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Asking the Clergy: What is the value of modesty in your faith tradition?

Thomas Schmidt of New Apostolic Church, Isma H.

Thomas Schmidt of New Apostolic Church, Isma H. Chaudhry of Islamic Center of Long Island and the Rev. Adrienne Brewington of United Methodist Church of Babylon. Photo Credit: New Apostolic Church; Islamic Center of Long Island; Adrienne Brewington

Modesty may be an old-fashioned concept nowadays, but it's a virtue for a number of faith traditions. And contrary to popular belief, modesty in these faiths applies equally to men and women. This week’s clergy discuss how a lack of vanity or self-importance makes us more pleasing to God.

Thomas Schmidt

Apostle, New Apostolic Church, Bethpage

Modesty, in the faith tradition of the New Apostolic Church, is recognizing that the greater part of whatever we accomplish is always the part that is done by God. Out of thankfulness and love for the Lord we give expression to our devotion in many different ways.

Humility, however, helps us recognize God’s grace and help, and modesty makes it clear what we owe to God. For example, we pray, but it is God who answers our prayers; we work, but it is God who gives us strength; we may preach, but it is God who touches the hearts.

We teach God’s will as revealed through Jesus Christ, but it is God who fulfills it. We sow through word and deed, but it is he who makes seeds flourish. Therefore, we give glory to God for his work!

Isma H. Chaudhry

Board of trustees chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury

For many in the West, the head scarf for Muslim women has become synonymous with the concept of modesty in Islam. It is noteworthy that in Islam, an outward expression of modesty and social conduct is a prescribed virtue for both men and women. "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. God is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and not to reveal their adornment." (Quran Chapter 24: verse 30)

The Arabic word for modesty is haya, which beautifully covers numerous aspects of spirituality and religiosity in Islam. Outward modesty in Islam is expected to be reflected in appearance, speech, behavior, thoughts and actions. Inward modesty is reflected through humility and God consciousness.

In the Islamic tradition modesty raises one’s understanding of God consciousness through humility and circumventing self-indulgence. In Islam, vanity and pride are strongly discouraged, and many times these human attributes distract us from God’s commandments as well as our obligations toward humanity. Worldly ornamentations and pride create barriers and reticence in our relations with fellow humans. Modesty in Islam is considered an asset that brings us closer to God and humanity.  

The Rev. Adrienne Brewington

Pastor, United Methodist Church of Babylon

I think of modesty as a character trait. In my faith tradition, possessing a modest spirit is the by-product of, and foundational to, a life immersed in an understanding of who we are before God. God creates us, loves us, saves us and sustains us — all of God’s own volition. This loving activity of God in our lives, which we call grace, is ours in spite of our unworthiness.

God’s gracious activity in our lives empowers us for a productive, life-giving, life-changing mission and ministry to the world. What we accomplish for God, through no power of our own, moves us to navigate our lives with compassion, simplicity and modesty. As the prophet Micah writes, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

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