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with C.J. Mahaney | March 30, 2011
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Does your appearance reflect the attitude of your heart? On today's broadcast, C.J. Mahaney, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, talks about the power of modesty.

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  • Does your appearance reflect the attitude of your heart? On today's broadcast, C.J. Mahaney, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, talks about the power of modesty.

Does your appearance reflect the attitude of your heart?


With C.J. Mahaney
March 30, 2011
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Bob:  Ladies, take just a minute, if you would—look at what you're wearing right now, today.  Would you describe it as modest?  Here's Pastor C.J. Mahaney.

C.J.:  Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline.  All respectable apparel is the fruit of a godly heart.  Ladies, your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 30th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we get to the heart of the matter when it comes to the subject of modesty. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  You know, summer is not that far away, at least in some parts of the country.  Summertime will be here pretty soon; and one of the things about summertime is, well, the weather gets warmer.  When the weather gets warmer, you wear more comfortable clothing.  You wear shorts, you wear t-shirts, and you just get a little more comfortable, right?

Dennis:  Right.  And one of the concerns that I've had about our churches is that in the process of kind of relaxing our dress code, we can suffer from a couple of extremes.  One is sloppiness and going to church a little too casual, or we can go to church and—especially those who are women—perhaps failure to put enough clothing on at church.  I'll never forget a number of years ago, I was seated in the balcony of a church; and I was seated right behind a young lady who, in my opinion, was inappropriately dressed to be at church.

First of all, I wondered how she stayed warm in the midst of the air conditioning; but secondly, it was right in line with my sight of the preacher, and it was, like, what am I going to do?

Bob:  It was distracting.

Dennis:  Yeah, and I think, in that situation, I got up and moved to remove the line of sight, because it simply wasn't doing my worship any good to be sitting behind a young woman who, frankly, needed to hear what the preacher on today's broadcast has to say about the subject of modesty.

Bob:  Yes, and it's not just what we wear to church.  It really is a cultural issue and how we dress throughout the culture.

Dennis:  I'd agree with that.

Bob:  And it can be an issue for men as well as for women.  It is entirely possible, and I'm starting to see more and more of this—young men who are not dressing in appropriate and modest ways. 

We have featured a message before on FamilyLife Today from C. J. Mahaney, who used to be the pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and now gives leadership to a whole movement of churches. 

C. J. spoke on the subject of modesty a number of years ago and was using as his text, the passage in 1 John that talks about how we are not to love the world or the things in the world; but our heart needs to be focused on things other than the things of this world.  Really, in this message, he addresses the fact that modesty is fundamentally a heart issue.

Dennis:  And, Bob, I believe it is our responsibility as adults first to model modesty in our dress but, secondly, to instruct the younger generation in how they should dress.  That means that we, as parents, need to take, on occasion, an unpopular stand with our teenagers when we tell them to change what they're wearing and go put something else on.

I don't know how many times I've had to ask one of my children, who is really dressed immodestly, to say, "Now, wait a second, let's recalibrate here.  I love you.  I am sorry, but you need to go upstairs and change." 

Bob:  Well, and what we're going to hear today —C. J. Mahaney is going to help us think biblically about this subject—help all of us think biblically.  Let's listen together.  Here is Pastor C. J. Mahaney.

[Pre-recorded Message]

C.J.:  The title of today's message is “The Soul of Modesty.”  The title is intentional and informed by Scripture.  It draws attention, first and foremost, to the heart, not appearance.  I will seek to make three points, to draw three points from this passage this morning:

Number 1:  The Attitude of the Modest Woman. 

Number 2:  The Appearance of the Modest Woman. 

Number 3:  The Allegiance of the Modest Woman. 

The Attitude, Appearance, and Allegiance of the Modest Woman. 

We intentionally begin with the heart.  We begin with the attitude of the modest woman.  Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline.  And the emphasis upon the heart is undeniably present in this passage.  Let me draw your attention to verse 9; and let me draw your attention to the phrase, "with modesty and self-control." 

“The women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel”—that would be her appearance, and her attitude—her motive—is emphasized in the following, “with modesty and self-control.”  All respectable apparel is the fruit of a godly heart.  Ladies, your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation.  If you profess godliness, your motivation is to be distinct from our culture as it relates to appearance, and dress, and fashion.  It is to be motivated by modesty and self-control.

First, modesty—it's the avoidance of clothing and adornment that is extravagant, showy, revealing, or sexually enticing.  Listen—immodesty –immodesty—is much more than wearing a low-cut skirt or dress.  Immodesty is an expression of arrogance.  Immodesty reveals the absence of humility.  Immodesty is the act of drawing undue attention to yourself.  A modest heart always precedes modest dress.  Modesty is humility expressed in dress; a desire to serve others, particularly men, and not promote or provoke sensuality or lust.

Now, I think you'll agree with me that modesty and self-control are certainly foreign to the fashion designers.  Their goal in designing clothes is sensual provocation.  That's their motive; that's their purpose.  Modesty and self-control are distinctly present in the godly woman, and they make a distinct difference in her dress and in her wardrobe.

John MacArthur has written, "How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention?  The answer," he writes, "starts in the intent of the heart.”  That is exactly right, which is where Paul starts here—the answer starts in the intent of the heart.

A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses.  Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood?  Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshiping God, or is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty, or worse—to attempt to allure men sexually?  A woman who focuses on worshiping God will consider carefully how she is dressed because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.

Some questions, ladies, to ask in relation to modesty and self-control as the intent of your heart in relation to dress and wardrobe:  What statement do your clothes make about your heart?  There really is an inseparable relationship between your heart and your clothes.  Number 2:  Is your shopping for clothes and purchase of clothes informed and governed by modesty and self-control?  Do you take God to The Gap?  Third:  In choosing clothing for this morning, whose attention do you desire; and whose approval do you crave?  The Attitude of the Modest Woman.

Second, the Appearance of the Modest Woman—please note again in verse 9, "Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire."  Now, it's very important that we note the context of this passage. 

Beginning in Chapter 2, concluding at the end of Chapter 3, Paul is clearly addressing the church gathered.  The context is addressing the local church and related to the corporate gathering of the church.  Please note:  in Chapter 3:15, he writes to Timothy, "If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the Living God."

Now, certainly, these restrictions—these directions, these instructions, these commands—are not restricted to the corporate gathering of the church; but they are particularly related to the church gathered.  When the church gathers, as the church gathers, Paul wants there to be no disruptions and no distractions to worship, and prayer, and teaching.  So in verse 8, he addresses the men, "Let there be no disruption by the men due to anger and quarreling."  And in verse 9 and 10, he addresses the women, "Let there be no distraction by the women due to their dress." 

No disruption by the men due to anger and quarreling; no distraction by the women due to their dress.  He does not want there to be any distraction when the church gathers by the women through ostentatious or immodest dress.  He wants the women to adorn themselves in respectable apparel—not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly attire. 

Now, it would appear that the most acute problem Paul is addressing at this time were women who, through their dress, through their ostentatious dress, separated themselves from the poor and identified sinfully with the wealthy.  The dress here that is described by Paul—“braided hair, pearls, gold, costly attire"—would have been part of the cultural caricature of wealthy women or, at worst, part of the attire of prostitutes.

Please don't misunderstand.  The issue here isn't braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire in and of themselves.  The issue here is the association through this attire with values that are clearly worldly and not godly.  At this time, dress of this kind was a statement of association, a statement of identification with the world and ultimately drew attention to that individual. 

So please do not conclude from this passage that there is a categorical prohibition against a woman enhancing her appearance.  I do not believe that is accurate.  I do not believe that can be justified or substantiated from this passage or any other passage; and, again, to quote Mr. Knight in his commentary—he writes, "The reason for Paul's prohibition of elaborate hairstyles, ornate jewelry, and extremely expensive clothing becomes clear when one reads in the contemporary literature of the inordinate time, expense, and effort that elaborately braided hair and jewels demanded, not just as ostentatious display but also as the mode of dress of harlots." 

Ladies, the issue isn't so much, “What?”; it is, “Why?”  These are illustrations of an association and identification with the sinful, worldly culture.  Paul does not want those associations to characterize the appearance of the godly woman; and they become a distraction, particularly in the context of corporate worship.  Now, listen carefully, there is timeless relevance and discernment for us in this passage—timeless—because we must do the hard work necessary to discern what statement our hair and our attire is making today. 

You must ask yourself, "Is your appearance and dress consistent with biblical values of modesty and self-control and respectable apparel; or does your hairstyle, does your dress, reveal an inordinate identification and fascination with sinful, cultural values?”

Ladies, who inspires your dress?  Who, through your dress, are you identifying with?  Are your role models the godly women of Scripture or the worldly women of our culture?  Are your role models Esther, Deborah, and Sarah; or are your role models Britney Spears and Halle Berry? 

Ladies, your dress is not to be an identification or association with this sinful culture.  It is not to be a distraction to the church gathered, and it is not to draw undue attention to you.  It is no small challenge to address this concern because great potential for misunderstanding exists.  I hope to avoid all misunderstanding.  I hope you hear my heart; I hope you feel my care. 

Most of all, I hope you consider and submit to Holy Scripture, knowing the goodness of God and knowing that it is God's good purpose for you to include this command and provide you with this discernment.

Bob:  Well, we've been listening together to Part 1 of a message from Pastor C. J. Mahaney, who used to be the pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about the subject of modesty and, “Who are you dressing for?”  That's a good question, isn't it?

Dennis:  It really is a good question.  I have three points I want to make very quickly in wrapping up today's program.  First of all, you need to take to heart what he said—don't blast people; love them. 

Bob, I'll never forget a woman who came to one of our Weekend to Remember ® conferences.  One of the women on the front row was dressed in short shorts and an inappropriate top.  But not long after I saw her, someone told me where she had come from and what was going on in her life; and you know what?  We did our best to express love to her throughout that weekend and welcome her to the conference. 

And, you know, that's what we're to do with church.  Church is to be an inviting place where we don't call the unbelieving community to live by our standards; but, instead, we love them and welcome them.  I think as we talk about modesty, we can quickly become judgmental if we're not careful.  We shouldn't be judgmental.

Secondly, and I want to talk more tomorrow about this, but we, as parents, must model the biblical perspective on this—not only in what we wear but in what we watch.  If we are watching television programs and movies where women are dressed inappropriately, and then we turn around and tell our daughters to dress differently, I believe we suffer from hypocrisy at that point.

And then, third, specifically, “Are you teaching your sons and daughters from the Scripture in the calm moment—not in the middle of the storm?”  In other words, the time to teach is not when you told your daughter to go upstairs and change on Sunday morning, 10 minutes before you're to leave for church.  That's not the time to instruct and teach, although that might not hurt occasionally; but that's not ultimately when you are going to have a teachable moment with your child.  Instead, use a family night to talk about the subject of modesty.  What is it?  What does it look like?  And what does it mean for us, as Christians, to be modest in a culture that doesn't know what the real definition of modesty is?

Bob: The time to start having that conversation is not when your daughter is 15 years old.  You start having that conversation when she is still very young. 

In fact, I appreciate our friend, Dannah Gresh, who has made this something that is a focus of her ministry.  A number of years ago, we put together a resource for moms and daughters called "Secret Keeper Girl" that was a kit that included a CD and some interactive materials so that you could have some activities—some dates with your daughter—designed to address this subject of modesty. 

Dannah has recently released a book called 8 Great Dates for Moms & Daughters:  How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion, and...Modesty!  Again, you do this with a pre-teen rather than with a 15-year-old.  That way, as your daughter is growing, some of these thoughts are already in her heart and mind as she does move into adolescence. 

You can go on our website at for information on the book on dates for moms and daughters or about the interactive kit we have put together.  Again, go to for more information on these resources. 

There is also information about how you can get a copy of C. J.’s message on modesty.  The website is, or call us toll-free: 1-800-FLTODAY; 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY.  We can let you know how you can get copies of the books we have talked about or a copy of C. J.’s message on modesty. 

This week, we are coming to our regular FamilyLife Today listeners and asking you if you will consider something that really only a handful of people in most of the communities where we air FamilyLife Today actually do.  We are asking you to consider becoming a Legacy Partner, someone who supports this ministry on a monthly basis.  It is that monthly support that provides the financial foundation for this radio program to continue on this station and on a network of stations all across the country. 

This week, we have set a goal of 1,200 new Legacy Partners.  We are asking if you would consider becoming one of those 1,200 this week.  You can go online at for more information on what it means to be a Legacy Partner.  There is information there about the resources we make available to help support our Legacy Partners each month as you try to raise your family and strengthen your marriage. 

You can sign up online if you would like at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY with any questions you have about becoming a Legacy Partner; or call and sign up:  1-800-358-6329.  That is 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY. 

Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance for even thinking about it.  We appreciate your willingness to give it some consideration.  We hope you will sign up.  We would love to have you as a part of our Legacy Partner team. 

We want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow when we are going to hear Part 2 of C. J. Mahaney’s message on modesty.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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Episodes in this Series

Modesty And Appearance Day 3
with C.J. Mahaney April 1, 2011
Dad - are you teaching your daughters about modesty?
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with C.J. Mahaney March 31, 2011
Modesty never goes out of style.
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