Too Much Skin, Girl. Too Much Skin: a Plea for Modesty

Too Much Skin, Girl. Too Much Skin a Plea for Modesty

Photo: ©Igor Sinkov from Getty Images Pro via Canva.com

While summer is an appreciated and welcomed relief from the blistering cold of winter—for those of us who have winters—it does bring a different difficulty to our lives. The summer months draw attention to our universal struggle with sex, sexuality, and temptation, with the modesty debates taking a prominent role in our conversations. The knee-jerk reaction is to blame our fallen counterparts without careful consideration of what the Bible says regarding universal depravity and every human’s temptation to turn what God intended for good into something that will tantalize our lust-filled desires. The sober-mindedness of the mature believer considers personal responsibility and communal input. These careful Christians understand sin’s complexities and their common blindspots that do not discriminate.

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A Common Problem

We live in a highly sexualized culture that acts as though it cannot get enough of the provocative. Pornography is without question the all-time sexual leader when it comes to capturing the hearts and minds of our global culture. Porn is the most lucrative and largest industry on the Internet, and it’s the most-oft-used marketing approach when selling products to our culture. Sex sells. Christians and non-Christians are head-over-heels in love with the human body. Sex has gripped the hearts of our teenagers and has infected the minds of too many parents. Whether it’s the stay-at-home mom who serial posts her latest hairstyle to her following or the triple-X pornographer, we love ourselves and cannot wait until we can show the world the best side of ourselves.

Rarely is there a week that goes by where I’m not dealing with a person, couple, or family whose sexually related problems have ripped them apart. No one is free from its temptations or its effects, which is why I hope that as you read, you do not fall into the trap of finger-pointing—especially toward the other gender. We are collective failures regarding sex and sexuality. Our humility as we approach our common curse will affect how we process and proceed through this book. Maybe the words of Jesus will be helpful as you think about this emotional and sometimes touchy subject of modesty.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but to not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).

Some men will indeed lust at any female, at any time, and for any reason, just because she is breathing and walking upright. As some women lamented: “I could put a burlap sack over my body, and a man would still lust after me.” I agree with the despairing statement—at least for how it applies to some men—but it would be myopic to think that every man is this way, or what a woman wears does not matter. The problem with sexual temptation is far more complicated than male gender issues, and if our first impulse is similar to Adam’s: “That woman you gave me” (Genesis 3:12), then you’ve lost the plot. Sensuality is a multi-layered problem because porn comprises internal (the heart) and external (the body) dynamics. The issue’s complexity should be a call for every Christian to dialogue as friends rather than gender competitors.

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Our Mutual Fall

If a man chooses to lust after a woman, it is his fault, not hers. It is his choice, and Jesus had strong language for such a person: he should pluck out his eyes (Matthew 5:29-30). We know Jesus was using hyperbolic language, but that does not remove the seriousness of the problem. Ever since the fall of Adam, there have been two functional realities in our lives: God gave men the desire to notice the opposite sex, and being attracted to the beauty of a woman should be a good thing. Satan’s deception has turned the man into a selfish individual; he now has a hostile adversary, which is lust. God’s good creation of love is flipped upside down as it tempts men to twist love into lust. Women have their problems, too. When Satan slithered into the Garden of Eden, he did not leave the woman unscathed.

Like Adam, she took the Lord’s kind gifts and turned them into her version of perversion. God made her attractive. Her beauty draws the attention of a man, and every woman knows it. You can tell by how Christian women present themselves on their favorite social media platforms. The Lord did not create her to disgust a man each time he looks at her. She wants him to look at her, to like her, and to love her. Satan’s deception twisted these good things into bad things. Her desire for someone to love her tempts her to use her appearance to capture the gaze of a man to fill heart longings that only the Lord can satisfy. The inherent Adamic weaknesses in men and women tempt them to take God’s good gifts of beauty and sexual attraction and twist them into self-serving agendas.

This universal temptation means modesty matters. How you present the beauty of Christ externally to others is just as important as how you carry the beauty of Christ in your heart. Your external life reveals what is growing in your heart (Luke 6:45; Matthew 7:16). There is no discontinuity or disconnectedness between how you paint your face and present your latest hairstyle, what you wear, and what is happening in your heart. Notice the infographic and how it illustrates how the fruit in our lives reveals our thoughts, motives, and, ultimately, how we think about God. You can properly deduce from this illustration that what is happening in a person’s heart will manifest as comparable fruit in their lives: if lust is in the heart, there will be an object of lust in their sight line.

By their fruit you shall know them

I’m a Signpost

He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

A few years ago, Lucia and I were in a small group where a woman, a wife and mother, wore mini-shorts with the all-caps word PINK written across her bottom. It was impossible for anyone not to look at least once, and it mattered not if it were a male or female, child or adult. She was a provocative signpost, telling everyone in the room to look at her backside. Her message could not have been clearer: “Hey Y’all, Look at my bum!” She reminded me of men who wear hyperbolic belt buckles that draw attention to their crotches. Sadly, this lady was new to our group, and nobody knew her well enough to pull her aside to talk to her about her neon ad-wear. It was an awkward moment for all of us, and in hindsight, perhaps we should have offended her, but we chose not to.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—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 Peter 3:3-4).

She accomplished her agenda: every eye in the place, including the women and children, got a screenshot of her rear end, something you could not unsee. Rather than drawing attention to the Lord, she was drawing attention to herself. She is one of a zillion examples of women who dress in such a way not only to devalue themselves but also to take away from the imperishable beauty that the apostle Peter extolled. She chose to praise herself, unlike John the Baptist, who considered himself a signpost in the wilderness with one mission in life: to point others to Christ. When you see a sign, you read it, process it, and do what it is telling you to do. You do not give the sign a second thought; it’s not about the sign but the message. We have one job: point people to Jesus.

I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him (John 3:28).

The signpost knows its job. Unfortunately, this lady was a self-absorbed signpost whose primary interest was to redirect the minds of the men in the room from the Christ she professed to her bottom that she was proud of. If a woman dresses in such a way as to draw attention to herself, she is tempting those around her to sin. If the man does sin, it is his fault, but the woman bears culpability. She needs to know how she is a temptress—assuming she does not already know. We cannot say this is just one gender’s problem. We must be talking about this social contagion while humbly dialoguing about God-centered solutions. It is not suitable for a man to place all the blame on a woman. It is just as wrong for a woman to make this exclusively a man’s problem.

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Objectification of Women

A woman’s culpability regarding our universal problem with sex and sexuality is one of the things that is so perplexing about insecure, pre-meditative women and the Internet. For example, Danica Patrick, the former female NASCAR driver, believed she could compete with the men and demanded that men respect her. Okay, fair enough. You’re welcome to compete with the men if you wish. That’s an argument for another day. However, it’s disingenuous to expect us to respect her while she provocatively devalued herself by performing striptease GoDaddy commercials in the early part of the 2000s. Ripping off part of her clothing makes no sense if the message is R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Of all the people in the world who could do a GoDaddy ad, it had to be a woman who takes her clothes off while women scream at us not to objectify them. It’s a contradiction of purpose. Women rightfully lament how they do not want men objectifying them while insisting that we respect them for what they can do. I completely agree with both points, but Danica presented the perfect illustration of the “you can’t have it both ways” dilemma. Danica was a famous example of what many of the women in our church gatherings do each Sunday. I don’t want to objectify any woman, but it would be helpful if some of these women cooperated with this good aim. What Danica did was the equivalent of teaching a weight loss class at McDonald’s. It is wrong to decry a man’s sexual perversions when you’re guilty of trying to be sexually appealing.

While women can be provocative in their clothing choices, men can be calculatingly secretive about their temptations, too. Most men stuck in porn do not give their wives or their friends full access to their world. Wife, if your husband indeed has nothing to hide, there is no reason for you not to have complete access to all of his devices. He should be willing to talk to you about his temptations with lust. I am not suggesting your husband is a porn addict, but I am saying he was born in Adam, which means he came into this world totally depraved. Even if he has been “born a second time,” he is not free from sin’s temptations (Ephesians 4:22). You do not have to be addicted to pornography to be affected by sexual sin. The wise and humble couple will seek to have an open dialogue about their temptations because they recognize that these two things are not a news flash:

  • Husbands have been affected by the fall, which means our understanding and practice of sexuality is not entirely pure.
  • Husbands do struggle to some degree with sexually related issues. None of us are entirely pure regarding sex and sexuality.

A mature husband will want to talk to his wife about his temptations. A mature woman will want to be part of her husband’s sanctification—especially in the area of the most intimate part of their lives.

My Brother’s Keeper

Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you (Proverbs 2:11).

Dear Christian,

I urge you to reflect on how you dress. Whether male or female, it is our Christian duty to point others to Christ, not to ourselves. The desire of our hearts should be to give people something to think about rather than how we look or what we wear. Sometimes, it is better to exercise self-control by setting aside our personal preferences for the glory of God. Discretion is a godly trait that will watch over us while protecting us from evil. Husbands and wives should pursue honesty and transparency within their marriages. Perhaps your marriage is not in a place where it can handle these kinds of truths. Possibly due to the shaping influences of your past, you’re not at a point where you can talk at this level of Christian maturity. If that is true for you, find your starting point, wherever it may be, and start talking to each other. Husband, your wife deserves to know about you, and she should have the opportunity to care for your soul, just as you should be willing to care for her.

Call to Action

  1. Though you may not be interested in capturing the gaze of a man, do you understand how your beauty can be a snare to a man?
  2. Are you willing to make whatever necessary and prudent changes to serve the men in your sphere of influence?
  3. Does your wife have full access to all your devices? If not, why not?
  4. Does your wife have appropriate access to your thoughts about your battles with lust? If not, why not?

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