Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, What Is My Worth After All?
God has given my husband and me the amazing privilege of being involved in university ministry. My husband is the College Pastor at our church, and I get to serve as his helper and ministry partner. Over the last several months, I’ve had a recurring conversation with many of the girls. And, as a woman, I struggle with the same issue…What is my worth?
What was most interesting to me was that these conversations about our self-worth have centered on the issue of modesty—either the lack of it or a misunderstanding of it. As I listened to these girls, I began to realize what they were actually struggling with: what it means to be made “in God’s image.” These Christian girls had a skewed idea of modesty and its importance. Somehow, I do not think they are alone.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” The Hebrew word for “image” can be translated “form, image, likeness [or] phantom.” Scores of books have been written to explain what it means for man and woman to be created “in God’s image,” so I will not try to explain its meaning in this short blog. But, considering the issue of modesty, I would like to point out two areas in which I have seen God’s image marred and misunderstood in the life of women.
Misconception #1: A woman’s body is enticing so it should be covered.
There are entire religions that teach women that their bodies are shameful, and its only use is to be looked upon by men. Therefore, it is the woman’s duty to completely cover her body in order to keep men from struggling with lust. (I am a proponent of modesty and will deal with that in the next session.) In this view, many women feel the weight and responsibility of making sure men do not lust. Though Christianity does not require women to wear a black covering, many Christian parents and teachers do not know how to accurately teach young women that their bodies are beautifully created by God. So the only teaching on modesty many Christian young women encounter is one that says: “Cover up! Don’t show too much skin! It’s your responsibility to make sure men do not lust!”
Where did we, as the church, get that mentality? When God made Adam and Eve, He intended for them to live in perfect harmony with each other. But one does not have to read too long in the scriptures before they encounter Genesis 3, which shows the tragic fall of mankind. In this chapter, the devil, masquerading as a serpent, speaks to Eve and questions God’s goodness. Through a series of well-constructed questions, Satan convinces Eve that she knows what is best for her life. She takes of the fruit, eats it, and her eyes are immediately opened. Scripture then records, “They realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Gen 3:7 NIV). The first sin caused immediate shame.
But this verse is radically different from Adam’s first response to seeing Eve: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” (Gen 2:23). When Adam first saw Eve, he immediately spoke poetry. (It’s amazing the effect women have on men!) Scripture then records, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25).
God created a woman’s body, and He deemed it a good creation. Our bodies are not evil; they are glorious creations of God.
Unknowingly, many Christian teachers have confused young women into concluding that their bodies are somehow shameful. When we look at Scripture, how far from the truth we have fallen! After Adam and Eve sinned, what they felt in their nakedness was the shame of sin. Satan hates that God’s highest creation—man—bears God’s image. Therefore, he does everything he can to distort man’s view of God’s image. And Satan does that primarily when he attacks a woman’s self-worth.
A woman’s feeling of self-worth is often tied to her body-image. Therefore, if Satan can attack and skew a woman’s understanding of her body, then he can distort her understanding of her image – which is made in God’s image. We must teach that modesty is not commanded because her body is evil, or that it is solely a woman’s responsibility to keep men from falling into lust. Instead, women need to know that modesty displays great respect for oneself and for God’s glory.
Misconception #2: A woman’s body is enticing so it should be exploited.
We live in an era in which a woman’s body is being exploited at every turn. I have seen statistics that say, because of the sex industry, there is more slavery in existence today than ever before in history. Some women are in this slavery against their own free will. But some women are in “slavery” because of their own choice. I want to talk to that woman here.
Many women put themselves in bondage through a lack of modesty. They exploit themselves through dressing provocatively, and thus mar the Image they possess. God desires for them to come to Him, instead they chase after other gods. (Luke 13:34) These precious women so desire to feel loved and accepted, that they wrongly assume others will want them based upon their outer appearance. They live for the next glance from a guy, while their hearts remain unfulfilled. They desire to connect with someone, but the encounter just compounds their feelings of neglect. If you are one of these dear women, please hear the words of God: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20). With this one verse, God shows the glory in which He made a woman’s body, but her body should be used for His glory and honor – not for her own.
From the beginning, Satan has sought to exploit humanity. And what better method than to attack God’s very creation – a woman’s body. Satan is gloating over the fact that he has some women so enslaved that they either condemn their bodies as evil, or they exploit their bodies as the source of their worth.
Modesty should not be rooted in self-condemnation. Instead, a woman ought to desire to dress modestly, not because her body is evil, but because it was created to bring God glory.
As I to minister to young women and college students, the issue of modesty and self-worth will continue to be a hot topic of conversation. My prayer is that I will model, through my own dress and demeanor, that I value the fact that I have been made in God’s image and for His glory.
Click here to check out Amanda’s Top 10 Modesty Tips!
 Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.