You’ve likely heard it said that we should stop telling girls what they should and shouldn’t wear and, instead, teach boys to control themselves. This could easily be a bumper sticker advertisement for the worldly feminist movement. Yet you might be surprised to find that this very worldly sentiment has crept its way into churches.
Many church leaders aren’t sure what to do about the subject of modesty. Should the church member dressed inappropriately on a week by week basis be confronted? Or shouldn’t we just teach men to control themselves? Why should we put the burden of purity on women?
These are just a few of the questions I’ve seen circulate online from questioning adults who are unsure how to handle the issue of biblical modesty. True, it’s disappointing, and actually inexcusable, for an individual who has been entrusted as a steward of so many souls to be so ambiguous on this issue. That’s because the answer is very simple.
Out of fear of being labeled “fundamentalist” by the younger, more progressive generations, church leaders have allowed modesty to slip to the very end of the priority list. Immodest dress on Sundays is now a mainstay in the modern church. Many women and young girls fill the pews, post pictures online from the weekend, and live their everyday lives mimicking the very world they are supposed to be markedly different from, while church leaders sit idly by pretending as though it’s not an issue.
Some might cite this change as “liberation” or “adapting to the times.” Some might say, “Who am I to judge?” But all of this is antithetical to a God who calls us to be holy servants of Christ and to offer complete submission to the Lord.
In order to combat this surge in immodesty, we must first define what biblical modesty is. The exact specifications of modesty may vary from culture to culture, but God’s standard and principle remains constant.
1 Peter 3:3-4 says,
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
1 Timothy 2:9 says,
“…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.”
We must be sure that our clothing does not call attention to the flesh. Our appearance is meant to reflect Christ’s work within our hearts and to show the spirit of gentleness, humility, and self-control He has placed within us.
As God’s chosen people, it should be our chief goal to glorify God in every way. Ephesians 5:8-10 says,
“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”
If we are in Christ, we have been freed from the shackles of sin and have been given the privilege of pleasing God in everything we do. For this reason, we should always seek to please Him in holiness and purity — denying ourselves along with our own sinful lusts and desires. In our actions, our words, our attitudes, and the way we dress, we should examine ourselves to determine that our hearts are humble and obedient toward God and that we are bringing glory to God rather than ourselves.
Because our bodies are not our own, we have an obligation to honor Him with them. They belong to Him, they were created by Him, and they were designed in His image; therefore, they should only be used for His glory. How are we to present our bodies as holy temples to the Lord if we mark our exterior with worldliness?
Galatians 5:13 states,
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
In other words, the freedom we now have in Christ does not mean that we are free to do as we please according to our flesh. It means we are free from sin. That means that we must use our freedom in Him to serve our brother in Christ rather than hinder him.
It is true that women are not responsible for the sins of others. A man who lusts after a woman is responsible for his thoughts and the judgment that comes as a consequence to his sin. However, how a woman dresses can make it easier or more difficult for a man to hold his thoughts captive, and she, too, will be held accountable if her dress leads him into temptation and sin. If she is dressed inappropriately and leads him astray, she too is guilty of sin.
If we teach men to practice self-control, we should also be teaching young women to honor their bodies to the glory of the Lord and warning them not to be a stumbling block.
Women aren’t given a pass to lead men into temptation just because men should learn to “control themselves.” Immodesty is sinful. As women of God, we should be motivated by our love for Him and by love for those around us, dressing appropriately so that we bring glory to Him and refrain from tempting others. We should be open to exhortation. We should even desire loving, biblical correction when we do fall short so that we can properly submit ourselves back to the Word of God. Only then will the Lord continue to work in our hearts and conform us to Himself.
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