Modesty (8) – A Word to Fathers

C.J. Mahaney

The fifth of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).

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Dads, I want to urge you to take responsibility for your daughters’ dress. Fathers are absolutely essential to the cultivation of modesty. When a young lady dresses immodestly, it usually means her father has failed to lead, care for and protect her.  Without a father’s care and protection, she may be daily exposed to the lustful minds of men.

My three daughters are grown and married now, but from an early age I sought to impress upon them the importance of modesty. Before an article of clothing became a permanent part of their wardrobe my girls had to get my approval. This wasn’t always easy—for them or for me. Modest clothing is hard to find. Sometimes, they’d arrive home after an all day shopping trip only to hear me say: “That’s not gonna, work, my love. I’m so sorry, but exhaustion from shopping doesn’t excuse immodesty. We’re not going to compromise.”

Here’s what my daughter Nicole wrote about how my wife and I led her and her sisters:

My parents were committed to raising modest daughters. They educated us about how men are stimulated visually. They examined any article of clothing that came into the house, giving it a thumbs up or sending us straight back to the store with the receipt. I’ll admit it was frustrating to spend hours at the mall and have nothing to show for it. There were moments when that frivolous, selfish desire for cool, tight jeans overtook my desire to serve others. That’s when Mom and Dad would remind me of the young men who were trying to glorify God. My clothes could either help or hinder them. When they put it like that, I was quickly saddened by my selfishness.*

We must not simply oversee our daughter’s closets; we must teach them God’s perspective of modest dress, and educate them about the temptations of men.  And we must have clear standards, informed by Scripture and not culture. This will make it easier for them to follow our leadership when difficult choices are necessary.

Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss provides a two simple criterion for modesty: Women should avoid “exposing intimate parts of the body” or “emphasizing private or alluring parts of the body.” My wife and daughters (at my request) have compiled more specific suggestions in their Modesty Heart Check.

Ultimately, fathers, your job to raise a modest daughter culminates and concludes on her wedding day.

Several years ago, my friend Lance Quinn asked Carolyn and me to teach at a weekend retreat to  his congregation, The Bible Church of Little Rock. One of the messages he asked me to share was on this topic of modesty. At the conclusion of the sermon, the church’s worship pastor, Todd Murray, presented an additional appeal to the congregation. He urged all girls to consider modesty even when shopping for formal attire and wedding dresses. His words were laden with care and compassion, yet they carried an appropriate soberness. Here’s a little of what he said:

Ladies, please don’t forget to apply these principles of modesty to formal events and weddings. In recent years I have become increasingly grieved by the immodest dresses of both brides and bridesmaids at the weddings that I officiate. I have observed a number of young ladies in our fellowship who have dressed modestly all their lives appearing on their wedding day in extremely provocative dresses, exposing more of themselves than on any other day of their lives.

I assume the best about what is going on in the hearts of these young women. I don’t think that they went to the wedding dress shop determined to be provocative. No doubt, they just wanted a dress that would be elegant on this day that they have dreamed of all their lives. When a bride and mother set out on their expedition to find a wedding dress, they are, quite naturally, thinking like  . . .  women! Unfortunately, there is no one in the shop who is thinking like a man.

I’d like to make a radical proposal, girls. Why not take your father with you to the wedding boutique? If that thought is just too much for you (or your dad!) at least consider taking the dress out on approval and allowing your dad to see it before you make your final purchase.

Todd’s proposal might be radical by cultural standards, but it is the biblical norm. The standard of modesty and self-control shouldn’t change on your daughter’s wedding day. If anything, it should be even more important to honor God on that momentous occasion.

Having three married daughters, I know the challenges involved in finding modest wedding attire. However, with a lot of time and effort, it can be done. As Todd mentioned, the dad’s role is crucial in this process. I helped our daughters by providing guidelines for appropriate bridal wear as they went shopping with their mom and then giving final approval to their choices.

Once again, please be on guard against the temptation to be self-righteous toward those who choose differently. If you think a bride is dressed immodestly, her wedding day isn’t the appropriate occasion to comment on her dress. Simply rejoice with her in the goodness of God displayed in her marriage.

But if you’re a bride-to-be, or the father of a daughter who’s preparing to get married, I hope these thoughts serve you in your effort to plan a ceremony that brings glory to God.


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Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org;  published on Sovereign Grace Ministries, 2008

<— to part 1                                                                                  —> Part 9

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