Modesty and the Bikini… I’m afraid that some of you aren’t going to like what you read below!

It’s that time of year again… where Jesus-loving women and girls all over the nation (and throughout many parts of the world) are deciding just how much of a swim suit they can wear and still remain God-honoring.

To be honest, my sisters, I’d rather stay out of this debate – especially when talking about the bikini.  But the Lord won’t let me ignore this pressing in my spirit, so I humbly offer up to you some truth about Modesty.  Lately the “modesty-movement” has been getting a bad rep, and its critics claim that as Christians teach modesty, we are simultaneously teaching that beautiful bodies are bad and need to be hidden.  That’s not why we encourage modesty.  We encourage modesty because immodesty doesn’t honor and glorify the Lord.

When we hear the word modesty, most likely our minds will connect its definition with the way women dress.  But modesty is so much more than that.  In Luke 9, Jesus sent the disciples out into “real life” to live and work and be His vessels to witness to those around them.  And in His instructions to them, he urged them to modesty in how they were to exist.

[ Keep It Simple ] Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment.  Keep it simple; you are the equipment.  And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”  Luke 9:1-3, The Message (emphasis, mine)

So, maybe an addition to the definition of Modesty could be – Keeping it simple, because you’re the equipment Jesus uses.

I like that definition.  It applies to modesty in all areas of living.  Does this mean that we can’t have nice things or wear pretty clothes and shiny jewelry?  Absolutely NOT!  I’ll be the first one to tell you (in fact, I wrote about it in this blog post on being both “Hip and Holy”) that I’m all into celebrating what God has created by adorning it!  I don’t think that modesty means that we can’t have non-simple things… we are just not to focus on them and depend on them for our value and worth and availability for God’s use in this world.  And I think it means that whatever it is that we do have – we are to make sure that it is presented in a way that God can use for good! 

1 Timothy 2:8-10 gives us a little more insight into this definition of modesty:

“And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10,  New Living Translation (Emphasis, mine)
Paul encouraged the women to adorn and decorate their lives by the beauty in how they lived.  That’s modesty.Peter said the same thing in 1 Peter 3:3-4

Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.”  1 Peter 3:3-4, Amplified Version   (Emphasis, mine)

[merely]  I love that word in there.  It tells us that we CAN elaborately weave our hair, etc (PTL!) as long as that is not all that we do in the name and strength of Jesus to make ourselves beautiful.  Make sense?

In pulling together the truths from these verses, we could say that Modesty is gratefully using what we have to live and act in such a way that God alone is glorified and objectified.

All of that above was to say what’s next – and I’m probably about to step on some toes.  So forgive me in advance, please. 😉
The Bikini – It just simply isn’t modest.   At all.   It objectifies and glorifies the body of its wearer.  That was its purpose when it was created and why it’s remained popular after all of these years.

Yes.  I just went there.  I know so many wonderful Christian women, moms, and daughters who don’t see a thing wrong with wearing bikinis.  And I’m sure many of them will disagree with this post.  Others may have never thought of it in a modesty sense before.

“Is there any piece of clothing more sublime than the bikini? A woman is almost naked wearing the bikini, yet she can appear in public without fear of arrest or censure. The two tiny scraps of fabric cover the most tantalizing parts of her anatomy, teasing yet accentuating the hidden mysteries of the female charm.”

A woman almost naked…. that’s the bikini, and that’s why it isn’t modest.On top of that, it objectifies women’s bodies instead of beautifying the whole person.  In all of the research I’ve collected, both personally with the men around my world, and through the professional research of others, I’ve learned that a developed female body in a bikini has a definite effect on the minds and bodies of our men.  And it’s not a God-honoring affect.  Even our most godly men who fight to keep their thoughts pure are thrown into a battle of the mind and heart when they see a “woman almost naked.”  It’s just the way that boys and men are wired…

In 2009 CNN reported the findings of a study conducted by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University declaring that:

“in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis…  A supplementary study… found that men tend to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as I “push,” “handle” and “grab” instead of the third-person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” They associated fully clothed women, on the other hand, with the third-person forms, indicating these women were perceived as in control of their own actions… That goes along with the idea that the man looking at a woman in a bikini sees her as the object of action, Fiske said.”  (for full article, click here)

God didn’t intend for women to be viewed as objects of action.  And when asked, I’m sure that most women wouldn’t want to be viewed that way.  God intended for women to be viewed as extensions of His beauty and nurturing grace… Not as objects to “push,” handle” and “grab.”  We don’t cover our bodies because they are bad, but to reveal our dignity as women created in the image of God and cherished as valuable by Him.

So, my dear lady friends and fellow extensions of God’s beauty and nurturing grace, I once again lay this request before you (as I’ve done several other summers on

This summer, please don’t dress in a way that would cause the men and boys around you to stumble or to look at you as an object.
And moms, please don’t let your daughters dress in this way – no matter how stylish or popular it is!

I’m talking about plunging necklines that show cleavage.

Shorts so short that they could double as underwear.

Skirts so short that there is no way to sit or bend and keep underwear from showing.

Tops tight enough that they look like an extra layer of skin.

Tops short enough that they barely cover the bra bottom when arms are lifted.

And bathing suits that leave almost nothing to the imagination – both revealing one pieces and bikinis.

Dressing this way does not honor you, your daughter, or Jesus.  In fact, it is screaming for the wrong kind of attention and sending the completely wrong message – a message that you or your daughters may not intend on sending.

I certainly do not advocate being a dull, boring “prude”!  Anyone who knows me personally and has spent any time with me at all can tell you that I’m all about celebrating and enjoying all aspects of life.  In fact, so was Jesus.  He told His disciples in John 10:10 that He came to give life, and to give it abundantly!  But He also set up some boundaries for us to be able to fully enjoy that abundant life.  And modesty is one of them.

To check and see if what you are doing, wearing, and saying is that of a modest and holy follower of Jesus, a dignified daughter of the King, always ask and answer this question:

Is it modest?  A question to ask and answer.

Does what I’m wearing/doing/saying honor and bless the Lord (Can I honestly thank Him that I am doing, wearying, or saying this?) 

OR Does what I’m doing, wearing, or saying send the wrong message about me, Jesus, or cause others or myself to stumble and possibly fall into sin?


You’ll know by the answer to the question and the conviction of the Holy Spirit whether you should do, wear, or say it or not.  

This summer, as Jesus-loving women setting examples for other girls and women watching our lives, lets gladly live within the realm of modesty that most glorifies the One we love… the One who gives our lives purpose and dignity and beauty… who loves us more than we can imagine or even hope for.

Modesty - A new definition.

Modesty  – gratefully using what we have to live and act in such a way that God alone is glorified
and objectified.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

PS: This is a little Modesty checklist from Dannah Gresh’s ministry.  Truth or Bare Checklist Check out her site for this and other resources!  And for another blog post from on modesty, click here.  🙂


About SmellingCoffee

I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two college kids, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at


  1. Hey, Thank you for this post. I just wrote a blog post on this very topic from a male perspective. I would love it if y’all read it.

  2. I apologize for the above postings, which were more rude and mean than was appropriate, and too long. 🙁 (Also, the age above was 17 not 15; I was 15.)

    The common reaction to the oversexualization and objectifying of the body in America, (especially female, but to a lesser degree male as well) also sexualizes and objectifies a body. This occurred in both illustrations. The focus remains on the skin, not on the person, both dehumanize the individual. The first may lead to pride, the second to shame, and as Christians, we must overcome both. My passion for this subject stems from experience with both.

  3. I am being deliberately antagonistic in my post, I want to provoke thoughtful discussion. Please consider the point I’ve made above about imagination. You are unconsciously blaming a woman for my possible lustful thoughts, which may or may not have the same influence as man’s next to me. She can she never meet an objective standard. Influencing 9 out of 10 men; 3 out of 10? And which 10? The Princeton study used an extremely small sampling of a very narrow demographic: which I understand to have been primarily upper class American, heterosexual, college age men, many of whom with attitudes from “benevolent sexism” (huh?) to outright misogyny.

    You make a good point as to how to consider modesty, but then undermine that point with a set of arbitrary rules. Modesty must take into account particular circumstance, including cultural standards.

    When I was a teenager many years ago, I was at the beach with a group from a particular church. There was one 15 year old young woman from the group wearing a yellow swimsuit which looked like a school uniform complete with pleated skirt. She (or realistically her parents) was the Pharisee praying loudly; she was the immodest one.

    Dress that says “Look at me, how sexy I am in my one square inch of fabric” or “look at me, in my knee length pleated skirt, how holy I am” are both immodest. The true purpose of these clothes is not to enjoy the beach, both are impractical to that purpose, but to make a statement.

  4. “bathing suits that leave almost nothing to the imagination”

    what exactly do you want her to “leave to the imagination?” and then what exactly am I allowed to “imagine?” Is it OK for me to imagine her out of whatever passed the truth or bare test? how is that any different if she already flunked? It isn’t But by that statement what else could I possibly imagine? You are invalidating your very argument for “modest” dress, and blaming the woman for my thoughts.

    You are defining modesty by a particular set of fashion rules. The truth or bare checklist would fail in certain parts of the world today and would have failed in N. America in 1914. How would you argue a “looser” standard of modesty in dress to your great-great-grandparents or to a different culture?

    A swimsuit is inappropriate in a German sauna, only a towel to sit on, yet there are still bounds of modesty. A woman may be immodest sitting on the edge of a desk, and modest sitting behind that desk in the same clothes. A tight fitting swimsuit may be perfectly modest (and necessary) for a competitive swimmer.

    A piece of fabric can not send a message, only I can send a message and that needs to be the focus.

    @Melanie: What have you seen “that is not good?” People you wouldn’t want to see in shorts or a bikini because they’re too fat or have too many tattoos, too hairy? Consider your statement.

  5. Melanie, I’m sure you do see it all! Literally! 😉

  6. Melanie Dorsey says:

    Very good! Living so close to the beach and loving to spend time there as I do, I’ve seen it all and a lot of it is not good.

  7. In my humble opinion, it’s way past time for this subject to be broached in the Christian community. (We know the world “out there” will not agree with or understand it.). This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time and I’ve often wondered where the mothers were when I see girls dressed inappropriately. Then, many times I am horrified when I see how mama is dressed!! We DO need a clear, concise, soul-searching discussion of this subject and Jennifer, you have supplied it. Your thesis is spot on centered where it needs to be… the Word of God. Thank you for bravely going where not too many others dare to go.

  8. Thank you, Connie. It’s a hard subject these days… but one that just can’t be ignored any longer. 😉 God bless you~

  9. Connie Lancaster - Tralake MS says:

    I wish this could be put up on billboards everywhere! Maybe social media can make a dent in this. I’ve got 5 granddaughters who will be reading this when they come of the age to understand. Thanks Jennifer!