The Modesty Debate Follow-up

I recently blogged about the Modesty Debate. For the most part, it garnered a great deal of support, and I thank you all for that.

But I have also received some rather interesting negative comments, and I would like to make some observations.

First, I never claimed that women should dress like harlots. In fact, I never commented on HOW women should dress at all (other than the statement “Dress like a daughter of the king.”) My ONLY point was that blaming the attire of a woman for the thoughts of men’s hearts is unbiblical, unhelpful and wrong. Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

It seems a bit strange that there were so many who took issue with that. Some said that since we still live in a fallen world, guidelines for dress are necessary, just like law in general. I find it interesting how little men understand their daughters and their wives. The assumption, again, is that if we men don’t lay down the law, our women will just rush right out to Backroom Boutique and buy stilettos and fishnets.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case. I don’t think that we will have a rush on miniskirts and tankinis any time soon, at least not from the readers of my blog. Those women that feel the inkling to do such might be better encouraged to examine their motives than to have someone lay down the law to them. The gospel goes to the heart. Should we not be interested in the hearts of women?

Second, please look at this masterful analysis of the modern trend towards “baring it all.” By connecting this sin with shame, the author hits the nail on the head. We as church leaders cannot assist women to overcome their shame by heaping on the shame! We must go the heart of the issue and direct them to Christ as human beings with dignity and worth. Too often, we simply get out the tape measure and start measuring skirts and think that the Holy Spirit is somehow impotent when it comes to the hearts of women. It’s the shame of the heart that must be dealt with, not the exposed ankle or knee! When shame is dealt with according to the gospel of Christ, the physical manifestations of shame will take care of themselves. Jesus told the Pharisees to clean the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean.

But we don’t stick around long enough to speak of these things because we are scared to death that the devil will get into us through an exposed cleavage!

Third, I was in no way saying that we must NEVER speak of how a woman dresses. Certainly we must speak to our daughters about appropriate and inappropriate attire. My beef was telling them that the way that they dress would lead men astray. THIS is what is unbiblical and wrong. Nowhere is the adultery of men’s hearts excused in scripture because of the seduction of the woman. The adultery is our own, gentlemen. And the only way to overcome it is by acknowledging that, taking full blame, and laying it at the foot of the cross.

1 Timothy 2:9 comes up a lot in these discussions and is relevant for how a woman dresses. But this text doesn’t mean what people think it means. It really isn’t speaking of exposed body parts at all. It is talking about dressing with respectful, well-ordered and beautiful clothing, appropriate to the occasion. Even if it does apply to covering body parts, notice that Paul does not say that the reason for this is to keep the men from lusting in their hearts.

The next passage used is 1 Peter 3:1-6. Just like 1 Timothy, the point is NOT that women should cover themselves up. This takes care of itself if the spirit is healthy. The point is that the adornment of the woman is NOT ultimately how much time she spends fixing her hair and jewelry, but in her good works. It is speaking of a godly woman’s true adornment, as opposed to outward show.

Notice also that Peter assumes that wives are big girls and don’t need their husbands to tell them how to dress. He assumes something that we men have a hard time with: that our wives are co-heirs of eternal life, are led themselves by the Holy Spirit, and can get themselves dressed all by their lonesomes without us laying down the law. If your wife starts putting on the stilettos and fishnets and heading to the bars at night, I might suggest that you could have a problem that a long denim skirt may not be able to fix.

So neither text really speaks to the issue that I was raising. In a short blog, you can’t address everything. I was ONLY speaking of the argument that women should cover themselves up to keep men from lusting.

To this, I stick by my original assessment:



Filed under Gospel, Sex, Sin and Grace

18 responses to “The Modesty Debate Follow-up

  1. Jolene

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for both of these articles.

  2. Joining Jolene and thanking you for the Modesty Debate articles.

  3. GLR

    Is there any sense in which the way a woman dresses contributes to the temptation a man faces to lust?

    • Trina

      I would say yes. However, that temptation is something that man should deal with, laying before God and asking Him to take it away–rather than the man blaming his temptation on a woman. Though it might increase the chances of temptation, it’s not the cause of it, because, let’s be honest, people will lust no matter how covered women OR men are.

  4. Pingback: The Modesty Debate | My Only Comfort

  5. Anne

    THANK YOU for your article(s) on modesty. Finally, someone writing something about this that gets it.
    I would also add that somehow, in the 21st century, we’ve lost all sense of place and appropriateness when it comes to dress. You don’t wear a ballgown to clean your bathroom, simply put. That same reasoning is why I don’t wear athletic wear and yoga pants to work, but hey, that’s just me!
    I’ve been challenging my soon-to-be thirteen year old daughter to think about the purpose of clothing…what is the purpose, what is it designed for? How does what I wear intersect with the faith I profess?

  6. Sadly, this follow-up article once again seems to ignore the teaching of Scripture that believers ARE responsible to not put stumblingblocks in the way of other Christians (Romans 14:13; I Corinthians 8:9). I do not say there ought to be modesty rules, and I would agree with the writer to the extent that a man who lusts must accept the blame for it himself, but in the sight of God a man’s acceptance of responsibility does not relieve the woman from her responsibility to dress in a becoming way, and not to be a stumblingblock. These responsibilities are not mutually exclusive, but should be seen as a joint responsibility to maintain holiness in God’s house.

    Will not Delilah be held responsible for her seduction of Samson? And if there should be any further doubt as to this principle of an double responsibility, read about prophetic Jezebel in Revelation 2:20, “which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication . . .” No one is saying immodest clothing is in view here, but how can you separate the responsibility a woman bears for pushing the envelope in showing skin, from responsibility for any other kind of seduction?

    • Lisa Keyes

      Well put. (Luke 17:1) “Things that cause men to sin are bound to come, but woe to him through whom they come.”

    • Michael

      Mutual responsibility is the key not only to this issue, but to others where one person can put a stumbling block before another person. I ask the question again, “Is there anytime one person can cause another person to stumble?” If there is anytime, then this is one of the times. While I believe Sam is framing the debat along lines I haven’t seen, I would stand along with him in correcting the man who blames immodestly dressed women for their lust. However, I would similarly correct the woman who argues that her immodest dress was not an occasion for someone stumbling. You see, there is in many issues a difference between a “cause” and “occasion”. The cause of any sin is to be found in our own heart, but that sin can be given an occasion to manifest itself in any number of ways depending what the particular sin is. So, what we strive for is not to give an occasion of stumbling!

      • Great comments, and you understand the issues involved much better than Sam does.

      • Tricia

        Here is how I think of it as a woman.
        Modesty is right and should be taught as a matter of right living and respect for God and others (all, men and women alike.)
        If we do this, then there will be no stumbling block to avoid.

        When we start teaching/preaching about modesty as “avoiding causing others to stumble” we are missing the point and teaching women a falsehood about themselves and their bodies (and their role in other’s sins.) The value of modesty is FAR greater than just not helping someone to sin. It is about reflecting God’s glory and having a healthy sense of humility in relationship to Him.

        It is absolutely true that women should dress modestly. It SHOULD be taught and understood in such a way that not inviting a man’s lust is a side note, a benefit, not a main topic or reason.

        The teaching that women should not seduce men with their bodies is something that should be taught right along with teaching men not to engage women’s affections that they do not intend to commit to.

        Being female does not mean a woman, by virtue of being a woman, causes a man to lust *unless she takes steps to stop it.* Women – just as men – ARE capable of actions that invite the others to think of them in sinful ways, or act toward them in sinful ways. But the difference is that causing men to lust is possible, not automatic because of being a woman.

        I know I have been taught for most of my life that women’s bodies cause men to lust. Which is a sad thing to believe, because it makes living in a woman’s body a thing of sin. But the reality that women can behave in ways that invite a man’s sexual attention does not make her body a sinful temptation unless the man has not learned self-control of his own lusts. And THAT is his issue.

        Should I be in a situation where I was robbed and stripped naked, I should be able to ask aChristian brother for aid without fearing that his lust would overcome him because of my naked body. However, that truth does not change the fact that when I am able, I should be modestly dressed.

      • Trisha said, “Should I be in a situation where I was robbed and stripped naked, I should be able to ask aChristian brother for aid without fearing that his lust would overcome him because of my naked body. However, that truth does not change the fact that when I am able, I should be modestly dressed.”

        This has happened. Probably many times. But one instance that was made into a documentary happened where a serial rapist and murderer had this young woman naked on a beach, when her friend caught him and distracted him. The naked girl ran and hid, while he chased her rescuer. Then the naked one had to run out and attract the attention of a passing vehicle to save her friend. It was full of young men. But they weren’t overcome with lust. They let her in and started looking for her friend. This is how it should be.

  7. I m am somewhat astounded that we who pride ourselves on our logic and reasoning have such a difficult time following a simple argument. It seems that perhaps there is something deeper going on.
    First, I nowhere said that women are completely free from sin, nor did I ever imply that a woman will not be held accountable for seducing a man. Nor did I say or imply that one can cause a brother to stumble without impunity.
    Please do not charge me with arguments that I did not make.
    MY ONLY POINT IS THIS: Men, if your heart is full of lust, the blame is on you and you alone. It is because of your sinful nature which you inherited from Adam, and not because someone caused you to stumble.
    Delilah has her own blame, but rather than speak of that on which scripture is silent, perhaps we should look at the account and see that Samson’s fall is nowhere blamed on Delilah. Of course, she will answer to God for any wrongdoing that she committed, but THAT ISN”T THE POINT!
    The point is that Samson’s sin was imputed to Samson alone – never to Delilah.
    God will never hold another accountable for MY sin. My sin is always on me.
    That is all I will say on the subject.
    As soon as we blame others for our own sin, we separate ourselves from Christ, we deny our own total depravity, and follow in the blameshifting of Adam.
    Remember, Eve was naked in the garden and Adam was never charged with lust before the fall. The difference was the heart of Adam after the fall, not the amount of clothing Eve was wearing.

    • Michele

      Perhaps the issue is how you have framed the discussion. You said you are discussing the “modesty issue.”I believe part of the point is that in addition to NOT SAYING, “that women are completely free from sin” NOR IMPLYING “that a woman would not be held accountable for seducing a man,” and NOT SAYING OR IMPLYING, “that one can cause cause a brother to stumble with impunity”, you also never SAID the opposite. In fact you seem to be addressing the modesty issue only tangentially while mainly focusing on the lust issue. You are completely correct that the one who lusts is the one who sins. But if you wish to address the modesty issue is seems that you must also say that the one who dresses to seduce sins.
      While you briefly touched on the issue (that women are responsible to God for how they adorn their bodies) your emphasis is failing to address the modesty issue in a way similar to saying modesty is all about not making your brother stumble.
      If a man is ONLY told that it shouldn’t matter what a woman is wearing, will it not send the message that his sexual nature is evil in the same way that only telling girls that they must dress not to cause lust causes them to see their bodies as evil? This is not a disagreement of your point but your emphasis. While we may (I cannot conclusively say that we do) currently have the greater struggle within our society of women being shamed in body and men blaming their sin on women, the opposite situation of men being shamed in their sexual nature and women blaming their sin on men would not be a better situation. CS Lewis and others have noted that Satan often presents arguments that seem counter to one another for us to argue about so as to blind us to the truth.

  8. Pingback: My Only Comfort: The Modesty Debate | The Grey Shadow

  9. Anonymous

    I have a heart for girls and women and all the pressure put on them to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and whether or not they make the cut in being ‘desirable’ (and if they don’t, they are regarded as nothing, invisible, nonexistent).

    You linked an article that talks about the nude selfie and Kim Kardashian. Porn culture is touted as being empowering and plenty girls and women eat it up. If objectified and reduced to a sex object (or a non-person, invisible due to not making the ‘sex object’ criteria) on a continual basis, which girls and women are, then it seems almost empowering to own it, to use it, to try and define it and control it on one’s supposed own, empowered, terms (but this is false empowerment….again, I say, it is a LIE, it’s labeled empowerment, but it’s not empowering to be reduced to sex object status).

    Parents need to encourage their daughters to fight back against the wash of porn culture (and it’s everywhere) and praised for resisting their objectification. Parents of boys need to ensure they aren’t raising future/budding predators, which is a serious concern since porn culture has invaded practically every space and kids these days are awash in it.

    And ‘modesty’ conversations need to be very, very carefully done, so as to not make girls and women feel inherently dirty and forever sexualized.

    And it’s hardest on girls and women who don’t want to be considered ‘invisible’ and the only way they aren’t invisible is to be considered ‘sex object status’. It may look appealing to be ‘wanted’ (‘hot’) but it’s lust, which is selfish and about sexual objectification, not love. Gail Dines has a book about porn culture which is great for parents to read because this is the world their kids live in, which is nothing like what they grew up with … internet access and free porn and Kim Kardashian nude selfies and so much more.

  10. cross3ttt

    This article is your follow up article about “modesty” and is also an exemplary article that Glorifies God. I am praying for this modesty issue to become once again “Front & Center” amongst the “so-called” Reformed. I am praying that this summer our Christian daughters won’t be told once again that they can NOT go to the beach to swim (or to a swimming pool to swim) unless they are clad “Head to Toe” (like Muslim Burkas) so as not to cause men & boys to sin.

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