Modesty requires women to cover up.
People often read 1 Timothy 2:9 as “Women must dress modestly…” and they stop there, assuming they know the meaning.
They ignore the rest of the verse and believe it to be an instruction for women to cover up their bodies, instilling arbitrary rules and ignoring the historical context.
Does modesty mean cover up your body?
In Greco-Roman times, it was common for women to climb the social ladder by out-dressing everyone in the room. Whoever had the tallest hairstyle and the most expensive jewelry won!
Context is key when we read the rest of what Paul writes:
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.1 Timothy 2:9
This text is not about exposing too much skin. It’s about church being a place for common ground and harmony, not a fashion show.
The word “modesty” originally had nothing to do with clothes or covering up. As late as 1828, Webster’s Dictionary continued to define modesty without mentioning clothing.
Eugene Peterson’s The Message got Paul’s idea across when he wrote that modesty is, “not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions, but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.”
Christian naturists believe that it is possible to be modest while one is completely nude, just as it is possible to be immodest while fully clothed. Naturist or not, modesty doesn’t require clothing. It only requires a heart that is humble before the King.