On June 18 Matthew West released a song called “Modest is Hottest,” a humorous take on his attempts at helping his daughters dress well. And then everybody got mad at him. Most of the backlash has been from the Christian community, with some accusing him of perpetuating the idea that women are to blame for men’s sexual sins. According to West, the song was simply meant to poke fun at himself for “being an over-protective dad,” and he’s since removed it from most platforms.
I’m not a fan of the song for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think the phrase “modest is hottest“ (which West certainly didn’t invent, and might even be mocking) completely misses the point of modesty by tying it to the very unhelpful term “hot” and thereby reducing it to just another way of increasing sexual attractiveness. Dressing modestly out of a desire to be “hottest” is supremely missing the point.
Secondly, the song trivializes and even parodies what is no laughing matter: the responsibility that dads have to shepherd their daughters’ hearts on the issue of clothing choices. In my experience, most Christian dads out there don’t need to be told to lighten up or have fun poked at them on this issue. The opposite, in my experience, is true: most Christian dads are either terrified of speaking up about the way their teenage daughters dress or they are completely clueless that they have any responsibility in the matter in the first place.
In other words, I have almost the opposite problem with the song that lots of other people did. And that saddens me the most. The response that West received from the evangelical community is just another demonstration of how poorly we actually understand the issue of modesty and how far from the Bible our thinking on the matter has drifted.
This is something I talked about in a sermon on Genesis 3:20-24 back on May 30–almost 3 weeks before West’s song dropped. You can read or watch those comments here:
I have a fifth observation on this passage which might sound really obvious when I first make it, but here goes: God clothed Adam and Eve when they were the only two people on planet earth.
Just think about that: they were not covering up for anybody else. It was just them. From this point forward, the normal state for humans was to be clothed.
We can assume that Adam and Eve would not have worn these skins when they were being intimate together as husband and wife. But except for those special times, the two of them wore clothes.
This verse is where the basis for our understanding of modesty comes from. We should cover our bodies. When we don’t cover our bodies, we are making a invitation to intimacy, whether we intend it that way our not. That’s just what’s happening. With rare exception, it’s baked into us from this point onwards.
I’m spelling this out because we live in a culture today that says that people can show as much of their bodies as they want, and if you have a problem then it’s your problem. You’re the bad guy, not them.
And sadly, many Christians have bought into this. There’s been a real rebellion against the whole idea of modesty in recent years. Instead, I hear Christians saying things like “it’s my body, and God made it good, and I can show as much of it as I want, and if you take that in a wrong direction then it’s your problem.”
And Genesis 3:21 shows us how silly these new ideas are. Back when it was just Adam and Eve, clothing was normal. Being unclothed was inherently intimate.
That’s why advertisements so often portray people wearing suggestive clothing. When we see someone unclothed, or clothed in a way that draws our attention to what’s underneath their clothing, we experience an invitation to intimacy which can feel incredibly compelling.
Now please hear me: as Christians, we must reject any invitation to intimacy that doesn’t come from the person we’re married to. We’re not helpless. We must say no and look away. But I’ve found that fleeing from lust is actually easier to do when I understand what’s going on. A visual invitation to intimacy has been made. It’s up to me to reject that invitation. But that is what’s going on. This is who we are.
And by the way, this is the reason that if you look throughout the world and history you’ll see that any culture with low standards of modesty also has low standards of morality. I’ve heard people talk about the Pacific Islands and how great it was that they didn’t wear many clothes before the missionaries arrived. What we’re not told is that they had basically no morality when it came to physical intimacy. Faithfulness in marriage was not a thing at all. You could be intimate with whoever you wanted whenever you wanted. And you see similar patterns the world over. From the time of Adam and Eve onwards, there is an almost unbroken connection between modesty and morality.
So here’s what I’m really saying here: modesty is not just a cultural idea. Modesty is baked into us as humans because we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. And we Christians should not throw in the towel on the idea of modesty. We shouldn’t be surprised that our culture is doing that, but we should know better.Full message: ebcnipawin.ca/sermons/beginnings/the-first-exile/