Revive Our Hearts Podcast

More Than a List

Leslie Basham: Effectively teaching our kids about modesty means starting inside out. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: 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.

Leslie Basham: Welcome to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Thursday, June 15.

We want our kids to have formal instruction in math, English, and history. We pay for formal lessons in piano or ballet or painting. We put them on teams to learn soccer or gymnastics. So who’s teaching them about modesty? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

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.

We’ve been talking about how to teach your children in these areas, and we’ve said that it’s vital that you model a consistent example in your standards for modesty, how you live that out, and the kind of entertainment that you enjoy and approve of for yourself and for your children.

But you know, it’s not enough just to set an example. If you don’t set an example, you won’t be able to do this next point effectively. But even if you do set a good example, you’ve still got the responsibility to actually teach and train your children what’s right and what’s wrong. 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: God has entrusted some things to you, like a body. He’s entrusted beauty to you, and you have to use that in ways that are pleasing to the Lord . . . teaching the meaning of modesty in things that we have talked about at various times on this program.

Deuteronomy 6 says that God has given us commandments and rules. Moses taught them to the people of Israel, and he said, “You need to obey these laws. And as you’re obeying, you need to make sure you’re doing it out of a heart of love for God.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) so that your obedience is not just rigid and legalistic, but your obedience springs out of a heart of love for God.

Then he says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Now, he’s not saying that you just sit down for one hour a day and say, “We’re going to teach you how to be modest,” or “I’m going to teach you how to obey the principles of God’s Word.”

There are formal, structured times to sit down and teach your children the ways of God; but more is taught in the course of everyday life using teachable moments and opportunities to instruct in the ways of God than is taught from the formal, structured times where you think your kids aren’t paying any attention.

That’s why Deuteronomy 6:7 goes on to say, “Talk [about these things] when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” All day, every day, be naturally communicating with your children the ways of God.

Now, I thank the Lord that my parents did this. I think about my dad who, just in the course of everyday life, would talk about the ways of God. I don’t remember those as being sermons or lectures because it was just interwoven into the fabric of our everyday life.

He says, “You shall bind [these words] as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them of the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8-9).

Ask the Lord to give you, as a parent, creative ways to teach your children, starting at the earliest ages, what it means to be modest, why it’s important, and why that’s a blessed way to live.

This past week I was interacting with my friend Holly Elliff, who is the mother of a number of children at different seasons of life, and I asked her for any thoughts she would have as a mom about teaching children what it means to be modest.

I asked her today if she would just share with us some of the thoughts that she e-mailed me, but I thought it would be more helpful for you to hear her talk about the importance of the way we teach these things to children. Holly?

Holly Elliff: As Nancy was saying a minute ago, it is “as you go.” I think probably one of the most important things I’ve learned is that if I wait until a moment when I think my children are ready to hear what I have to say, it may not come.

So as we go, whether we’re in the car, whether we’re at the grocery store, whether we’re in the middle of doing school or we’re on our way to pick up somebody . . . whenever those moments come, when we have an opportunity to teach truth, we take advantage of those.

The other day as we were driving down the road, we saw a billboard that was interesting, and we just started talking about it. In the Hebrew culture, one of their main methods of teaching was not to tell somebody what the truth was, but to ask them questions so that they could discover that truth themselves.

I don’t know about you, but if I learn something for myself—if I go to God’s Word and study it for myself—then I have ownership of it a little bit, and it’s much more valuable to me because then I can turn around and teach that more easily to someone else.

So I will ask my kids questions about things we encounter and have them think, have them reason through that, and then give them some references in Scripture where that might be addressed, and just say to them, “What do you think this verse means? Do you think that relates to that in any way? Is there any way in which you see a connection between what God said right here and what we’re talking about?”

I have them tell me what they’re thinking, what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing. As you do that, you begin a pattern in your children of becoming Berean Christians, of becoming students of the Word.

They may not know where the verse is; they may not know what God says about it, but if they will begin to question, “What does God say here?” then that pattern will be with them the rest of their lives, even when they are grown and married and I’m not there to tell them what the truth is. If they will become students of the Word, they will always have a resource to find truth.

The other day we were watching TV. My kids had the TV on. I was in the kitchen, and I heard something on the TV that I wasn’t familiar with, so I walked into the den and watched a couple of minutes of it, and I said to the kids, “What are you watching?”

And they told me, “It’s this new show.”

I said, “Is it good?”

They said, “Well, yes, we think it’s fine.”

And I said, “Well, I don’t know anything about this show; let me just sit down with you.”

So I went in and sat in the den with them, and we watched that show together for about ten minutes; and I could tell during the ten minutes that they were getting nervous because every once in a while, when something would happen on that show, they would turn around and look at me. And something else would happen and they would look at each other; then they’d look at me.

So when the ten minutes were up, we muted the TV and I said, “Okay, what do you think about this show? See any problems with it?”

And they began to say, “Well, yes, they’re not very nice to each other in the way they talk, and they are kind of disrespectful.” And they began to come up with things one by one that were issues with that show.

Now, what happened was, they began to ask those questions. I didn’t have to sit down and say to them, “We’re not going to watch this movie because I said so.”

Now there are times when I say, “No, because I said so,” and I want them to obey. If they are getting ready to touch a hot pot, I want them to stop when I say stop. But, just as important to me is them learning to become men and women who will ask questions of God, who will go to His Word and find answers.

So as we go, we need to be intentional about training them to think biblically.

Nancy: Holly, one of the things I appreciated about what you said in this email is that you’re not just wanting to teach your children rote obedience—though that’s not all bad, to learn to obey God and our authorities just because we are to obey.

But Holly says that she’s looking for something in her children that’s more than that. She’s wanting to train their hearts, to shepherd their hearts, and to focus more on their hearts than on their behavior.

So I would say, in this area of modesty, make sure that you don’t let your kids’ clothing be a bigger issue than their hearts. That’s what you’re after, because you can make them wear certain clothing, but the concern is when they leave your house . . . and it may not be when they grow up; it may just mean when they get to school and they take off the layers that you made them put on. When you can’t see them, what is their heart going to dictate?

If their heart is to please the Lord and to make choices that are based on the Word of God, then you will have really trained your children not just to live by your list of rules while they’re within your eyesight but to really have developed a heart for God.

And, in that sense, you’re training kids who don’t just conform to a list that you’ve come up with, but kids who really will be difference-makers in their culture and in their generation. It won’t be your faith. It won’t be your religion. It won’t be your standards now; it’s going to be their standards, their faith, and their heart to please the Lord.

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Holly Elliff about how to train our children in modesty. She’ll be right back to pray with us.

If you’d like to get a copy of today’s practical teaching on children and modesty, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com and listen online or read a transcript.

We also have available “The Attractive Christian Woman Package." It includes two helpful booklets on modest dress and behavior written by Nancy, as well as CDs of the whole radio series. The package is yours for a donation of $25 or more. Just visit our website or call 800-569-5959.

This program is made possible by the gifts of our listeners. If you believe in what we are doing and agree with the message, you can call with a donation or make a contribution online.

Passions can run high when discussing clothing with our kids. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Now, here’s Nancy to pray with us.

Nancy: O Lord, I pray for moms who are listening today and who really are wanting to teach their children Your ways. I pray that You would give them wisdom, that You would fill them with Your spirit, that You’d show them how to reach their children’s hearts.

I pray that the way in which moms approach these matters will not be antagonistic, that it will not fuel unnecessarily those arguments or those debates, but that they will really have a heart to help and lead their children.

I pray that You’d give to our daughters, younger children and teenagers, a real heart to seek godly counsel from their moms and to follow godly counsel. But most of all that those young women will grow up with hearts to really please You in this and every area of their lives. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

All Scripture is from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion