the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities; the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level; behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency
To speak on the topic of modesty, we must first understand the words unassuming or moderate. Unassuming is an adjective meaning not pretentious or arrogant. Moderate is a verb meaning to make or become less extreme, intense, rigorous, or violent. With those two extended definitions, we can presume that modesty is the act of not being pretentious or arrogant as well as being less extreme or intense in nature.
As I did my research on modesty in Scripture, the actual word itself is not found very often. The one place it did come up was in 1 Timothy, which was written by Paul.
And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 NLT
Now, what people may fail to realize is that Paul was discussing the type of modesty that should be observed in places of worship. His message was pretty straightforward, that women should draw attention to themselves by the things that they do and not by their appearance.
Paul goes on to say:
Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 NLT
Now the subject matter in this particular part of the passage has been greatly debated over the years regarding the role of women teaching in the Church, but that is a discussion for another time. What I find concerning is there is no reference to men and modesty.
So where in the Bible is there a discussion about men and modesty?
Honestly, my original character choice for a discussion on modesty was Joseph. But then after finding these scriptures in 1 Timothy, I included them. But I was not satisfied with the women-only modesty discussion. Then after careful thought, and nudging by the Holy Spirit, I decided to explore a character that we would most likely never choose as being modest –Peter.
Peter was among the very first disciples called by Jesus (see the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) along with Andrew, Peter’s brother, and two other brothers named James and John. Jesus would later include Peter, James, and John within His inner circle. In fact, these three would witness quite a few miraculous events with Jesus, including the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36).
As a disciple, Peter was always audacious or brazen in his dealings with Christ. Why?
Because at the time, Peter was a fisherman. Fishermen were macho men who could be quick tempered and use vulgar, rude, or crude language. They were customarily uneducated but had strong survival skills and abundant wits (what we would call street smarts) for conquering the seas and navigating the area markets. Stereotypically, they were men of action, very physical, and unafraid of others.
This describes what we know of Peter totally! Peter, prior to meeting Jesus, was the TOTAL OPPOSITE of modesty.
This was the guy, during his first encounter with Jesus, informed Christ that he, Peter, was a sinner and asked Jesus to go away. But Jesus being Jesus told him not to fear and that he would become a fisher of people (Luke 5:8-10).
Peter would continue his beautiful journey with Jesus and develop a mighty faith, but he faltered often along the way. Like in Matthew 14, when he stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus walking on the water, but then sank like a rock when he took his eyes off the Savior. Or in Matthew 26, when Jesus was informing the disciples that He was about to be arrested and they would desert Him, but Peter vehemently denies it will happen with him. (Spoiler alert: it does!) How about when Jesus and the disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter cuts off the guard’s ear during Jesus’ arrest.
Time after time Peter’s immodesty would slip out, but Jesus loved Peter wholeheartedly and continued to use him for Kingdom work..
After Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, Peter fully forgiven for his detours and restored by the Lord became one of the main spokesmen for the apostles. Though uneducated, he spoke with confidence to crowds of thousands, conveying to them the Good News and converting them to what is now called Christianity. For thirty plus years, he would go on to perform many miracles, including raising the dead (Acts 9). Traveling many places to share the gospel, he would be persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately put to death for his faith.
In his time spent with Jesus and well after, Peter would gradually mature. His demeanor would soften. However, Peter would continue to be immodest in one area. He was NEVER modest in sharing his faith (e.g. Acts 10 and 11).
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel-that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
…And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all-the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:34-36, 42-43 NLT
It’s amazing that Jesus chose to place Peter, one of the most immodest people He could have chosen, in His inner circle. However, Jesus used Peter to show just how endless His love is, how encompassing His grace and mercy are for all, and most of all, how His forgiveness gives us everlasting life.
So, with Peter as an example, should we show modesty in how we worship God and confess our faith in Jesus Christ? Should we be unassuming or moderate in our abilities when we witness to unsaved people? Or will we be bold and outspoken like Peter?
Bottom line: What’s modesty got to do with it?
First and foremost, let us give honor to our Almighty God in Heaven. Father God, it is written that we should be modest in appearance when we worship, but it is also written that we should come boldly to the throne. Modestly is not how I want to worship and praise You, dear God. I want to shout it out and let the whole world know how wonderful and marvelous You are. I thank you that Peter was an example of immodesty and that You forgave him even when he messed up. I thank you for allowing us to also mess up and be forgiven in the same way. I thank you for not showing favoritism and for loving us all as much as You loved Peter. I pray that You keep Your hand on us so that when we use our abilities to advance Your kingdom, we can leave modesty behind. I thank you for all Your blessings, Your grace, and Your mercy which you impart on us daily. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
Written by Melony Henderson
All scriptures are taken from the NLT.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.