It seems almost oxymoronic to use the word “immodesty” in conjunction with the word “worship”; surely these two things do not go together! For most of us, immodest dress might be something we normally associate with distinctly different activities (things like swimming, parties, dances and so forth might come to mind); however, we do not generally think of a worship assembly or a Bible class as a venue for immodest dress.
There is an important principle in the scriptures regarding worship that we ought not to overlook—to wit, that God’s children ought to do all we possibly can to keep our minds focused on worshipping Him when we assemble in His presence. Note that in the Old Testament, the priests were to be dressed so as “to cover their nakedness” (Exod. 28:42, 39:28; Lev. 6:10, 16:4; Ezek. 44:18). All of these passages mention that the priests were to wear “breeches” under their garments. In Exodus 20:26, the altar where they served was to be built so that they need not climb up to access it, lest their “nakedness” be exposed. In these contexts, the point of the Lord’s instruction is to prevent a worshipper’s thoughts being diverted from their proper focus by the sight of uncovered “private parts.” Note also that in the letter to the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:18), the Lord uses “nakedness” as a figure to illustrate the shame those Christians should have felt for their spiritual condition.
It is tempting to define “immodesty” in simplistic terms—to say “this short is too short” or “this reveals too much skin”—and then apply that definition as a sort of mechanical measure. However, this approach overlooks the essence of immodesty by ignoring the attitude which underlies it–a thing is immodest when it draws abnormal attention to itself. When we recognize that “modesty” means more than simply “covering up,” we begin to grasp why God gave instructions designed to prevent immodesty in a worship setting! “Immodesty” is not simply “exposing too much skin,” it also applies to inappropriate clothing (e.g., pajamas in the pulpit) and even includes some styles of attire (e.g., a tee-shirt with a beer company logo). Any attire that draws thoughts away from godly things is immodest. When our dress invites sinful thoughts or draws attention to it that belongs to God, it is immodest! This means a young man in sagging pants is no more modest than a woman in a low-cut blouse!
“Modest” means a balanced approach to attire which does not promote lust or ostentation. If our appearance detracts from God’s being seen in us or, in a worship setting, distracts others’ attention from God, we have become immodest. A blue-haired man with an earring may not excite the same comment in Austin or Seattle that he might in Amarillo or Searcy, but when we know that our attire says “look at ME!” we also know that it is immodest, and thus not fit for worship.
Remember that when we gather to study God’s word or to offer Him our praise and adoration, the focus should be on Him. To dress for that setting in a way that draws attention to self is to appear before God attired in unholiness, and to rob Him of the glory due to Him (1 Chron. 16:29). Let us determine to give no cause for shame or sin when we come into the presence of our Father!