Biblical Modesty in a Modern World (part 5)

The Need For Modesty 

1. The Fall, Genesis 3

2. The Similarities – Sin

3. Our differences:
In this post, we looked at the fact that we are all sinners.  It is that very similarity that makes the differences between men and women another reason that modesty is such an important issue.

In his book, Not Even a Hint, (which, I believe has now been re-titled), Josh Harris says this,

“Isn’t it wonderful how God has made men and women to interact with each other?  He made men visually oriented, then made women beautiful.  He made men initiators, and then designed women to enjoy being pursued.” (pg. 85)

He makes two great points in this statement that I want to use as my “outline” for this section:  first, that men are visually oriented; and second (in a separate post), that men are to be the initiators.

“Visually Oriented”
God designed men to be more visual.  He created them to be to be stimulated by what they see.  And, as Josh Harris pointed out – he made women beautiful.  This was all part of God’s design.  But, in our fallen, sinful state, the innocence and purity of this design has been corrupted, and turned it into yet another display of our vanity, selfishness, and pride.  While that may be true of both men and women, I am addressing this to the women. 

If we know that God created men to be visually oriented, which in the proper context (i.e., marriage) is a good thing, how do we, as women, use that information?  Do we use it to our own selfish “advantage”, to attract as much attention as possible?  Or do we actively seek to protect the men in our lives from being put in a position in which they might be tempted to sin (in thought, or in action)?

This often leads to the question, does this mean that the responsibility for a man’s thoughts or actions rests solely on the woman?  Is a man not capable of, or responsible for controlling himself, his actions, his thoughts, and his eyes? 

In Job 31:1, Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”  Joseph, in Genesis 39, appeared to understand the importance of this type of covenant in his dealings with Potiphar’s wife.  When faced with the constant and forward advances of a very aggressive woman, he fled.  He recognized that what she was suggesting was sin – not only against her, and her husband (Joseph’s boss), but also against God.  And, he ran from it. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage says, 

“The grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome the temptation, by avoiding the temper. He would not stay to parley with the temptation, but fled from it, as escaping for his life. If we mean not to do iniquity, let us flee as a bird from the snare, and as a roe from the hunter.”

David, on the other hand, would have been wise to make a covenant similar to Job’s.  Instead of fleeing temptation, he walked right into it.  2 Samuel 11:2 “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.”  Now, there were 2 things that got David into trouble here… Verse one of this passage tells us that it was “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…But David remained at Jerusalem.”  First, he was not where he was supposed to be.  Kings typically joined their armies in battle.  For reasons not given, David sent his commander to continue this battle, but did not go with them.  Second, his eyes got him in trouble.  He saw a beautiful woman, and instead of looking away, he allowed himself to dwell on what he saw, and eventually act upon it.  This led him down a very dangerous path – one that eventually led to adultery and murder.  

James 1:14 says “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” We are each responsible before God for our own sin.  Yes, guys may be visually oriented, but just because a woman is dressed (or otherwise behaving) immodestly does not give him license to sin.  A man cannot control what a woman wears.  But, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, he can control his eyes, his thoughts, and his actions.  He, and he alone, is responsible before God for his actions. 

That being said, ladies, please do not think that this frees you to do, say, or wear whatever you please.  In the same way, you are responsible before God for your actions.

Proverbs 7:10 says, “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.”  There is so much in this particular chapter that speaks to the issue of immodesty, and I will address some of it later.  But, for now, let’s just focus on one phrase – “Dressed as a prostitute.”  It does not say that she is a prostitute.  In fact, later, in verse 14, she suggests that she is actually quite “religious.”  (Examples of this type of woman can be found in the church today!)  So, if she is “religious”, and not a prostitute, then why would Scripture call attention to the way this woman was dressed?  Isn’t it all about what is on the inside anyway?  Of course it is.  But what is on the outside is often a very good reflection, or indication of what is in the heart.  Notice that this verse describes this woman as being “wily” or “crafty” of heart.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  She knew, like most women do, that guys are visual creatures – that they are stimulated, and thus more easily tempted by what they see.  This woman, if you read further in this chapter, had a motive and a purpose for dressing the way she did.  Her goal was to attract attention to her physical appearance – with the intention of drawing this foolish man into an illicit, sexual relationship. 

I do not believe that all Christian women today dress, or act, immodestly with the intent of luring men into bed.  I think that they just want “a little attention.”  And, knowing that men are visually oriented, they dress specifically to attract that attention.  But, ladies, the truth is, if you know – and we do –the affect that your dress can have on a man, and you continue to dress in a provocative, or sensual, manner it is sinful, and it is wrong.

Ultimately, immodesty is a result of pride.  As it relates to our dress, pride in our beauty, our appearance, or our body.  But, humility, not pride, is what is to characterize a Christian.  Philippians 2:3-4 tells us that we are to “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV) As a Christian, you do have a responsibility to protect your brothers (this includes fathers, sons, friends, brothers, pastors, teachers, boyfriends, and other women’s husbands), and love them as a sister in Christ. 

Guys are bombarded by immodesty everywhere they look – TV, malls, billboards, school campuses, the internet, Starbucks, and yes, even churches.  Sure, some of the things in that list are avoidable, but some are not.  Being that guys are more easily tempted by what they see, let’s not make it any harder on them than it already is!  If there is anything in the way you are dressed that is in anyway suggestive, provocative, or designed to attract attention, you are not protecting them.  You are inviting them to go somewhere in their imaginations that they should not go.  Sadly, there often is not much to be left to the imagination…everything is already right there in full view.  

“As Christian women, our clothing choices can help men succeed morally or can put temptation in their path that they may find it difficult to overcome.  That means that both men and women are responsible for moral purity.” (The Look, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, pg. 20) 

(As always, stay tuned…)