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: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, May 20.

We want our kids to have formal instruction in math, English, and history. Maybe they take formal lessons in piano or ballet or painting. Perhaps they’re on a team 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, this next point you won’t be able to do 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: (Now you may not use all these words with your 4 year old, but you’re teaching the principles.) God has entrusted some things to you, like a body. He’s entrusted beauty to you, and you have to use that, you’re responsible 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” (v. 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” (vv. 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 times, 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 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” (v. 7). 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 just 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” (vv. 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 emailed me, but I thought it would be more helpful for you to hear her say about the importance of the way that we teach these things to children. Holly?

Holly Elliff: I think, probably, 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, or 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, then we take advantage of those.

The other day we were driving down the road, 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 if I will ask my kids questions about things that 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?” and have them tell me what they’re thinking, what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing.

As you do that, then what happens is 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 for a minute.”

My first reaction was immediately to say, “No, we’re not going to watch this. Let’s turn this off.” But I said, “Okay, we’ll give it ten minutes.”

So I went in and sat in the den with them, and we watched that show together for about ten minutes. 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, 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 even 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 their heart is 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.

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.

Holly: I would just add in relationship to clothing, if I can get my daughters to stand in front of a mirror and eventually ask themselves the same questions I would ask them, then, again, they have developed that standard for themselves, which is very valuable.

Nancy: Could I just say it’s so important that you start when they are young. Don’t start teaching your children these principles when they’re 15 years old and all of a sudden you’ve got an issue with the way that they’re dressing. That is going to ensure a big scene in your house, maybe an explosion.

Lay the foundation early. It’s amazing, when children are just taught what is proper and what is appropriate—when little girls are taught, again not in an overbearing way, but just in simple, pure ways, to keep their dresses down when they are little girls—then these are things that are going to go with them into life. They are principles and foundations that you will have laid when they were little.

Now, I want to tie into that the principle of involving your husband and the father of your children wherever possible. I realize that there are some who are raising their children as single moms, and God will give you grace to be able to train your children, if necessary, in that way.

But where there is a dad in the home . . . and hopefully there is a dad who is involved; and even if there’s not, there may be other men that you can involve in appropriate ways in the lives of your daughters.

I asked for some input from a dad I know on this subject, and here’s what he said. He said,

I always challenge the men that it’s their job to approve or disapprove of the clothing that the women in their home wear.

And I know, by the way, that we have some dads who listen to Revive Our Hearts. Could I just appeal to you men, as a woman, and say, “We need you. As women, we need you. We need you to take your role, take your place.” And women, let me say to you, “Let the dad, the husband, have the proper role in this area.”

This dad goes on to say,

The reason that it’s the man’s job is that a man knows what will attract the eye of another man. As much as Mom may want to help her daughter dress modestly, she simply doesn’t see the way a man does.

We are wired differently. Moms need to send their daughters to their fathers for approval. Ladies as well, go to your husband for his input and his approval on what you’re wearing.

Then this dad said something I thought was so wise. He said,

I’ve instituted this in our home while my girls are two and six. Every time they get a new outfit, we have a little fashion show for dad.

I know there could be very little that a two-year-old or six-year-old could wear that would be considered immodest. [Though I’m not sure that’s true!] But I’m not really concerned with what they’re wearing now, but I realized that if I try to institute that when they’re twelve or sixteen, they are going to laugh in my face. By starting now, my hope is that they will still be coming to me then because it has been the normal pattern in our home.

Some of you who have little girls—I thought that was such a wise word. So, encourage your husband that you want and need to have him involved in the process of training your daughters.

And then—this is true for moms and for dads, and especially important, I think, for dads to realize this—that they need to affirm their daughters for true spiritual beauty and for godly character, and not to place an over-emphasis on physical beauty.

Dads, it means so much to a daughter to have a dad affirm her for her modesty—because she may go to school or out into the world and find that nobody else is affirming her for being modest. But if she knows that her dad affirms her for that, and her mom as well, then she’s not going to be as driven to seek approval from men who value immodesty.

And then, moms—and again, I would include dads in this—believe it or not, shop with your daughters. Don’t just send your daughters out with their peers to make all their own shopping decisions.

Now, obviously, we’re talking about different ages, different phases here, and you want to so train in such a way that by the time your daughters reach a certain age—and I’m not going to tell you what that is because I don’t know what that is in your home—but there should come a point when they can be sent out to do this and will do it wisely, make wise choices.

But early on, make it a practice of shopping with your daughters. Shop prayerfully—and you have to do that today if you’re going to find things that really do fit the biblical standards for modesty—and realize that it’s likely going to take more time and money to clothe your children modestly than it would take to purchase trendy or immodest clothing. That’s just the way it is.

I have a friend named Devi Titus who is a godly woman. She’s a virtuous woman. In fact, she founded years ago the magazine called Virtue magazine. Some of you may remember that.

This woman has a real heart for modesty and for godliness, and I asked her to just come up with some insights that might be helpful for moms when it comes to training daughters. Let me read to you some of the things that she wrote.

Set boundaries of what is allowed and what is not, and let your girls choose within those boundaries. Give options and freedom for expression where there are not moral or spiritual issues involved. It’s okay for them to have their own tastes.

If they select something that’s inappropriate or even borderline, ask them the question (for example, regarding a neckline), "Do you think this is too revealing?"

If they say "no" and you think "yes," remember, this is why you are their mother. They still need you to help govern their hearts until their inner virtues are formed. You make the decision for them.

Encourage and support your children, and be willing to continue shopping to find the right garment.

Now, let me just say as a caution, moms—some of you have teenage daughters—if you have not been cultivating a relationship with your daughter all along, if you don’t have her heart and if you’ve not taught principles of modesty all along since she was a little girl, don’t start all at once to say, “We’re going to learn modesty and practice modesty today.”

And then this is so important: Keep the big picture in mind, and keep in mind the long haul, which is far more important than the immediate argument about this particular item of clothing. Remember that you are discipling your daughters to be women of God.

And that’s hard. It’s hard for you; it’s hard for them. It’s a challenge, and there will be times when they feel so pulled by the desire to be accepted—the desire to fit in—and that’s not all wrong. But there are lines that you’re going to know they can’t cross, and that will mean at times that you will have to endure the frowns or the anger of your children.

Now, don’t provoke that by your spirit. Don’t provoke it unnecessarily. But, if it has to happen that they don’t agree with you . . .

I can think back to my teenage years of some disagreements I had with my mother and with my dad in particular areas. I’m so glad that my parents were in it for the long haul, and that they were willing, where needed, to stand their ground, and at times to back down, to realize that this was not a matter of right and wrong. Sometimes it was a matter of preference, and they tell me this now, or my mom tells me this now, there were times when they just said, “This is not a battle that we think we need to fight right now with our children.”

God will give you wisdom as to which is which. But, remember that you are doing something—when you are standing your ground, when you are holding the line—that you’re doing something for a greater outcome, and it’s the heart, the life, the future of your daughter or your son.

Deuteronomy 6 says obey these laws so “that it may go well with you” (v. 3). Don’t be in it to win the argument. Because if you are argumentative in your spirit, you’re sinning, you’re wrong! Don’t expect your child to want to obey God if in the way you are handling it, you are violating the very principles of God’s Word yourself.

So Titus 2 says, “Train the young women,” train your daughters, “to be self-controlled, [to be] pure . . . that the Word of God may not be reviled. . . . so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (vv. 3-5).

That’s what you’re after. Hang in there! Remember the outcome, and go for that. Trust God to work in the heart of your daughters and your sons as you’re teaching what is proper, what is fitting, and what adorns the Gospel of Christ.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss encouraging moms to effectively invest biblical truth into the hearts of their children. We also heard from Holly Elliff.

That message is part of the series, The Beauty of a Modest Heart. Today’s the last day for that series. If you missed any of the sessions, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com. While you’re there, you can also get a copy of this teaching on CD.

We’re only able to bring you practically instruction like this thanks to listeners like you who give. Nancy’s here to tell you how big a difference your support will make.

Nancy: In recent months, God has opened up some amazing doors to begin broadcasting Revive Our Hearts in Spanish. This outreach is already underway on a very small scale, but our burden is to see that outreach expanded to be able to minister to potentially hundreds of thousands of women whose first language is Spanish, whether in this country or in various countries throughout Latin America.

As we’re praying and evaluating this opportunity, we’re asking the Lord to confirm His leading through the provision of funding. In light of that and other opportunities before us, as well as our ongoing monthly expenses, we’ve been asking God to provide $350,000 or more in the month of May. This is the time of year when we close our books and evaluate where we are and make plans for the coming months.

Ending this fiscal year in a strong position will have a big effect on our ability to move forward with this Spanish language ministry as well as other opportunities to expand the outreach of this program.

Let me say a word to those who may have been listening to this ministry for months or years. You’ve been blessed by it; you’ve shared it with others. It’s been an encouragement and a help to you in your walk with the Lord, but you’ve never financially supported Revive Our Hearts before. Let me just say there’s no better time to invest back into the ministry.

That’s because this month some dear friends are matching the gift of every new supporter up to a challenge amount of $60,000. Now, I can’t project at exactly what point during the month that challenge will be met, but even once we exceed that challenge, your gift will make a significant difference.

So whether you’ve given previously to this ministry or not, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider helping us meet the overall goal for this month.

Leslie: When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll show our gratitude by sending the booklet, The Look. It’s a perfect follow-up to our current series, helping you study scriptural principles on modest clothing and a modest heart.

Ask for The Look when you call with your gift. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or support us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, Kim Jaggers appeared to have the perfect life. She had an attractive husband, a nice house, and a respectable church. But when that perfect image began to crumble, she was forced to figure out what she truly believed.

Find out what to do when life falls apart, Monday, on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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