modest about if not the specific “measurements” of modesty?

Modest is about applying the gospel to modesty in its full biblical scope.

Some may assume the “full biblical scope” means everything from stilettos to head coverings. But the authors of Modest feel that the Bible addresses both men and women and speaks of modesty in regards to speech, behavior, and dress.

Challies and Glenn also provide an extensive discussion about what modesty is not:

“Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion that can give some appearance of being the genuine article but that is in the end of no value (none!) in our battle with the sinful and inordinate desires of our hearts. If we reduce modesty to certain rules of dress, we are completely separating the concept of modesty from the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a result, we may have the appearance of godliness, but not a whole lot more.”

When I first heard about this book I was particularly interested to read it because of the context in which I live. Many of my friends and neighbors abide by codes of modesty that are both religiously and culturally-based. These codes inform the things they do, wear, and say. And I, as an expatriate living in a host country, try to abide by some of these codes out of love and respect.

A question that I have wrestled with for the four years we have lived here is this: As I seek to demonstrate modesty in this culture what makes my modesty distinctly Christian?

As a Christian, I understand that my choices in modesty have less to do with the rules listed on the sign at the mall and more to do with my love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Above all, I want to please the Lord in everything I do, don’t do, say, don’t say, wear, and don’t wear. For the sake of love for my Lord and my neighbor, I make certain choices in dress and conduct.

I’m thankful for this book because I’ve personally come to a greater appreciation of how my personal behavior and choices are an outflow and entailment of the gospel.

But considering how the gospel motivates our modesty isn’t just for the person who lives in cross-cultural settings- it’s for every Christian. Here’s the endorsement I wrote for Modest:

“As a Christian who lives in a diverse global city, I need this book. Every day I make conscious decisions regarding modesty as well as commit unintentional cultural faux pas. What does the gospel have to say about these things? I need the love of Christ to shape how I think about modesty in all of life; it’s not just about bikinis and burqas. The authors discuss how a biblical perspective of modesty delves into the depths of the human heart and applies the life-giving good news of the gospel. Modest is wonderfully edifying, encouraging, and practical.”

Here’s one final word from Modest before I direct you to some links to read more about this new book:

“So the most fundamental reason we’re writing this book is a gospel reason. We need to be sure that our understanding of modesty flows from the gospel and leads to gospel love. If it doesn’t, we’ve missed the mark and our modesty is no virtue at all.”

Read chapter titles and more on the publisher’s website here.

Modest is available from Amazon in print and Kindle format.

Gloria (@gloriafurman) is mostly from Texas. In 2008 she moved to the Middle East with her husband Dave to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai. They are raising three fun kiddos. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway 2013).


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paula August 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I subscribed to Cruciform Press last month (Killing Calvinism was excellent!) and am anxiously watching my mailbox for this one!


2 Melissa August 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Looks like a great book! FYI when I clicked the Amazon link it took me to the wrong page.


3 Joey Cochran August 11, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Excellent review! I really hope this book makes a global impact on our perspective of modesty. Praying for you and Dave in your ministry!


4 Lynn Morrissey August 14, 2012 at 12:43 am

Thank you so much for your review of this book. It sounds wonderful in addressing the biblical foundations of modesty. I also read Challies’s own words and that men’s immodesty is also addressed. While women are particularly culpable in the area of immodest attire, in particular, a number of men certainly qualify as well. However, no one ever says anything about that. Might I add that Challies and Glenn are not the first to address this issue from a biblical standpoint. I refer you to Dr. David Vaughan and his wife, Diane’s, excellent biblically based book called The Beauty of Modesty: Cultivating Virtue in the Face of a Vulgar Culture. It’s the best book (so far) that I have read on this subject. Thank you so much for addressing it, Ms. Furman.


5 Aimee Byrd August 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’m looking forward to receiving this one in my mailbox. I think it will be good for adults, as well a teens!


6 Betsy August 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Thanks so much for reviewing this book. This topic really interests me for some of the same reasons that it interests you. I live in Turkey, have to consider my own form of dress, and since we have two extremes here: mini skirts and spaghetti straps vs. total black burka (çarşaf in Turkish) sometimes I’ve found myself with the task of advising muslim background Jesus followers on how to dress as they seek freedom in Christ, but still want to cultivate a respectful witness in a Muslim society.

I love the principle of attitude and heart over RULES.


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