The constant barrage of sensual images from the media have trained the modern eye to seek more and more visual stimulation. The fashion industry has responded by providing clothing that is revealing and provocative to allow men and women to display their bodies in ways that draw attention to the flesh instead of the person inside.
The Christian is challenged to train his eyes to focus on what is pure and to choose clothing that reflects an inward godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10
). Like Job, we should train our eyes (Job 31:1
) and follow the New Testament instructions to let our minds dwell on what is pure (Philippians 4:8
). Jesus said that one who looks on a woman to lust commits adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-30
) but women especially should be careful not to place obstacles in a man’s desire to think pure by wearing revealing clothing (Romans 14:13
; 1 Corinthians 8:12
Here are some resources to help men and women watch out for each others souls in this important matter (not listed in any particular order).
As a father of three fine young ladies and a handsome young man, I know the challenge of teaching modesty when the message from the media, friends, and sometimes other Christians encourages them to dress inappropriately. Modesty is not a “girl” issue since young men, as well as young women, must be taught to dress in ways that do not provoke lust or send a wrong message. Girls lust too and guys need to be careful how they dress and act so that they glorify God in their bodies and not draw the wrong attention to themselves, 1 Corinthians 6:20.
Considering the biological fact that men are more visually stimulated, young ladies must pay special attention to how they dress so that the lack of clothing, revealing nature of clothing depending on the angle of sight, or tightness does not reveal what should be hidden. A woman who dresses in revealing clothing but blames lust on “dirty minds” is naive and, perhaps, arrogant. Often men have to force themselves not to look at what is being revealed because the woman did not exercise prudence in her choice of attire. Our eyes are drawn to look and through exercise of will we must look elsewhere. Don’t blame the fish for being caught when you put the bait on the hook. In discussion between young men and women in various situations, young men have begged young women to help them in this battle by dressing in ways that do not put them into difficult situations.
Among Christians the problem seems to be getting worse. I never thought that I would have to create the policy I now have for doing weddings for Christians: I will not do a wedding in which the bride or the bridesmaids are showing cleveage or wear high split dresses. Brides, if I may be blunt, your body belongs to you and your husband (1 Corinthians 7:4) and should not be shared with me, in whole or part–visually or otherwise, and especially not on your wedding day.
In an article that Michael Hyatt wrote on modesty, he outlined four guidelines that he shared with his daughters that made a lot of sense (though I would eliminate “probably”):
- If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
- If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
- If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
- If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.
There is no reason for guys to be running around with their shirt off around girls or otherwise emphasizing their bodies either. We’re all in this together to dress in ways that do not promote lust and help each other get to heaven. If this makes you mad and you wonder why you should have to dress carefully in order to prevent others from lusting, please humbly and carefully read what Paul had to say in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (though it talks about meat offered to idols, he is explaining a principle that is relevant).
David Hartsell did a great presentation on modesty at the 2011 Alabama Winter Camp that you might want to consider as well.
As school winds down in the Spring, young Christians in high school face a question unique to this period in life: “Should I go to the prom?” Non-Christian kids may be wondering if they can get a date or afford the costs of this expensive night. Some kids aren’t interested in anything associated with the prom. However, young Christians often face several choices that their non-Christian friends do not have to deal with:
- Is right to attend the prom or dance?
- If I decide it is right, what is modest to wear?
- What do I say to Christian friends who believe it is wrong for me to attend? How can I defend my decision?
- What do I say to my friends if I am not going to attend? How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?
- Why is it such a big deal?
The answer to the last question is easy. As Colossians 3:17 tells us, the authority of Jesus should guide our life. We are an example to others and must dress and act in ways that glorify God and do not lead others into sin. The reason that dances in general and the prom in particular become an issue is the activity that takes place at these events and often surrounds them and the clothes (or lack of) that are worn. A broader issue should also be considered: am I concerned more about enjoying worldly entertainment and approval than keeping myself unstained by the world (James 1:27)?
I have found two very good articles that any young person (and their parent) should read and consider before deciding to go to dances and the prom:
- A Teenagers Answer to “Shall I Go To The Prom?” I went to college with Sherry. In school she was extremely outgoing, attractive, and talented. She was popular at college and I’m sure she was in high school. Her article describes the struggle with the question, her desire to go, the consequences of her decision, and her lessons learned. This was written when she was a teenager and reflects the emotional struggle and scriptural issues surrounding the question. After 25 years, the issue and emotions have not changed for it was also a time when dancing was popular and young people struggled with the question.
- Is There Life Without A Prom? Steve Higginbotham has written an excellent article that addresses the spiritual concerns and he shares some of the consequences of young Christians in his area as well as the world’s view of the prom as described in teen magazines.
- David Hartsell’s 2011 FC Alabama Winter Camp class on dancing and modesty (both issues are linked with these questions)
- If you want to go true “old school,” some of the principles regarding dancing were addressed by Benjamin Franklin, a 19th century preacher (not the founding father), in a sermon on dancing. No surprise that many of the same questions were asked then as are considered today.
Though you didn’t ask, my decision was not to attend. I knew my mother and many godly people that I esteemed would not approve of a decision to attend. If I went it would most likely be with someone who did not embrace the standards of modesty that I did which would be embarrassing and tempting. In addition, I knew a lot of my friends were going to use the night as a pretense to let many inhibitions go (they were talking about it for weeks before the prom). I did not want to be associated with any of that and had no interest in attending. I didn’t wrestle with it, that I recall, since nothing associated with the prom interested me.
For our kids, my wife and I decided before we had them that it would not be a part of their lives. We don’t anguish over the decision because the “no” is our final answer. We approach it from the perspective of adults that have lived longer and seen more than they have seen. In addition, we have worked to provide wholesome alternatives for them such as a banquet at a nice location with a lot of their friends where they can dress modestly, have a nice dinner, take photographs, and have a memorable evening in a morally positive atmosphere. We are firm believers that if you say “no” you need to provide a good alternative that they can enjoy.
As with all of your decisions prayerfully ask yourself whether choosing an action will glorify God or hinder your ability to shine your light.