What makes a person’s behavior or appearance immodest or lewd? When does immodesty become lewdness? How will we teach our children to be modest? How can we have a standard for modesty? The Christian can turn to Christ’s words and those words that He gave to His Apostles and prophets.
Jesus condemned lewdness to be evil along with adultery and fornication (Mark 7:20-23). Lewdness is defined in 2 Peter 2:18 meaning to “allure through the lusts of the flesh”. Not only is lust a sin (Matt. 5:28), but the person who causes others to lust is sinning. Lewdness is lasciviousness from the Greek word aselgeia appearing 9 times in the Christian Scriptures. Jesus warned of such people, who allure other to temptations (Luke 17:1). Lewdness can consist of enticing lusts by revealing clothing, lack of clothing, sensual dancing, provocative talk, touching, and even intoxication. Those who practice lewdness will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). On a very basic level, Christians and all people should know this. Their consciences should convict them of the truth. Yet, the Bible has more to say in defining lewdness and immodesty.
The Scriptures say that uncovering or revealing nakedness is lewdness (Lev. 18:17ff). Yet, what is nakedness? To further understand nakedness, God gave instructions for the coverings of the priests in Old Testament. Priests were told not to expose their nakedness while going up the steps to the Altar (Exo. 20:26). God commanded specific undergarments stating, “And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs.” The Hebrew word yarek for “thigh” means the softness of one’s hip area or one’s loins. This is the nakedness that is to be covered and not revealed. This is the same word that is most commonly called the “loins” from which children are produced (Judg. 8:30). This word is used for the hollow of Jacob’s hip, which was placed out of socket when he wrestled with the Lord (Gen. 32:25ff). Warriors strapped their swords on this same part of the body, which is the hip and not the knees (Exo. 32:27, Judg. 3:16, 21, Psa. 45:3). Therefore, the priest undergarments did not go from their waist to their knees, but from the waist and covered the softness of their hips to cover their nakedness. Knowing that this hip area is nakedness. As a priest in God’s Temple, the Church; the Christian must likewise refrain any lewdness as Jesus spoke against, and this lewdness includes the revealing one’s body specifically this area of nakedness. To get a fuller understanding of what is nude and lewd, let us consider Adam and Eve.
As when asked about marriage, Christ referred back to the institution of marriage in the beginning, the Genesis. Likewise, concerning clothing, let us go back to the beginning and learn about clothing that covers nakedness. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden, and they were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). In the Bible, the reference to one’s “shame” are one’s private parts (Isa. 47:3, Rev. 3:18, 16:15, cf. Lev. 18, 20). Yet when their eyes were opened and they knew right from wrong, then they beheld their nakedness and sewed fig leaves together into “coverings” or “aprons” (Gen. 3:7). In the Hebrew, these coverings meant a sash from the Hebrew khagore used 7 times in the Old Testament writings. For instance, Isaiah described corrupt women, who would be stripped bare wearing only a sash over the loins (Isa. 32:11, cf. 1 Sam. 18:4, 2 Sam. 18:11, 1 Kings 2:5, 2 Kings 3:21, Isa. 3:24). Clearly, this is just what Adam and Eve did. See, Adam and Eve barely covered themselves with sashes made of fig leaves, and God said that they were still naked (Gen. 3:10-11). Even though someone may be wearing clothing, they may still be naked especially if all they are covering is their loins, which again is the softness of their hips. See, God found that Adam and Eve were still naked, so “for man and woman the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). The Hebrew word for this tunic means “hanging from the shoulder” (Strong’s Concordance). By inference, this covering went from the shoulders and down below to cover all of their shame, which includes all of the softness of their hips and below so that nothing is revealed by appearance or form. God made this covering to cover men from the shoulders down as much as women. Now, we can know. Are we modestly dressed?
For anyone to be modest especially Christians, remember that Jesus spoke against the evil of lewdness, which includes revealing our nudity. That nudity is clearly defined within the Scriptures for men and women. Further instruction is given for Christian woman, Christian women are instructed to wear modest apparel in 1 Timothy 2:9, which also uses the Greek word for apparel that means which hangs from the shoulders. Because of Genesis and this instruction, we know that the chest and the breasts are to be covered along with the abdomen (cf. Ezek. 23:34-35). Knowing what is lewd and immodest, let us abandon all lewdness focusing our minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh (Rom. 8:5-11). Let clothe ourselves and not entice others to lust. Our souls depend upon following Christ, and thus following His words opposing lewdness.