Women see clothing as “cute” and dress to please one another. When a girl wears a camisole as a blouse, she thinks she’s being fashionable. Her mother thinks she’s darling. A man thinks she wearing bedroom clothing to advertise her sexual willingness. Men don’t read fashion magazines, but they know lingerie when they see it—and they know where and why lingerie is supposed to be worn.
Just so, when a woman reveals her breasts with a low-cut blouse, or wears low-riding jeans or skin tight pants, men see her as trying to be sexy–for a purpose. Some women in fact dress this way seeking to attract men. Others are just naïve. Either way, such clothing choices are inappropriate—even sinful—for Christians and their daughters.
Some women complain that it’s the “man’s problem,” and they shouldn’t be denied the right to wear cute clothes because men have dirty minds. It is the man’s problem. And Jesus told him to gouge his eyes, if he has to, to avoid lust. But God also commands our women to be modest—to protect our men from lust—and so they don’t have to blind themselves!
(1 Tim. 2:9-10) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
Now, notice this carefully: the requirement to dress modestly is not about church buildings. It’s 24/7. It applies especially in the workplace, because this is where most affairs begin. Girls should wear the same swimwear at Bible camp that they wear at the club or backyard pool or the beach. They are Christians in all those places, and they reveal their love or disrespect for their Lord by what they wear wherever they are.
This is the rule: If your husband says the clothes are immodest, then your daughter is immodest, even if the wife disagrees. She can’t think like a man. (Just so, I tell men that if their sisters or mothers say their girlfriend is no good, she really is no good, no matter what you or your dad thinks. Women understand women as no man possibly could. And men understand men as no woman possibly could.)
In the 1960’s, one element of feminism was for women to escape being thought of as merely “sex objects.” Women are now so liberated that they can be more of a sex object than we ever imagined possible 40 years ago—and celebrate the “right”! Things have turned around 180 degrees.
We really need to return to the notion that women don’t want to be judged by their bodies. I don’t mean that women need to be purposefully unattractive. Not 20 years out of fashion. They just need to be modest.
Now, I’m well aware of how important clothes to the self-esteem of young women. And I know how severely girls judge other girls based on such superficialities. But we are called to be different—and radically so. We need to consciously teach our daughters to refuse to judge others based on their clothing—and even to defend those who are so judged. And we need to teach all our members what it really means to be a Christian—
(1 Pet. 3:14) But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
Peter teaches that we are to live as aliens and strangers in the world—not like everyone else—and to expect criticism for doing good. When a Christian girl dresses modestly when all the other girls dress immodestly, she’ll be criticized, and when she defends her decision, she’ll be scorned. Doing right when others are doing wrong makes them feel guilty.
(1 Pet. 4:16) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
(Matt. 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus and Peter assume that we’ll be persecuted simply for being Jesus’ followers. We cannot completely shield our children from this and still raise them as Christians. No one wishes for persecution, but given a choice between dressing immodestly or being laughed at, we have no choice but to suffer from the laughter.
(1 Pet. 2:11-12) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
But as Peter says, even when people speak ill of us, the result is to bring glory to God—better yet, to even convert some of those who see our courage and good deeds.
Now, women can be tempting to men even if they’re quite modest. Men are entirely capable of thinking lustfully without lewd or revealing clothing. But that really is the man’s problem. It becomes the woman’s problem when she tempts him to lust or signals that his sexual interest just might be reciprocated.
We need to get over the notion that it’s “cute” to be sexy or prematurely sexualized. It’s bad for our children—boys and girls. It’s bad for society. And it’s against God’s will.
One more point: I recall hearing a woman talking about urging her private school to have a dance for 5th grade boys and girls. Her friend said they were too young (and their school had agreed). She replied, “But they’re just so cute!” Why do we want to sexualize our children at younger and younger ages? What price justifies doing this to our children?
Our children already have to cope with far too many years between puberty and getting married. When we accelerate their sexual awakening, we only lengthen the time that they have to be abstinent. They’ll learn about the opposite sex plenty soon enough. We really need to avoid the temptation to have our middle school children date and go to dances. There will be plenty of time for that later.
[Adapted from Appendix 2 to the author’s But If You Do Marry ... ]