Will wonders never cease? A recent photo has revealed that Jinger Duggar Vuolo is wearing shorts! Yes, shorts! 

Anyone who has ever watched “19 and Counting,” or had any exposure to the Duggars, knows that Jim Bob and Michelle, the conservative parents of the Duggar clan, frown upon women wearing pants, and especially, shorts. This latest photo leads to the speculation that perhaps something is changing in the mind of the most recently married Duggar daughter.

Michelle Duggar, who I have no doubt is a very sweet and sincere lady, has said that God impressed upon her heart that she and her daughters should wear only skirts because skirts are feminine and more modest than curve revealing pants. The idea that God talks to us or impresses ideas onto our hearts is definitely an interesting topic for a blog, but in this post I would like to discuss modesty from a Biblical viewpoint as well as a cultural.

Most people, like the Duggars, who support a strict code of modesty, quote I Timothy 2:9 which says, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” The Greek word used in this passage is kosmioi, which means “respectable, honorable, or modest.” Apparently back in Paul’s day some of the women were turning up at worship services in flashy, expensive clothing and jewelry, so Paul had to step in and tell them to dress in a way that was fitting for women who profess godliness. When this passage is read contextually, we see that it is more likely that Paul’s words were not an admonishment against revealing clothing, but rather a rebuke to the women for being ostentatious. In other words, the women were showing off their wealth with costly and garish clothing, rather than revealing too much skin.

Other verses used by those fervently promoting modesty relate to causing a brother to stumble. Michelle Duggar believes that a woman defrauds a man when she dresses immodestly because revealing clothing can cause a man to lust. But is lust created by a woman’s mode of dress? Not necessarily. Some men actually say they are more aroused by skirts than pants because of the ease of accessibility to sexual encounters that skirts afford. I’ve also read that some men are even sexually stimulated by burkas, which reveal nothing more than a pair of eyes, because they stir up their imaginations.  

And let’s be real here. Long skirts didn’t keep Bill Gothard, a man who the Duggars enthusiastically followed, from inappropriate physical contact with the girls entrusted into his care. Long skirts also didn’t keep homeschool icon Doug Phillips from making nocturnal visits to his modestly dressed nanny. And I don’t mean to be unkind, but the wearing of long skirts didn’t keep Michelle’s son Josh from sneaking into his sister’s bedroom when they were asleep and molesting them.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, modesty is not a prevention for lust because lust is a heart issue. Men who struggle with lust will be aroused by women regardless of what those women are wearing because men with lust issues continually have sex on the brain. Extreme covering up is not going to change that.

Another key element that factors into the issue of modesty is our culture.

Culture is generally the definer of how we view modes of dress. Different parts of the world, as well as different time periods, affect viewpoints regarding what is and isn’t acceptable in clothing. My mother-in-law is from Colombia and in her country when a young man wears a baseball cap backwards it is an indication that he is in a gang. So every time my mother-in-law sees my youngest son wearing a baseball cap backwards she tells my husband to make him turn it around. Her culture, the environment in which she is familiar, caused her to equate a backward hat with gang membership, even though it is just a matter of fashion to my son.

In the same way, if a woman from the 19th century, a time period when women wore skirts down to their ankles, saw a Duggar girl wearing a skirt that reached only to hers knees, the 19th century woman would be shocked and consider the Duggar daughter immodest. She would equate the showing of the lower part of a leg with her preconceived notion of modesty, and yet by Duggar standards it is completely acceptable to show that portion of the leg. So who is right? The Duggars, or the 19th century woman?

Again, culture is often the definer of our views regarding dress, and that includes our views on modesty.

Today’s western culture has no problem with a woman wearing pants and shorts. It is the norm. Our modern society doesn’t blink an eye at bare shoulders or the appearance of a thigh. Can they be taken to extremes? Yes. Should Christians hold to high standards? Yes. Should women walk around showing off their breasts and booties? I don’t think so. But we also shouldn’t look like a throwback to another era.

When Christians dress in ways that differ from their culture, they make themselves oddities. The Apostle Paul said that he became all things to all men, that he might save some. Paul grasped that when we make ourselves strange to those we are desiring to win to Christ, we become a deterrent to the gospel. Nineteenth century missionary, Hudson Taylor, understood this and changed his mode of dress to align with the Chinese people to whom he ministered. Likewise, Amy Carmichael adopted the Indian manner of dress to be more acceptable to the people in the villages that she was trying to reach. And we too, should dress similarly to the people we live amongst. Wearing long denim skirts or swim dresses is not a cultural norm. It is just, I’m going to say it, weird.

And perhaps Jinger Vuolo is beginning to grasp this concept. Perhaps Jinger is realizing that it not sinful, like she originally thought, to wear contemporary clothing, rather than looking like a member of a religious cult. Perhaps she is learning that she can look pretty dang cute in a pair of slacks or shorts without making the male masses froth at the mouth with lust. And maybe, just maybe, Jinger is beginning to see that restricting a woman to one mode of dress, deemed modest not by Scripture, but by the opinions of man, builds yet another avenue for legalism and limits the ability to connect with the people we seek to lead to Christ.