Posted by: Rachel | March 20, 2014

Modesty Statement

Sometimes my husband causes me to sin. He isn’t very helpful around the house. He works too late, and he should stop doing this because it makes me upset and unloving, thus, sin. Actually if he could do all the housework and go to work and provide for us then I wouldn’t be so tempted to sin by thinking bad thoughts about him.

Likewise, God is really tempting me into doubting Him. He isn’t blessing my family with riches and an easy life as he promises in the Old Testament to those who obey Him. I think God should start making our life much better so that I could not sin so much. He really is quite the stumbling block to my worship life.

Now, really, that sounds ridiculous. And yet, we hear it all the time when women are told to dress modestly.

Example One

Example Two This post actually contains this line “When a woman wears pants, subconsciously, she wants the man to look upon her with lustful thoughts.” I imagine that this is a big shock to the many pants wearing women out there. I can assure you that when I wore pants it was not in hopes that men would lust after me. I wore them because they were comfortable and practical and warm in wintertime.

I usually cringe inwardly when I see another post like the two above being shared on Facebook. It just feels wrong and yet I couldn’t explain why. It wasn’t until I started thinking of other situations and applying the same logic that it became clear just how wrong and ridiculous that line of thinking is.

I think part of the problem is that there is a huge emphasis put on the thought process of lust within Christian circles. The popular wisdom says it’s not only wrong to physically commit adultery, but also to THINK about committing adultery. This puts enormous pressure on men to severely control their thought life. It is good to control our thoughts, because actions are started with thoughts. But to say that we can never ever have wrong thoughts is not helpful, or reasonable. I think there should be much more emphasis on not continuing wrong thoughts rather than condemning even the involuntary thoughts that spring to mind at times.

As an example: A girl is washing the family car with the water hose. She sees her sister/brother/mom/dad walk by and just like that she realizes that ‘hey, I could direct the hose at them.’ She doesn’t have any ill will toward this family member, it was just an involuntary thought. Humans have the ability to connect objects together and this is a good skill when it creates thoughts of applying water to a dirty car.

I’m really not fond of the whole modesty thing. I have nothing against modesty itself, or the idea of it. The problem I have is that it’s so subjective. One person’s version of modesty is another person’s idea of complete immorality. My brother thinks that if your butt and breasts are covered then you are decently dressed.  Some think that the entire arm must be covered, and others think elbows should be covered. Still others say sleeveless is fine as long as it’s not spaghetti straps. There are those who think that women should only wear dresses or skirts, and those who say pants are fine as long as they aren’t tight.

Some people would say I dress modestly and others would think I’m flamboyantly immodest. I remember seeing a Muslim woman at a Target store in Philly who was dressed head to toe in black. The only thing visible was her face. But not her neck or ears or hair. I felt a bit exposed next to her.

It should be noted that Adam and Eve were naked in the garden, and there is no mention of Adam being unable to control his lustful thoughts. It seems that only became a problem once people were dressed. Which also brings up another thought. I believe that when you commonly see women dressed ‘immorally’ you become used to it and it doesn’t cause thoughts of lust anymore than a ‘morally’ dressed woman does. But when you tell women that their knees must always be covered then the sight of bare knees becomes tantalizing. And so I question whether modesty standards actually have the effect of sexualizing a woman’s body.

If we accepted our bodies as normal healthy beings made to function in many ways and stopped putting an emphasis on it’s sexuality we would be all the wiser. Clothing should serve as comfortable and functional things to keep us warm and protect us from the elements, not trappings of legalism that cause guilt and shame.

So dress how you feel is modest, but please, please don’t make women responsible for men’s thought life. If thoughts enter your mind that you consider unclean, stop thinking those thoughts, but don’t condemn someone else. We need strong young men who take responsibility for their lives, and teaching them that women are the cause of lustful thoughts is a step in the wrong direction.

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Responses

  1. This is very well written; probably the best modesty statement either my husband or I have ever read. He saw it on Facebook yesterday and wanted me to read it. Thank you for taking things as they are and bringing truth and light to them with the wisdom you have. Thank you for standing up for what you see and feel regardless how you may be viewed. Blessings to you today!

    • Thank you Rhonda! It means a lot to me that both you and your husband liked it 🙂

  2. Having some experience on both sides of the issue, I have a couple of thoughts.

    1. You are spot on when you talk about the idea that it is not woman’s responsibility to be the sole guardian of a man’s thought life. The passage in question (about adultery) is geared right at the man in the illustration, and not at the woman. Many women on the modesty front like to bind together this admonition with Romans 14 (stumbling block) to say that the Bible somehow mandates a certain length of clothing. The burden is not placed on the woman, but the man.

    2. Where the Bible does talk about clothing, it talks about there being a distinction between the sexes (Old Testament) and modesty in terms of flashy or expensive (New Testament). There are no style guides. (One can debate 1 Corinthians 11, but that’s outside of the scope of this comment or the topic).

    3. There is a line between beautiful and sexy. I would argue that most women know this line, and men recognize it right away. It is here that intent factors in, and it is here that the line truly is, not in whether certain body parts are showing (although the presence of some body parts on display are clearly on the sexy side of the line). This argument is not your strongest, as it’s a way that you could justify going naked, and we all know that God gave Adam and Eve clothing.

    4. Lastly, there’s a difference between temptation and what is going on in the Matthew 6 passage about lust. Temptation is what you’re talking about. The person washing the car is tempted to douse the person going by with water. The next stage is sitting there and thinking how great it would be to do this to this person, imaging the act, visualizing the results, etc. The last is actually carrying it out. Jesus said that the second stage is just like the first, as thought life is as important as doing it. The whole passage needs to be taken in context with the whole sermon to understand that Jesus is making the point that the inner life is as important as committing the acts.

    So whereas I’m with you that it’s the man’s responsibility to guard his thought life, I’m not with you that it’s ok to look or to lust, just don’t do anything– that’s exactly the opposite of Christ’s point.

  3. It is with great angst that I reply.

    Adam, in the garden, was without sin. Lust is a sin. Adam did not lust because he was sinless. This is elementary. You have failed in understanding this, how can anything else you’ve presented here be taken seriously? To further solidify the point I am trying to make, let us look at the actions of Adam and Eve immidiately after the Fall, when sin entered into them.
    Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7)
    Their first action after loosing their perfect sinless state was to cover up their nakedness. Then the hid from the presence of God.
    There will come a time when you shall stand in the presence of Holy God. At that time you will feel the weight and shame that Adam and Eve felt. You will no longer be burdened with whether your clothes should cover your knees, ankles, or toes. You will desire, as they did, to be fully covered and hid from his awesome purity, His Holiness. It is blaringly obvious that you have spent little to no time in Gods presence now, otherwise clothing and how it affects others would be the least of your concerns. You should be more interested in what your attire says about the Holiness of the God you serve.
    Strive to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. This is literally an active seeking of His Holiness. After this, everything else will sort itself out.

    • I’m sorry that you feel so confident in judging my relationship with God.

      • You made no effort to respond to any of the key points I’ve made. Your reply was written so as to attempt to condem my keen observations and absolve you of you errs. It achieved neither.

        Speaking of relationships, allow me to make reference again to the garden. Adam, who was without sin, and therefore in perfect relationship with God, went astray. He missed God’s perfect standard. Eve as well. Two humans in absolute and total harmony with God failed to meet God’s expectations. What makes you, one born of a sinner, so confident that your relationship with God somehow leaves you no room for failure? Please make reference to this and the other Biblical points I made prior or say nothing at all. This was purposefully written with the familiar narrative of Genesis so as to not complicate a response. I patiently wait your thought out, well written, and courteous reply.


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