Not a word we hear often in our society, is it? And if it is used it's usually in conjunction with being quiet about keeping a dirty little secret. But there is more to discretion than what our modern times would describe.
As a mother of four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, I spend a lot of time contemplating and pondering things like modesty and beauty. Modesty, I believe, is intrinsically intertwined with real beauty. Unfortunately I don't think we have a good grasp of either beauty or modesty. Culture seems to have two main default positions:
1.) The glam, sexy, up-to-the-minute fashion that shows everything off or
2.) Prairie muffin
We, the church, need to stop dressing like the other team. Our clothes shouldn't look ready to move from the Communion Table to the nightclub. I'm not saying that skirts and dresses should come down to your ankles, but if the length and style of your skirt would fit right in with what the party girls are wearing on a date Friday night then there is a problem.
Nor am I saying you have to immediately set up shop with Holly Hobbie and forsake all things fashionable. But I do think the Christian community has got to stop complaining about how hard it is to find modest and stylish clothes as if that is some kind of free pass to stay as close to edge as you can. It is hard. But it is also possible and should be pursued joyfully so that the world doesn't view it as mere keeping of the rules or being a drag. Of course there is no special virtue in being drab and dowdy either, and we would do well to avoid both extremes so that a reasonable conversation can be had.
I think a good place to start would be Proverbs 11:22 ~ Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.
Have you ever seen a pig's nose? They aren't all cutesy and pink like Wilbur from Charlotte's Web or Babe.
The pig uses it's nose to root around and dig in the dirt. You can see why Scripture contrasted the dirty and gross pig snout with the shiny gold ring...they don't belong together. The ring doesn't take away from the dirt of the pig snout but the pig snout certainly takes away the beauty from the gold ring. It just looks foolish.
A woman without discretion is like that.
Consider what the word discretion actually means ~ the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.
A lack of modesty is a lack of discretion wouldn't you say? Revealing clothing reveals a lot of private information. The curves and softness of a woman were designed by God to be enjoyed by man just as surely as the strength and lines of a man were made for woman to enjoy. But without discretion the beauty is dimmed and can be just as wasted and foolish as the gold ring in a pig's nose.
For many within the church the greatest argument for modesty falls under the first part of discretion's definition...the idea of behaving in such a way to give offense. Or in church speak, to cause a brother to stumble. While this is important I think it is far too narrow. We should be training our sons and daughters with the understanding that we are all a part of the Body of Christ and what we do affects those around us. But the offense caused by immodest dress actually goes to our Bridegroom.
Earlier I said we should stop dressing like the other team. As the bride of Christ we are set apart, made holy because the Bride price was impossibly high and yet it was paid in the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ. He replaced our tattered, torn and filthy rags with garments of grace and beauty. To allow culture to dictate our fashion without restraint, without the boundaries of being His bride, is like piercing the pig nose.
Modesty is about way more than our clothing though. Modesty begins in the heart and shows itself in choices and actions that show discretion. The visible manifestation is important yes, but not enough. I can be dressed modestly (and fashionable I might add), but if my mind and tongue lack discretion I'm still only as pretty as that pig snout.
God's people have been given the task of redeeming the culture, of reclaiming it, shaping and forming it to reflect it's true King. It's time that the Church says modesty is important. But we have to understand that it is about much more than the length of a skirt.