Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Modeling Modesty

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, "Do your kids see modesty modeled at home?"

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Before you start teaching on it, before you start harping on it, before you start your list of rules for your kids about modesty, make sure that they have seen you model true modesty—what it means to have a modest heart, to have modest behavior, and to dress modestly.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, May 19. At what age should moms start teaching daughters about modesty? Nancy will address that as part of our current series, The Beauty of a Modest Heart.

Nancy: Titus chapter 2 gives us a mandate for our lives as women; whether we’re younger or older, we’re told that we have a training role as older women and a learning role as younger women. All of us are older women to someone, and all of us are younger women to someone. So we both need to be teachers and learners.

The Scripture says in that passage that older women are to teach the younger women some very practical life skills: How to love their husbands. I mean, that’s really practical, and it takes training. It doesn’t always come naturally. Well, it might on the honeymoon, but beyond that it takes some teaching and some help. How do I love this man, and how do I love these kids?

Training younger women how to love their children, and then how to be self-controlled, how to be pure, how to be working at home, kind, submissive to their own husbands, so that the Word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:2-3 paraphrased).

I know many of you are mothers, and you’re training your daughters, some of whom are real little, some of whom are teenagers, some of whom have been launched, sent out of the nest and are now young adults. Whatever the age of your children, this is part of the curriculum that you’re to train your children—even little girls, those younger women—how to love their husbands.

You say, “Well, my eight-year-old doesn’t have a husband to love.” But she probably will someday. So by the way you love your husband, you’re teaching your eight-year-old daughter how to some day love her husband.

Then it comes to this matter of teaching them to be pure. Every aspect of what it means to be a godly woman is part of your responsibility as a mom to teach your daughters.

I want us to focus practically here for two or three sessions on some insights for moms about how to train your children in the area of modesty, and particularly as it relates to modesty in clothing.

Now, we’ve said on Revive Our Hearts that modesty is, first and foremost, a heart issue; and that’s going to be evident in what we’re going to say. But that heart issue always has application and effect, an impact, on the practical matters of the way we live, the way we dress, the way we conduct ourselves. One of the greatest needs among women today is to learn how to dress in a way that reflects a modest heart.

If your daughters are learning their view of modesty or their view of what’s proper, what’s acceptable, from the culture around them, they will never learn to be modest, because there is nothing modest in this culture.

This culture teaches women to be aggressive, to be brazen, to be forward, to display themselves and their bodies in ways that are designed to get sexual attention, to be the center of attraction. It doesn’t teach women to be modest, and why should it? It’s the world.

God’s ways and man’s ways are just the opposite of each other; so don’t expect this world, this culture, to teach your children how to be Christian ladies and gentlemen. Don’t expect this world to teach your children how to be modest in heart and in behavior and in dress. That’s your job as a parent.

Now as we’ve talked about modesty, some people have given us questions that they’d like us to answer, and several of those have related to, “How do you teach these things to your children?”

So I just want to share—out of my own heart, but mostly out of having talked with a lot of moms—some practical suggestions and insights for cultivating a heart for modesty in your children—mostly in your daughters, we’re talking about, but you also want your sons to appreciate the importance of modesty and to know how to treat a woman in a way that is appropriate.

How do you cultivate a heart for modesty in your children? As a starting place let me say, it’s so important that parents communicate, by what they say and by the example of their lives, the importance and the meaning and the joy of living for the glory of God.

That’s a starting place; I wouldn’t even bring up the word modest for starters. I would start with God and say, “Why is it important to live for the glory of God as the foundational principle in your life? And what does it mean to live for the glory of God?” Your kids need to feel and sense and believe that you think that’s the joyful way to live.

I’ll tell you, I grew up in Christian schools; I grew up in evangelical churches. I’ve watched a lot of my peers over the years, and then children growing up through the next generations, grow up in Christian homes, Christian churches, and leave the home and leave the church and reject Christianity.

I think one of the biggest reasons, one of the killers of the faith of young people who grow up in Christian circles, is that they did not see that their parents’ faith had joy in it. Your kids will most likely reject your religion if it is a joyless religion. Why would they want it if all you have is just a list of rules? A list of things they can’t do? A list of things they have to do?

Now, there are a lot of commands in Scripture, and they’re commands you need to teach your children. Jesus told us to teach the things that He’s commanded us to do. We need to teach obedience.

But first your children need to sense that you believe that walking with God and living life for the glory of God is the most wonderful way to live. If you don’t believe that, your kids are not going to just take your word for it, that this is the right way to live.

Especially today’s younger generation—they’re into authenticity, being real, no pretense, no fake, no hypocrisy. So some of them are rejecting Christianity; but it’s not really Christianity. It’s what their parents called Christianity.

So make sure that you’re communicating to your children what it means to live for the glory of God and why there’s joy in that. Then ask God to help you set a godly example in every area of your life, to be an example of what it means to love God and to obey God.

If your children see you disobeying God, maybe nobody at church knows, but your kids know. If they know you have a temper, and they know that you don’t have a meek and quiet spirit as a woman, why should they, then, accept what you say about the way they’re supposed to dress, or any other area of life, if your example is that you’re not obeying God in areas?

Now, you may not be blatant about your disobedience, but your kids know. If you’re an unforgiving person, if you’re holding a grudge, if you’re loose with your tongue, why should your kids accept the one area that you’re insistent on, and that’s how they dress?

Make sure you are setting an example of loving and obeying God. Not flawlessly; your kids are not looking for that. But when you fail, when you blow it, you need to be humble enough to admit it and to say, “I was wrong. Would you please forgive me?”

They need to see an example, not only generally speaking that you love and obey God; but they need to see an example in your life of what it means to be modest. Before you start teaching on it, before you start harping on it, before you start your list of rules for your kids about modesty, make sure that they have seen you model true modesty—what it means to have a modest heart, to have modest behavior, and to dress modestly.

And let me say, that’s especially important in the home, because it may be that people at church think you are a very modest woman in the way you dress and conduct yourself; but your kids know you’re a shrew, or your kids know you don’t dress modestly in the home. So make sure that you’re setting a godly example.

Stop and think, just for a moment, about any areas that the Lord may have already brought to your mind that are not consistent; ways that you maybe are not setting the example for your kids that they need to see.

Now, don’t let that overwhelm you or discourage you. Agree with God about it, and then ask Him to give you the courage and the grace to make the practical changes you need to make so that your children can see an example of genuine Christianity in your home.

As we think about consistency, let me just emphasize the whole area of entertainment, and the kind of entertainment that you approve for yourself and for your children.

You as a mom (and dads as well) are responsible to make sure that your children are being protected. Particularly as younger children; before they know how to discern right from wrong, you’re responsible to help them make those choices.

Entertainment is an area today where we are so influenced in subtle ways by a culture that is contrary to God’s ways. It’s more subtle because we laugh at entertainment; we’re amused by entertainment. It’s fun, so we don’t think of how dangerous some of what we’re being exposed to might be in its philosophy, in its behavior, in what it’s promoting as a worldview.

Make sure that as a parent you are consistent in the kind of entertainment you enjoy, that it fits with what you say you believe about what’s right and what’s wrong. Listen, don’t say you believe that Christian women should have a gentle and quiet spirit and be submissive to authority and then go and laugh at entertainment that promotes mouthy, arrogant, cocky, rebellious women. There’s an inconsistency there, and your children need to see that there’s consistency in what you say you believe and then what you do.

Even many children’s movies—entertainment is a whole area where such care is needed—but there’s a lot of this that flaunts immodesty, yet we think it’s cute. Your kids are not dumb. If you think it’s funny on the Little Mermaid or some other movie where there’s immodesty promoted, then don’t expect your kids to jump up and down and say, “Oh, yes, let me see how modestly I can dress to please my mother.” There’s inconsistency there.

This matter of movies, for example. I had a wife and mom talk to me recently. She has a number of high-school-aged kids and younger, and she expressed amazement at how many mothers send their kids off to the movies (I say mothers; it’s dads, too) without knowing where their kids are going, what they are going to see.

Then she said, and these are her kids’ friends that she’s aware of, “I’m amazed at the parents” (and this is in a strong evangelical church) “who are taking their kids to see R-rated movies.”

There’s inconsistency there for parents who profess to believe the gospel and then let their kids watch sexually explicit movies, movies that promote philosophies that are violent or unbiblical.

I was talking with this set of parents and a few of their kids, we were having this conversation, and I said to the kids, “Why do you think those parents let their kids see these movies?”

One of the kids that I was talking to said, “Oh, those parents say, ‘My kids will never do those things.’” What makes you think that? If they think that you think this entertainment is okay, what makes you think they will stay away from those kinds of behaviors?

Now, when it comes to modesty, and that’s what we’re focusing on in particular, one area where that’s really important is in relation to the kind of magazines and catalogs that you have in your home, especially those of you (well, any one of us), particularly those of you who have sons.

There are a lot of catalogs today (I might say most; maybe that would be an overstatement) but so many catalogs—certainly ones that are for women’s clothing today—that you don’t want to leave lying around your house for your husband and sons to be exposed to. Part of your role as a wife and a mom is to protect and to help them to be successful morally.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about this or tied up in knots, terrified your kid’s going to see something he shouldn’t see. Your kids need to see that a natural way of life for you is loving to think about things that are excellent and pure and good and above reproach, and that leaves out most advertisements for lingerie, a lot of newspapers, a lot of catalogs.

A woman said to me this week, “I found myself canceling subscriptions to women’s magazines that really might not have been so bad, but the pictures just were not something we should have lying around at home on our coffee table.”

Listen, you would not allow a voluptuous woman who was half-dressed to come in and sit on your coffee table and say, “I’ll just be here for a month, and then I’ll be gone.” But isn’t that what we do with magazines?

You may want to think about what you’re subscribing to, making sure that you are being consistent with what you say and then what you do, not only in public but also at home. Again, especially if you have sons, it’s so important to teach your boys that there is a difference between men and women, and how to protect and cherish those differences.

My dad’s way of saying this to us was, “I want you to be Christian ladies and gentlemen.” That meant that there were ways that boys and girls were different; we were taught as girls and boys to act in ways that were distinctive.

Teach your daughters how to be modest around their dad, around their brothers. Listen, modesty should not be something that is intrusive into your family life. It should be a way of life, that you’re always thinking how to be discreet.

It could sound, when I say these things, as if we are talking about being uptight or always being on edge or so afraid your children are going to see something. You can actually stimulate more curiosity in your children. Forbidden fruit is sweet, according to Proverbs, so you don’t want to make such a big deal about these things that your children want the things that you’re forbidding.

Somehow my parents were able to do a great job in balancing this out, and I’m so thankful. These weren’t things that we made a big deal about. It was just a way of life in our family that . . . well, one, growing up without a television helped a lot.

But they just didn’t bring into our home things that were questionable in terms of modesty standards or other biblical standards. If we were going to go see a play or some form of entertainment, my parents, believe it or not, would go check it out first.

They were protecting us. They wanted to make sure that our hearts were guarded, and this was the way of life at home. There was not one standard at home and another standard when we were at church. This was a way of life for us.

And then make sure, as it relates to consistency, that you don’t have a double standard for your kids. Your kids will be so quick to pick that up.

I had an email exchange this last week with a woman who works with the youth in her church. She said, “One of the things I hear from kids is, ‘Why are my parents so inconsistent? For example, why do my parents nag at me about the clothes I wear when I’m walking out the door, but they buy me a revealing dress for the prom? Isn’t that a double standard?’”

Now, it’s amazing that the kids should be the ones to pick up that that’s a double standard. So we’re saying, “You can’t go out the door dressed this way,” yet they’ll buy a revealing dress for prom. What makes it right because it’s formal wear? What makes it right because it’s swimwear? What makes it right because it’s casual wear?

We need to determine before the Lord what is modest, and then live that out as a way of life. One of the young women who’s here came to me on break and said, “Can you give me some more specifics in some of these areas?”

I said, “You know, one of the reasons that I don’t do that is because the Bible doesn’t do that.”

I can’t give you a list, but I can say that you need to do what this young woman is doing, and that is ask the Lord, “What do You consider appropriate?” And then live that. Model it to your children, and ask the Lord to protect you from having a double standard in those areas.

When we pick up in the next session, I want to talk about the importance of not only modeling a consistent example and letting your children see that you are consistent in these areas, but then the importance of actually teaching and training your children what it means to dress modestly; teaching them not just the rules, not just the list, but the importance of giving your children a biblical basis for their thinking, teaching them biblical principles that will govern their thinking.

So we’re going to come back to that in the next session and talk about the importance of actually teaching your children according to what the Scripture says in Deuteronomy 6:7. “Teach your children God’s ways day in and day out” (paraphrased). We’ll talk more about how to do that.

Lord, we need such wisdom to know how to live these things out in our homes, in our relationships with one another as families. I do pray for moms and for dads, that they will have wisdom and discernment and discretion and will be filled with Your Holy Spirit as they seek to address these areas with their sons and their daughters, beginning at the earliest ages, that they will teach and train and lead in such a way that their children will be made hungry and thirsty to walk in Your ways.

I pray that the example we set as an older generation will be compelling and attractive to those who come behind us. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering some practical advice. How do you effectively train your children to choose modest clothing and behaviors? That message is part of a series called, The Beauty of a Modest Heart. Modesty goes beyond just clothing. It's a matter of the heart.

To hear this entire series, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can read the transcripts, listen to the audio, or get a copy on CD. Would you consider supporting Revive Our Hearts as we continue providing this type of practical series? Here's Nancy.

Nancy: I'm recording right now in the studios of Life Action. That's the parent ministry that gave birth to Revive Our Hearts. We're so thankful for this facility, but it wasn't designed for the daily production of Revive Our Hearts.

Now just across the hall from where I’m sitting, our producer works in a converted closet that was used to store tables and chairs. We are very excited that God has provided nearly all of the funding needed to construct new studios designed for the needs of Revive Our Hearts. This project will also provide the needed space to house our busy video production staff.

May 31, less than two weeks from now, marks the end of our fiscal year. We're asking God during this month to provide $350,000 or more in gifts from our listeners. When you contribute, you'll be helping us finish this studio project and equipping our team with the resources they need.

If you've never contributed to Revive Our Hearts before, we're especially asking you to consider making a gift at this time. Some friends of the ministry have been matching the gifts of every new supporter up to a matching challenge amount of $60,000, which we hope not only to meet, but to far exceed. So would you please pray about what investment you could make toward the ministry of Revive Our Hearts during this important time.

Leslie: When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we'll say “thanks” by sending you a booklet called The Look. As you engage in this study, you'll take a modesty quiz, you'll consider several biblical passages on modesty, and you'll be encouraged to seek God about ways to display the beauty of modesty in your life.

Ask for The Look when you call 1-800-569-5959, or you can support us by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, who is having the biggest influence on your children when it comes to modesty?

Nancy: One of the most important principles that you’ll find repeated over and over and over again, in the Old Testament in particular, is the importance of parents teaching their children the ways of God.

Ladies, if you don’t teach your children how to think biblically, don’t expect that the world is going to teach them how to think in a way that is right. What a responsibility is yours, as a parent, as a mom, to teach your children the ways of God!

That’s true in this area of modesty, teaching your children to have a heart for modesty and to understand the importance and the need for modesty and what it means to be modest in every area of their lives, including clothing matters.

And let me say that when it comes to this area of modesty, as in many other areas of parenting, don’t start with a list.

Start with the principles of God’s Word. Teach your children, beginning at the earliest ages, what God thinks and what are the principles that need to govern our lives when it comes to modesty—things we’ve talked about on this program, such as:

  • The principle of ownership: Your body is not your own; it belongs to God once you’re a child of God.
  • The principle of Lordship: Jesus is Lord over all.
  • The principle of citizenship: If you’re a child of God, you belong to a different kingdom; you don’t belong to this world.
  • The principle of stewardship.

Now, you may not use all these words with your four-year-old. But you're teaching the principles. God has entrusted some thing to you: a body, and He's entrusted beauty to you. You are responsible to use that in ways that are pleasing to the Lord.

Leslie: Nancy will help you think that through tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries

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