Instead of keeping parents from addressing modesty with teens (see Part 1), the fact that there are more important issues in life can actually help motivate such conversations.
Appearance Can Become an Idol
While some types of modesty training could potentially increase the propensity for obsessing about the outward appearance, spiritually motivated biblical teaching centers around the principle that we shouldn’t be focused on the outward at all.
Whether a person’s tendency is to wear clothing that draws attention, clothing that reveals, clothing that fits in with the latest trends, or simply clothing that matches perfectly, we veer from God’s purpose when we focus on our clothing more than on our character. Whether it’s to please the fashionista within or gain attention or approval from others, a focus on externals robs us of valuable time and energy (and usually finances) that could more wisely be invested in eternal things (Matthew 6:21).
Heart Attitude Is Significant
The fact that outward appearance is less significant than the heart should not cause us to ignore the images we project — or how our children are forming theirs. While only God can truly see our hearts, the fact remains that our appearance does say something about what’s in our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). One author says it this way: “What we choose to wear still tells others who we are and whom we love. . . . Out of the abundance of the heart, our clothing speaks.”
That loose paraphrase of Luke 6:45 gets at the crux of the matter: If someone is dressing to get attention — or if they are spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on outward appearance — there are priorities out of kilter that need to be addressed.
Teenage Needs Require Wise Responses
As parents, we can thank God for opportunities to see when our children’s hearts need counsel; at the same time, we cannot assume that we know exactly what the heart problem is. For instance, people who dress in sensually revealing ways may be indicating their sexual desire, or they may simply be motivated by a desire to fit in, look attractive, or get the attention they crave.
We may need to probe to find out exactly what problem lies at the root of immodest dress, but we would be amiss as parents to ignore such an obvious indication of spiritual need. As we teach our teens to put off the sensual, narcissistic tendencies of the flesh, we need to help them replace those things with others-focused choices that honor God (Philippians 2:3; 1 Timothy 2:9, 10).
While it can be good and helpful to think through specific applications of the biblical principle of modesty, God’s Word does not lay out exact standards of dress. We need to evaluate what message specific clothing sends within our culture and individual subcultures. However and wherever we decide to “draw the line,” the most important aspect of addressing the topic of modesty is that we realize it’s about much more than what people do or do not see: It is a matter of the heart.