Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Modest Dress: A Man’s Perspective

Spring is in full bloom, and with the increase in temperatures, we see a corresponding decrease in the amount of skin covered by those who seek comfort in the sun and the approving gaze of others.

What? You say that your skimpy dress is not an attempt to gain approval (most often from the opposite gender?) Well, I was born in April, but I was not born this last April!

The immodest fashions of the day are very clearly designed to produce lust. The most common term that is used to describe bikinis, short skirts, halter tops and tight fitting clothes is “sexy.” The term sexy is defined by Webster, “sexually suggestive or stimulating: EROTIC” While the term has become common place, it nevertheless reveals a concept that is antithetical to the Christian’s perspective and profession.

I would like for the ladies to consider how men perceive them, as regards to the clothes they wear. Before doing so, some caveats are needed.

First, it is as inappropriate for a man to dress in an immodest or suggestive manner. Not only will he look ridiculous, but he may put a stone of offense before another. Men should not expose their bare chest in public. They should not uncover their thighs, and should refrain from wearing tight fitting and sexually suggestive clothing.

Second, Christian men are sometimes accused of being perverted or preoccupied with sex when addressing these matters. Such a charge, whether explicitly stated or simply thought, is unfair. The Bible is replete with passages that warn about lust. The apostle Paul refers to men and women (in 1 Corinthians 7) who he encourages to marry lest they “burn” with passion. Not all had the same control over their sexual desires that Paul enjoyed, (vs. 7-9). David was described as a man after God’s heart, and yet sexual lust led him to adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11).

I do not want my wife and daughters to be objects of lust. I do not want them to be a stumbling block to their brothers in Christ. I do not want to be compelled to avert my eyes when in the company of my sisters in Christ. I am constrained to avert my eyes enough as it is, when going to just about any public place. Because of this, I will strive to write plainly, without descending to baseness.

Men have a visual orientation to sexuality. This is evident when you consider how the “adult entertainment” industry thrives. Video and photographic pornography, sexy lingerie, etc., all appeal to lust that comes from a man’s sight. Even certain passages found in the Song of Solomon reveal the visual appeal the Shulamite holds for her Beloved. Most parts of a woman’s body are sexually stimulating to a man, from just below the neck to just above the knee. This is why the Bible calls for modest dress from the woman, behavior that has its origin from “shamefacedness” (1 Timothy 2:9, KJV).

So, ladies, if you dress in tight fitting clothing, if you use dècolletage to reveal cleavage, if you expose your midriff, (even a small portion), if you uncover your thigh, you put a stone of stumbling before your brother in Christ. Even if it is not your intent, even if you don’t think of it that way, even if you just want to wear something “cute”, the fact remains that you become a temptation to another. A careful consideration of this truth would rule out almost all bathing suits, cheerleading outfits, most women’s shorts, and a large number of athletic uniforms.

Some consider these views to be draconian and unfair to our daughters. In answer, I will point out the following about my own children, with the disclaimer that “I speak as a fool…” (2 Corinthians 11:23); (I don’t want my personal experience to be equated with foolish boasting). My sons and daughters were able to participate in athletics through high school without wearing immodest clothing. This was true, despite that fact that many of the girl’s uniforms were immodest. When we expressed religious convictions in the matter, school officials were very accommodating in allowing modifications to maintain modesty. My children have enjoyed swimming and boating activities without themselves dressing immodestly, or participating in such activities with others of the opposite sex who were dressed immodestly. While they must speak for themselves, I believe they will tell you that they did not suffer unduly, and were willing to be considered “different” to maintain their standing with God.

Parents must be willing to say “No” when their daughters seek to conform to the immodest dress of their peers. It is not asking too much of your daughter to sacrifice by being different. She should, rather, embrace the fact that she is among the “sojourners and pilgrims” and she is to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). As Paul wrote, we are to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

I would hope that young ladies and their mothers recognize the danger and sin of immodest dress. But, if they do not, the fathers most certainly do. Men, you know how the female body, insufficiently clothed, leads to lust. If you allow your daughter to dress immodestly, you do her a disservice, and fail in your duties as a father (cf. Ephesians 6:4).

Ladies, please consider Paul’s admonition to “adorn [yourself] in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation…” (1 Timothy 2:19). In doing so you will reveal “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).