“She needs a doily.”
This expression is occasionally used by me and my wife when a lady is showing a little too much skin. It’s a way for my wife to say, “Avert your eyes,” and for us to have a little fun with outdated modes of modesty at the same time.
Pre-Sin Nakedness & Post-Sin Clothedness
In my study through Genesis, I gave a longer than normal amount of thought to Adam and Eve’s pre-sin nakedness and post-sin clothedness. Modesty is not something that’s discussed in great length in the Scriptures. Some people view it as being very subjective and tied solely to our culture. But I’d just like to make two particular observations concerning a Hebrew word and a Hebrew man.
Let’s begin with some background. Genesis 3:7 tells us that immediately as Adam and Eve’s eyes were open to their sin, their first thought was they were unclothed. Even though they had been naked since their creation (and we can only guess how much time had passed since then) they were both immediately uncomfortable naked.
There was no one else to see them, and they were standing in front of the exact same person who had seen them naked their entire lives, yet they were ashamed.
The very first human occupation noted in the Bible is that of a gardener (Adam and Eve’s responsibility). The second was a tailor. The first was ordained by God; the second was created by sin. Sorry, seamstresses and tailors. :-)
The point is, they were immediately embarrassed by their nakedness and sought to remedy the situation. Later on when the Lord confronted them, nakedness again was brought up. “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (v. 10). Then for a third time our attention is brought to their nakedness because after Adam and Eve received the consequences of their sin, God Himself made them clothes.
What Kind of Clothes Did Adam and Eve Make?
1. What caught my attention was the description of the clothes Adam and Even made for themselves. The Hebrew word chagorah is often translated loincloth. “Loins” refers to a very specific region of the human body best defined as “the hips and the lower abdomen regarded as a part of the body to be clothed or as the region of strength and procreative power.” In the waking moments of their sin, Adam and Eve covered their reproductive organs. Now, I have no idea how long Eve’s hemline was, but I do know that the inherent indecency of revealing that area of their bodies was foremost in their minds.
The word used to describe the clothes God made for them has a broader connotation. The coat/tunic/robe/covering God made appears to have done a better job of covering them up than their own loincloths.
2. I don’t want to be unnecessarily descriptive here, but I believe this is an important point to make when discussing modesty; especially concerning women. My second observations come from the divinely inspired writings of a Hebrew man named Solomon. The Song of Solomon is a book that some Christian parents don’t want their young men reading. I can almost understand why. At the same time, it’s God’s Word and He didn’t include an “R” rating.
It is clear to see that Solomon had a pronounced preoccupation with breasts.
There. I said it.
This wouldn’t bear observing were it not included in the cannon of God. I believe it is safe to say, though, that inherent in men is a preoccupation (of one kind or another) for that particular area of a woman’s body. I understand that there are always exceptions, but history is fraught with countless literary examples, and the massive porn industry I think proves my point.
I shall speedily progress to my final thoughts without leaving too much time for unhealthy imagining.
So What is Modesty?
Modesty should be defined in its most base form as a covering of the reproductive organs. I believe it is fair to extend this to our posteriors as well. Both areas of the body were designed by God for procreation as well as waste removal. The obvious coupling by God of the front and back demand that we treat them equally.
But I don’t think we can leave modesty there. I also believe that our divine insight into the sexuality of human males dictates that in the same way sex should be saved for marriage, so should exposing a woman’s bosom.
It is clear to see that even secular society agrees with my observations. Most people feel very uncomfortable exposing those parts of their bodies in public. There are governmental ordinances forbidding indecent exposure. Even the term “Indecent exposure” refers to the three main areas I’ve detailed here. Where do these feelings of shame come from? They are inherent in our sinful humanity. Our sin causes us to be uncomfortable when we’re naked in the presence of other people. Of course, like any other sin, we can become immune and calloused.
No one can argue that nakedness is always attributed with extreme purity, shame, or sexuality. The first is impossible for us to achieve, the second should always be avoided, and the third has divine precepts governing it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must be modest.
Now, the last thing I want to do is be pharisaical. I don’t want to say something that God doesn’t say, but I would like to simply point out a wise idea.
If God wants my loins covered, then I should probably not stretch the tightest fabric known to man over it so that every detail, line, and curve is observable. The same would go for women’s upper bodies. If it’s that big of a deal (and we can see from Genesis that it is), why do we try to be as tight, low, and high as we can?
No, the Bible does not say that all skirts and shorts need to come to the knee. There is no divine three-finger rule. But the concept of modesty is evident and the importance of staying covered is obvious. God does not want us uncovering those areas of our bodies unless it’s necessary. Intercourse between a married heterosexual couple, emergency medical situations, and the unavoidable chores of being a parent of small children all fall within Christ-honoring forms of nudity. Otherwise . . . keep your clothes on.