Sex, the Church, and Miss California: On Modesty

meatcutsIf it’s a sin for a man to lust, it’s a sin for a woman to tempt the man to lust. We have to teach our women and girls to sacrifice fashion for the sake of God and protecting marriages.

Women see clothing as “cute” and dress to please one another. When a girl wears a camisole as a blouse, she thinks she’s being fashionable. Her mother thinks she’s darling. A man thinks she wearing bedroom clothing to advertise her sexual willingness. Men don’t read fashion magazines, but they know lingerie when they see it—and they know where and why lingerie is supposed to be worn.

Just so, when a woman reveals her breasts with a low-cut blouse, or wears low-riding jeans or skin tight pants, men see her as trying to be sexy–for a purpose. Some women in fact dress this way seeking to attract men. Others are just naïve. Either way, such clothing choices are inappropriate—even sinful—for Christians and their daughters.

Camisole

Some women complain that it’s the “man’s problem,” and they shouldn’t be denied the right to wear cute clothes because men have dirty minds. It is the man’s problem. And Jesus told him to gouge his eyes, if he has to, to avoid lust. But God also commands our women to be modest—to protect our men from lust—and so they don’t have to blind themselves!

(1 Tim. 2:9-10) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Now, notice this carefully: the requirement to dress modestly is not about church buildings. It’s 24/7. It applies especially in the workplace, because this is where most affairs begin. Girls should wear the same swimwear at Bible camp that they wear at the club or backyard pool or the beach. They are Christians in all those places, and they reveal their love or disrespect for their Lord by what they wear wherever they are.

This is the rule: If your husband says the clothes are immodest, then your daughter is immodest, even if the wife disagrees. She can’t think like a man. (Just so, I tell men that if their sisters or mothers say their girlfriend is no good, she really is no good, no matter what you or your dad thinks. Women understand women as no man possibly could. And men understand men as no woman possibly could.)

In the 1960’s, one element of feminism was for women to escape being thought of as merely “sex objects.” Women are now so liberated that they can be more of a sex object than we ever imagined possible 40 years ago—and celebrate the “right”! Things have turned around 180 degrees.

We really need to return to the notion that women don’t want to be judged by their bodies. I don’t mean that women need to be purposefully unattractive. Not 20 years out of fashion. They just need to be modest.

Now, I’m well aware of how important clothes to the self-esteem of young women. And I know how severely girls judge other girls based on such superficialities. But we are called to be different—and radically so. We need to consciously teach our daughters to refuse to judge others based on their clothing—and even to defend those who are so judged. And we need to teach all our members what it really means to be a Christian—

(1 Pet. 3:14) But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”

Peter teaches that we are to live as aliens and strangers in the world—not like everyone else—and to expect criticism for doing good. When a Christian girl dresses modestly when all the other girls dress immodestly, she’ll be criticized, and when she defends her decision, she’ll be scorned. Doing right when others are doing wrong makes them feel guilty.

(1 Pet. 4:16) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

(Matt. 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus and Peter assume that we’ll be persecuted simply for being Jesus’ followers. We cannot completely shield our children from this and still raise them as Christians. No one wishes for persecution, but given a choice between dressing immodestly or being laughed at, we have no choice but to suffer from the laughter.

(1 Pet. 2:11-12) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

But as Peter says, even when people speak ill of us, the result is to bring glory to God—better yet, to even convert some of those who see our courage and good deeds.

Now, women can be tempting to men even if they’re quite modest. Men are entirely capable of thinking lustfully without lewd or revealing clothing. But that really is the man’s problem. It becomes the woman’s problem when she tempts him to lust or signals that his sexual interest just might be reciprocated.

We need to get over the notion that it’s “cute” to be sexy or prematurely sexualized. It’s bad for our children—boys and girls. It’s bad for society. And it’s against God’s will.

One more point: I recall hearing a woman talking about urging her private school to have a dance for 5th grade boys and girls. Her friend said they were too young (and their school had agreed). She replied, “But they’re just so cute!” Why do we want to sexualize our children at younger and younger ages? What price justifies doing this to our children?

Our children already have to cope with far too many years between puberty and getting married. When we accelerate their sexual awakening, we only lengthen the time that they have to be abstinent. They’ll learn about the opposite sex plenty soon enough. We really need to avoid the temptation to have our middle school children date and go to dances. There will be plenty of time for that later.

[Adapted from Appendix 2 to the author’s But If You Do Marry ... ]

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16 Responses

  1. Luk 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.
    Luk 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
    Luk 17:3 So watch yourselves.

    I wonder how many Christian women think about that verse when they decide what to wear each day.

  2. Wow. Harsh, Alan. I am sure there are many women who are very careful about how they dress and to imply otherwise is a mite insulting.

    Don’t forget that Christian men are still going to have to deal with non-Christian women who are dressed in a revealing manner no matter what Christian women wear (or don’t wear).

    Work on your heart. Train yourself not to objectify women.

  3. reJoyce,
    I don’t understand the hostility. I simply quoted Jesus, and stated something I truly wonder about.

  4. Incredulous might be an appropriate term for how I was feeling, not hostile. I am sorry if it came across as hostile to you. However, to quote a bible verse on sin, then say “I wonder if they ever think about causing others to sin” the one after the other implies that you don’t think that they do. And I found that a bit surprising.

  5. I read Alan’s reaction as a knee-jerk response straight out of the “Boston Movement”/ICOC playbook. Every member’s motives are continually questioned. Come to think of it, the ICOC’s efforts to keep every member sexually pure through the discipling system actually objectified women (at least from my perspective). If you have to continually confess to your discipler that you lusted after a woman (or man), you just start to see them as objects not to lust after, not people to love. Especially if we throw in their traditional dating system where boyfriends/girlfriends and spouses are worked for and won!

  6. Xray342 and reJoyce,

    Alan left the discipling movement. He said none of the things Xray342 accuses him of. He simply expresses a concern — a concern that I share — that women should be more concerned with being modest.

    Of course, many women are properly concerned about their modesty — but quite obviously, many are not, including many Christians.

    Alan notes a very applicable verse. It’s wrong to lust. It’s wrong to tempt. Jesus said both things. Both are true.

  7. Sigh. I feel like you are willfully trying to misunderstand me. When you condense the verse that Alan quoted, you say “It’s wrong to lust. It’s wrong to tempt.” Yet all he said was “it’s wrong to tempt. Do they even think about that?” Do you not see how that might be insulting to someone who does think about it? As well as sounding particularly self-righteous and unconcerned for the fact that men are culpable as well?

    I’m assuming that the information about the disciplining movement is for the other commenter, even though you addressed your comment to us both, since I didn’t say anything about it. (And really have very little knowledge of it.)

  8. reJoyce,

    On this thread, you and I are working with a very limited sampling each other’s thinking. I imagine that if we got to know each other better we’d find that we have a lot in common. I certainly did not mean to imply that most Christian women aren’t careful about how they dress. But I do think some of them should be more careful. I’m sorry if my comment conveyed more than that.

  9. Jay, I am surprised reading this. I have read with great joy your writings on grace and how to read the story in the Bible. I had to stop and read several times the early section of your post. They seem out of character with your other writings.

    In Timothy, Paul writes “I w-a-n-t women to dress modestly” And there are two of your statements:

    “God also c-o-m-m-a-n-d-s our women to be modest”
    and
    “the r-e-q-u-i-r-e-m-e-n-t to dress modestly”

    I may be reading too much strength into the words “commands” and “requirement” but where is the grace here?

    I hope you have the time to respond as I had to stop and wonder, “is this coming from Jay?” This doesn’t compute, this isn’t characteristic or something. I’m really torn and confused.

  10. On the other hand
    Churches like mine that have been rocked by scandal ,moral failure and out of control sin are little suspicious of personal motives. Yes there are people that are young and innocent but that is no excuse for not seeking Jesus standards.

  11. Dwayne,

    Are you seriously arguing that modesty is a matter of personal preference, that is, that women may choose to be or not be modest with God’s full approval either way? As Alan noted earlier, Jesus himself said,

    (Luke 17:1) Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.”

    Tempting others to sin is sin.

    Regarding grace, grace is about forgiveness from sin, but is not license to sin. If you’ve ever understood me to approve sinning in reliance on grace, you’ve seriously misunderstood. Consider —

    (Heb 12:15) See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

    This is a reference to this fearsome passage —

    (Deu 29:18-20) Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. 19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

    I pointed this out over a decade ago in my book The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. The worst possible response to grace is to say, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This leads to the condition described in Heb 10:26 ff.

    (Gal 2:17-18) “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.”

    (Rom 6:1-2) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

  12. Jay,

    I retract the statement about grace. I used the wrong word, please forgive.
    Please allow me to back up a step or two.

    I cannot go from Paul writing, “I want women to dress modestly” to “God also commands our women to be modest.” Those two statements are too far apart for me.

  13. Dwayne, If all we had to go on was Paul’s “I want women to dress modestly” someone might come to the conclusion that it is optional, and therefore might ignore that teaching (however, still not a good idea!) But that’s not all we have to go on. Matt 5:28 says that whoever looks on a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in their heart. So lust is sin. And therefore Luke 17 is conclusive. If a woman dresses in such a way that she tempts someone to lust, she is guilty according to Luke 17:1-3. Woe to her, according to Jesus.

  14. Alan, I agree with you. This one statement from Paul to Timothy is not all we have. I am not writing about all the scriptures we have. I am writing about this one statement…and I cannot go from Paul writing, “I want women to dress modestly” to “God also commands our women to be modest.”

  15. Email from a reader:

    Amen Brother!!!! I totally 100 percent agree with you.

    Thank you for making me aware to not let my kids go to dances till high school, I have two daughters and three sons, You are a strong Christian , I thought we were all becoming extinct. My husband and I need to really hear what you are saying. He needs to trust me that I understand how woman think and I need to trust him that he understands how men think.

    Keep the faith brother and keep encouraging us young Parents so we can change society back to a Christian society.

  16. I’m wondering about modesty in medical situations. Don’t women put themselves in a position of tempting male doctors when they are disrobed and “intimate” examinations are performed?

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