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Let’s Start Thinking Right About Modesty: 4 Reasons To Put Some Clothes On

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“Great, another modesty article,” some might think.

Let’s go ahead and get the necessary caveats out of the way: I don’t have a right to tell you how to dress (but God does); it isn’t a sin to be pretty/handsome; I am ultimately responsible for my own thoughts of lust and will answer before the Lord in Judgment; the line between being modest and immodest isn’t always black and white; modesty isn’t just about dress; modesty isn’t just for women; yada, yada, yada.

Yet, as much as some want to water this down, the stubborn fact is that God still expects Christians to be modest. He inspired the apostle to write:

[…] Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

Roll your eyes at me, but not at God.

Here are some reasons why Christians need to actively pursue modesty (rather than being indifferent about it – or worse, viewing the Bible’s commands with contempt)

1. Modesty is a gift to those around you.

As a guy, I have an admission to make to the women around me: How you dress affects me. The more your outfit reveals, the more I want to look and the more I don’t want to look. Then there’s the guilt that I even wanted to look in the first place. It’s that huge conflict between the flesh and my inner being, described in Romans 7:15-25.

This is almost a daily struggle, because even “Christian” women dress in an incredibly revealing way – at the mall, at the post office, on social media, out running, even at church. I know there’s something wrong with me – much like almost all Christian men in this regard. The temptation to lust is always there, and I must fight it until I go on to glory. I don’t want to look. I hate it. And thankfully, there’s God’s grace – so long as I continue to fight it and maintain boundaries. I understand that at the end of the day, I’m accountable for my own thoughts and actions.

With that said, you need to know that your modesty is a gift to me. It makes walking with Christ a little bit easier. And maybe I’m not alone in this.

2. Modesty is the acknowledgment that you are your brother/sister’s keeper.

Sure, it may sound liberating to say, “It’s my body. I can do with it what I please. If I want to let it all hang out, you can’t stop me.” Statements like this will get you plenty of applause from worldly people. Yet, this attitude is anti-Christian in that it pretends that the spiritual state of those around you is inconsequential. All Christians live within a community of believers, and we need to care less about self and more about others (see Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Rom. 12:10; Heb. 10:24; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3).

Of course, we all know men (and women) are responsible for their own actions: their affairs, their fornication, their viewing of pornography, their lust, and their criminal sexual behavior (rape, sexual assault). No matter how many times Potiphar’s wife threw herself at Joseph, he was still personally responsible for refusing her sexual advances (Gen. 39). A woman’s lack of modesty does not justify a man’s sexual indulgence.

But doesn’t the law of Christ demand that we go out of our way to avoid anything that will invite others to stumble (Gal. 6:2)? Some like to dress a certain way because they like the attention, status, and power of being pursued by the opposite sex. But inviting others to sin is just as sinfully heinous.

3. Modesty is the Biblical way of fleeing sensuality.

Sometimes people use the [sadly] obsolete King James word, “lasciviousness.” Newer Bibles now render the word, “sensuality.” The Greek word is aselgeia, and it is found in passages like Romans 13:13-14, Galatians 5:19-21, and 2 Peter 2:2, 18. Aselgeia refers to activities that arouse sexual desire, movements that accentuate the body, and feelings of unrestraint. Sensuality, as the Bible uses it, is the opposite of being embarrassed by sin.

This is why the King James translates “modesty” in 1 Timothy 2:9 as “shamefacedness.” It is the recognition that there are parts of the body that should remain private – parts that should still cause us to blush when they are exposed (either because something is too short or too tight). There’s a big problem when we are more embarrassed to wear modest clothing than we are when we wear revealing clothing. We should never become so desensitized by culture that we lose our ability to know when we need “greater modesty” for our “unpresentable parts” (1 Cor. 12:23).

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long skirts and shorts need to be, what sort of bathing suit to wear, and whether or not men should jog outside shirtless here in hot, humid Georgia (please, don’t). But we don’t need to insult God by pretending we’re too stupid to know when an outfit lends itself to sensuality.

4. Modesty is the demonstration that we are more than just sex objects.

Passages like 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 are not teaching that it is wrong to try to look nice. The point the Holy Spirit is communicating is this: Don’t try to get attention by your hair, jewelry, or sex appeal – stand out from the crowd by your uncanny likeness to Christ. When you dress immodestly, you’re telling people that you don’t have anything more to offer than your body.

Conclusion

While I have a general idea, I don’t have exact criteria for what is modest and what is not. The Bible doesn’t come with any pictures.

But if we believe the Bible, then we cannot minimize God’s command to be modest. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. Which means you don’t have to strut your stuff. It also means that you shouldn’t be ashamed when your peers mock you when put on longer, looser clothes than them. The shame Christians feel when they reveal parts that should be kept private should be of greater importance than the shame of peer pressure.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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29 Responses to Let’s Start Thinking Right About Modesty: 4 Reasons To Put Some Clothes On

  1. Erica March 21, 2017 at 10:39 AM #

    Thank you for this post. Very well said. Already I see the struggle we face as my own son, just 5, has to give “privacy” to ladies everywhere simply for their dress. If people would even look at it through these lenses they might realize this isn’t just an issue for teens or adults.

  2. Jan Book March 21, 2017 at 11:42 AM #

    Great writing. I had to share it on Facebook.

  3. Donevy L. Westphal March 21, 2017 at 11:51 AM #

    I understand your comment on ‘another modesty post’. I’m so sorry for our generation. I’ve been around long enough to have heard, read, etc. most all the modesty posts/sermons, and have come to a revelation moment. I best put a caveat here, I do believe there are some who maybe have just come out of the worldly living world who honestly don’t/didn’t know about the modesty issue. However, as sad as it makes me, most women don’t care. They are going to wear what they want no matter what the reasons. They don’t care that many men will look at their immodesty and think bad thoughts. They just want to look ‘hot’ in the eyes of the world. They just don’t care. :(

  4. Gail Elliott March 21, 2017 at 12:02 PM #

    Brother Ben
    I am a child of the fiftys. When we weny to services as a child we all wore dresses . we had church clothes and school clothes. I have small nieces i have bought. Clothes for in the past. The stores want them to look like grownup. As for me i have scares from carwreck. I wear pants. My clothes are resale. But when i get to services.jesus is there. Hes lookin at my heart. Thanks for your lesson this morning. Lol gail Elliott

  5. Dani March 21, 2017 at 12:52 PM #

    This is an awesome post. Thanks for sharing God’s word.

  6. Loy Pressley March 21, 2017 at 1:40 PM #

    Love the picture you have with this post. It truly conveys, unfortunately, the way most feel about this topic. If people would only heed your good words…

  7. Rick Raines March 21, 2017 at 2:49 PM #

    Thank you for your article Ben it is well written, thought provoking and biblical. It was mentioned about new christians not knowing what they maybe doing. This is true but we have a responsibility to teach them as well as our family. Paul told these things to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-5 and the Lord spoke these things to Israel in Deu. 6:6-9. We have to teach it more and never stop because it maybe unpopular. Souls depend on it…

    • Ben March 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM #

      Great comment, Rick! And thanks for your kind words.

  8. queenmummarybell March 21, 2017 at 4:42 PM #

    Ben, this is so well written! I have to add, that as a woman, I have always known if something I wore was modest. From my mother’s teaching, from Bible teachers, from sermons, I developed a sense of what was right or wrong; my conscience was educated. Our girls and boys need to learn modesty from the time they are small, and they won’t know unless parents and churches both teach. It has been a struggle for many years, and always will be, while we live in this world. Thank you for being real.

  9. Ivy March 21, 2017 at 6:15 PM #

    Amen!

  10. Melissa March 21, 2017 at 8:19 PM #

    Well said. Thank you for this reminder. We all needed to hear it!

  11. Loralee March 21, 2017 at 8:59 PM #

    Spot on, Ben! Thank you.

  12. Peggy Gunn March 22, 2017 at 1:02 PM #

    Ben please remind us that legging are not pants.

  13. LeAnn March 22, 2017 at 5:14 PM #

    Thank you, Ben, for this article. It is soooo very needed today!! I was raised in the church and my parents always made sure my sisters and I dressed modestly, but there was not the same emphasis on the boys dressing modestly, (PE classes, swimming, mowing the yard, etc.) So I grew up also thinking that there was no real specific Scriptures that told us how long or short a garment was supposed to be and that if basically left it up to us to figure it out. But my husband, also a minister, helped me to clear up that misconception. The verses are not in the New Testament but rather the Old. I ask you to consider these following verses.

    Modesty is a moral issue and God’s moral law has never changed. From the beginning of time, God told mankind what He expected of them. When God clothed Adam and Eve in the garden it was because they were basically wearing the equivalent of today’s underwear or bathing suits, yet He said they were naked (Gen. 3:7-10). So He made the tunics of skin. (Gen. 3:21) Tunics normally cover from the shoulders to the knees. In Exodus. 28:40-43 God instructed Moses to make Aaron and his sons priestly garments (tunics, sashes and hats). In verse 42, God told Moses, “And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs.” The question posed to me when I thought thigh meant mid thigh, was “where does the thigh begin and where does the thigh end?” To be quite frank I was wearing shorts then that were about 3 inches above the knee and didn’t feel inclined to change that. But when my husband posed this question to me, I truly didn’t want to answer it. I know the thigh begins at the groin and that was the easy part to answer. But when he pressed me to answer where the thigh ends, I gritted my teeth and refused to answer. He asked me three times and finally I grudgingly admitted that the thigh ends at the knee. This caused me to take a deep look inside and ask myself if I was going to be honest with the Word of God. Isaiah 47:2-3 is a symbolic passage but illustrates what nakedness is. “…Remove your veil, Take off the skirt, uncover the thigh, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen.”

    This made sense to me, because in all the teaching I had received growing up in the church, I had never been shown these verses in relation to what real modesty was. It’s not a subjective matter as many think and I have been told before, (well that’s your opinion!) It’s a real Bible truth that many ignore. We are looked at funny by other members of the church and family members but I made a decision long ago that I would rather please God than man.

    I just thought I would share what I learned many years ago, because I had the same mind set that many others have today. God bless you in your work and thank you again for this article!

    • Terri byers March 23, 2017 at 1:53 PM #

      Spot on lisa! I use these same verses to show we do have strong guidelines set by God. For Adam and the priests…men, as well as women.
      Thank you for your lengthy input! Excellent point also…making our mind up to love Him. The other is much easier after the “making”!

    • Peggy March 29, 2017 at 10:26 PM #

      Couldn’t have said it any better! I have learned the same thing! Thank you, LeAnn!

  14. J Pherigo March 22, 2017 at 9:54 PM #

    Thank you for the timely lesson on modesty esp. as the Lord’s church
    Needs reminding often, starting with our young Christian girls and young men.

  15. Jessica Bjerk March 23, 2017 at 12:57 AM #

    I appreciate you referencing many Bible passages in this article. You are correct, it is not our ideas about modesty, it is God’s commands. I am raising 3 daughters who are entering the teenage years. At this point they are uncomfortable wearing short or low cut things. It is important that they develop their own convictions and personal relationship with the Lord that will guide them as the grow in independence. We have strived to not make it “because I said so,” but “because this is how God wants us to behave and to dress.” “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

  16. Jason Husted March 23, 2017 at 10:14 AM #

    Thank you for this article. I would disagree with you tho that God does not say how long or short is immodest. He is very clear about it in the old testament. In the garden after Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they hid them selves because they were naked. This was after they had made some thing to cover them selves. God made for them “tunics” to cover their nakedness. If you look up what a tunic is, it is a garment that covers from the shoulder to the knee. Also when God lays out the rules for the priest garments, he said they needed to be long enough to cover the nakedness of their thigh, ie to the knee.

    Also we need to remember that just because it is long doesn’t mean it is modest. Something can go to the ankle but is so tight that you can see every curve of the body of every line of undergarments. This is just as immodest as not having anything on at all.

    • Terri byers March 23, 2017 at 2:03 PM #

      Good comments. Right now, women are going with tights, yoga “pants” or similar printed leggings. Often times it helps cover,pull tighter what they feel are flaws in their bodies. After feeling they look better in the leggings, the tempatiin is to show off what should be secret. The tops get shorter to the point it is now a top with pant replacement.
      The point is, like the author Ben was saying, each one of us have a responsibility to love each other. To not defraud each other. To not put a stumbling block in each other’s way. Immodestly does that fabulously! It is simply a matter of getting the heart right. I need to love my brother!

  17. Corinne March 24, 2017 at 9:24 AM #

    Is this satire? Where is modesty described as “non-lascivious” in this scripture? Or any, for that matter… If I’m reading it literally, it says, “not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” Why do we throw away the lines scripture made and make our own to suit our needs? I’m thinking of another scripture where Jesus was clear on where the lines are… “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Or was he not really saying that? Why have we disregarded His definitions and instructions? There are people learning about the heart of God from this article, and I believe you have misdirected them.

    • Ben March 24, 2017 at 9:53 AM #

      Corinne, are you denying that one of the key definitions of modesty in Scripture is dressing in a non-sensual way (i.e. making sure your private parts are covered)? Are you denying that 1 Timothy 2:9-10 commands this in no uncertain terms when it says to dress in a way that “is proper for women who profess godliness”? Furthermore, are you denying how critically important it is for Christians to dress in ways that do not invite thoughts of lust (Matt. 5:28; Matt. 18:7)? Are you you denying that Christians should dress in ways that don’t hurt their influence (Rom. 13:10; Rom. 15:3; Phil. 2:3-4)?

      The Bible needs to be its own interpreter. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 isn’t condemning women from braiding their hair and occasionally wearing jewelry or expensive clothing. The sister passage, 1 Peter 3:3-4, says, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” If we read 1 Peter 3:3-4 literally, then Peter is forbidding women from wearing any kind of apparel! Of course, he isn’t forbidding the putting on of clothes, just as he isn’t prohibiting the wearing of jewelry or fixing one’s hair. Peter and Paul are saying to women (and by extension, men too): Don’t dress ostentatiously. That is, don’t dress with the desire to bring undue attention to yourself (either by expensive garments & jewelry, flashy hair arrangements, or sexually revealing clothing).

      Do not make the grievous error of mistaking every command in the Bible as absolutely literal in every sense. When Jesus said to pluck out our eyes and cut off our hands if they cause us to sin (Matt. 5:28-29), do you really believe He was commanding us to literally mutilate our bodies whenever we sin? Have you never committed a sin with your hands or eyes? How did you type your comment? What Jesus is commanding – in a figurative way – is that Christians need to be willing to make extreme sacrifices when it comes to following Him (Matt. 16:28). For example, if a man has a pornography addiction, he needs to be willing to sell his smartphone or only browse the internet in a public place in an effort to lessen his temptation to view pornography. If a woman has a problem with gossiping, she needs to be willing to disconnect her phone line if it means removing a very real temptation to sin against her Lord.

  18. Josh March 24, 2017 at 4:51 PM #

    The difficulty with your emphasis between female/modesty and male/lust is that it is too narrow and too over-reaching at the same time. Too narrow because, as you correctly state, modesty is much more than how much or little we cover. This is inarguably the more direct, clear and biblical idea of modesty and one that rarely gets addressed. Anyone can be “immodest” (attention-seeking) by hoping people notice how “modest” (body-parts-covering) they are. So, you can literally violate the biblical principle of modesty (attention-seeking) and still be keeping your male/lust definition. That’s why the saying “modest is hottest” is completely antithetical to the biblical concept of modesty.

    However, your definition is also too over-reaching in that in now relies on for it’s definition what specific parts of a women make a given man lust. If, as you claim, modesty is, even in part, defined by what might cause a man to lust, then there are no lengths we shouldn’t expect our Christian sisters to go to avoid being the Matthew 5 stumbling block. Otherwise, we are just drawing arbitrary lines or creating fairly arbitrary standards. I hope it’s clear that if what a woman should cover is, even in part, defined by what makes a man excited then we maybe our Sharia-law observing Muslim friends are onto something with the burqas.

    • Ben March 26, 2017 at 5:29 PM #

      Your point that “anyone can be ‘immodest’ (attention-seeking) by hoping people notice how ‘modest’ (body-parts-covering) they are” is a prime example of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matt. 23:24). I have yet to see an example of someone being guilty of this, nor do I wish to attempt to assume the motives of anyone who diligently tries to dress in a sexually modest way.

      You also seem to believe that because the Bible doesn’t always provide specifics as to what sexually modest, then Christians don’t have to worry about dressing in a sexually modest way. Yet this is theologically incoherent. Should we just throw our hands in the air in defeat? Does the Bible expect men and women to dress in sexually modest/chaste clothing, or does it not? The pages of Scripture do in fact provide a good bit of helpful information as to what is acceptable and unacceptable for men and women to wear. Furthermore, I believe level-headed Christians are more than capable of coming to a solid grasp of what is modest or immodest. Fathers & husbands, especially, need to do a better job helping the women under their roofs better understand where the line is drawn.

      There is no getting around this point: Men and women need to serve each other when it comes to this subject. A godly man refuses to treat a woman as an object of lust, and instead honors women as fellow image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and honors his Christian sisters as fellow heirs (Rom. 8:17). A godly woman, in turn, serves her brothers (and also honors her husband) by intentionally dressing in sexually modest clothing in public, and – in so doing – also removes an unnecessary hindrance from her public profession of godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10).

      • Josh March 28, 2017 at 5:38 PM #

        Thanks for responding….I understand it easy to see my criticism of your definition of modesty as a laissez-faire attitude toward sexuality and clothing.

        Let me try to make myself more clear – the biblical definition of modesty is in contrast to pride NOT in contrast to male/lust. When we isolate modesty to a male/lust definition we are drastically short-changing the biblical concept.

        In contrast, your blog post is titled “Let’s Start Thinking Right about Modesty” with a subtitle of “4 Reasons to Put Some Clothes On.” By doing so you have perpetuate the popular misconception that modesty is primarily about women, clothing and lust. In 1 Timothy, when Paul advocates for “modesty”, he requests that women clothe themselves not with longer tunics or higher-cut robes but with “good deeds”. The same goes for 1 Peter 3:4. To start thinking “right” then would be to consider clothing ourselves with good deeds. I suppose one could extrapolate that one good deed would be to watch how they dress in consideration of their fellow Christians but it certainly not the direct, clear case that Peter or Paul are making.

        This broader definition of modesty is both more biblical and more sweeping in it’s application. Therefore, when a minister likes to impress other ministers with the number of people that come to his church – that is immodesty. If a mother likes to make comments about how advanced her toddler is in order to impress other mothers in the Women’s Bible Study – she is behaving immodestly. If an adult in Bible Class makes comments in order to impress others by the depth of his or her bible knowledge, that is immodest. Those are all examples of the Biblical and, frankly, historical definition of modesty. Quick aside – Churchill, talking about one of his political opponents, said, “He is a very modest man with much to be modest about.” …he wasn’t talking about short-shorts or yoga pants.

        It is hardly straining out a gnat to say that self-righteous attention-seeking is an issue among Christians, however it manifests itself. And, yes, to have smug sense of moral superiority because “we are better than those women who wear yoga pants and low-cut blouses” is not uncommon. It’s not too far down the road from the Pharisee and the tax collector. Luke 18:9 – “Here is another parable that he told. It was aimed at those who were sure of their own goodness and looked down on everyone else.”

        • Ben March 28, 2017 at 10:53 PM #

          Josh, you seem very quick to judge the motives of people who simply, humbly want to bring glory to God by their modest dress – modest in dressing in both a non-ostentatious way AND a non-sexually revealing way. Let’s protect those people instead of belittling them.

          Why can’t 1 Peter 3:3-5 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10 be about BOTH modesty in relation to wearing ostentatious clothing AND modesty in relation to wearing sexually revealing clothing? I believe 1 Timothy 2:9 is all encompassing. Here’s why:

          First, in the original language, “elaborate hairstyles or gold or pears or expensive clothes” are not exclusively modifying the words “respectable apparel” and “modesty.” Furthermore, kosmois, translated “respectable,” means “proper, respectable, and virtuous.” Aidos, translated “modesty,” means “a sense of shame, shamefacedness, bashfulness, reverence.” I believe, wholehearted, these definitions alone prohibit a woman (and by extension, a man, too) from dressing in a way they know is sexually revealing – just as much as they prohibit a woman from flaunting her wealth.

          Second, I believe you are reading 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 through 21st century eyes, forgetting how prostitutes and those wishing to lure the eyes of men dressed in the first century in some cultures. For example, Revelation 17:1-6 describes the great prostitute wearing “purple and scarlet” and “adorned with gold and jewels and pearls.” This was a form of first century sexual enticement. The words of Scripture link 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 with wearing clothes that are sexually promiscuous.

          Third, God directed 1 Timothy 2:9-10 directly to women, and not all genders. But (pretending your limited application of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is correct) don’t all genders – male and female – suffer from the temptation to dress in an showy, ostentatious way? Yet, one particular gender generally has a greater temptation to lust at the opposite-sex’s figure than the other. There’s a reason 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is gender specific, just as there is a reason Matthew 5:28 is gender specific. Why did God direct 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to women? I suppose God recognizes that, generally speaking, the temptation women feel lust at men is little league compared the temptation men feel to lust at women.

          I think you are making a grave mistake by limiting 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-5 to mere “pride.” But, there are scores of people who applaud you.

          Remember: Clothing was God’s idea (Gen. 3:21), and so was modesty. Wearing clothing that is chaste is God-honoring, and it honors sexual purity. I am not isolating sexual modesty in these passages, but am merely focusing on them in this particular blog post because (a) skeptics as yourself have de-toothed the passage, and (b) most Christians already agree (at least in principle) that pride and ostentatious clothing are wrong.

          God expects Christians to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), which includes sexual lust (Matt. 5:28). Therefore, if I have a choice of being around modest as opposed to immodest women, I will choose to be around modest women (as it is easier to flee sexual immorality). By extension, Christians (men and women) should dress in a manner that respects this struggle and suggests they are sexually chaste and care about the holiness of those around them.

  19. William Arthur Roark Jr April 17, 2017 at 12:44 PM #

    I use the [sadly] obsolete King James Bible. It is ok to go to Dictionary.com and expand your vocabulary and understanding. I believe lasciviousness has a greater depth of meaning, as do many obsolete English words. The reason I don’t use Bible translations after the 1880’s is for what they have deleted from the scriptures… that is a worthy study my brother. God Bless you for this otherwise great article. Bill Roark

    • Ben April 17, 2017 at 12:54 PM #

      I share your disappointment that “lasciviousness” has become an obsolete word. It really does have a greater depth of meaning, and modern ‘equivalents’ don’t do it justice.

      Concerning your assertion that post-1880’s English Bible translations are “deleting” Scriptures, after much personal study I am thankful that you are mistaken on that that point. I mention this briefly here: http://www.plainsimplefaith.com/2016/11/7-tips-for-thinking-right-about-bible-translations/, and do a slightly more extensive study in the You Are A Theologian volume, Thinking Right About The Bible. We must only consider “Scripture” that which we know in fact to be Scripture.

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