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by Douglas Wilson
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Tim. 2:9).
Let’s be frank. Immodesty is a very common problem in the Church today. Further, it is a difficult subject to address. The people who are the most concerned about what we all have to look at every day are usually reticent to say anything about the problems they see – because it might appear to make them immodest in their conversation. And those who are willing to chatter on about the subject are generally ignorant about what the Bible requires. So let’s try to be frank, and see what happens.
This has not yet occurred, but I have thought about it a few times. Suppose there is some kind of Christian gathering, and a woman comes to it dressed like she really shouldn’t be. She arrives in a tight top, and proceeds to headlight everyone. What would happen if, after the pastor greeted her, he commented on the size of her breasts? She would be horrified, the people standing nearby would all turn white, someone would bring charges against the pastor before the elders, and so forth. And all because he commented on the two most obvious objets d’art in the room. In this scenario, the one guilty of a breach of decorum would be the one who said something about them, and not the person intent upon displaying them to a bemused public. We are afflicted with a real problem of schizophrenia. We are playing show and tell, but aren’t allowed to tell.
We have gotten ourselves into a difficult place. More than a few mothers, more than once, have returned home exasperated from a shopping trip for their young daughters. Many of the current fashions for young women appear to be apparel in standard use down at the local Hooker Training Academy. As my wife recently put it, “It must be difficult for men these days trying to figure out which ones they have to pay for and which ones are free.”
The shopping-trip problem is simply a nuisance, but the sin starts when Mom gives up in frustration and allows her daughter to dress this way, and Dad then ratifies the decision by letting her go out of the house.
We have to do better than this, and the solution starts with a willingness to identify exactly where we have slipped up. There are three common problems with immodesty in women’s dress – too much, too little, and too tight.
“Too much” is flamboyant or ostentatious – dressing like a hooker. The sin is not avoided if a woman uses “gold, pearls, and costly array” in order to look like a courtesan – a higher class of hooker. In either case, a woman can send immodest signals even when everything is covered. This means that her immodesty consists, not in what she is doing at that moment, but in what she is promising to do later. The language of her clothing states unambiguously that, however much of it there is, it comes off easily enough.
“Too little” means cleavage, vast expanse of thigh, that sort of thing. Women with this problem dress like a sale at J.C. Penney’s – forty percent off. Too often Christians assume that this kind of skin exposure is the only possible “modesty problem.” This is not true, but it remains common nonetheless. This immodesty is compounded by girls who wear short skirts and who do not know how to sit like a lady, showing the world what’s fore and aft.
“Too tight” is the most popular mode of disobedience among modern evangelicals. The whole world is invited to gawk at the topographical evidence concerning exactly where her underwear starts and stops, along with the exact condition, location, and size of her breasts. Many Christian women go to worship today dressed in a manner that would have gotten them thrown out of a bar fifty years ago. Ah, Christian liberty.
Related to the problem of “too tight” is the nature of some of the accessories. For example, the point of ankle-buster high heels is to alter a woman’s posture in such a way as to accentuate her buttocks and breasts. Modest heels make a woman look like a lady with good posture. Really high heels make her look like some kind of bed bait.
It is important for these things to be discussed in the home. In this, a father and mother should take care to instruct their daughters on the dangers of self-deception. We are complicated beings, and our hearts are deceptive. A young woman can be trying to turn heads, and be employing various sexual techniques to do so, and all the while be pretending to herself in her conscious thoughts that she is doing nothing of the kind. More than one young female dope has been consciously astonished at the sexual response that her subconscious has successfully created. And at that point, an indignant “What kind of girl do you think I am?” can easily be countered with an appeal to the obvious. And what is obvious has already been discussed.
There are those, I suppose, who would rather not read about this subject in Christian magazines. This is actually a reasonable opinion, and I think we can come to an amicable arrangement. We would be more than willing to stop referring to to all this if the daughters of Zion would stop throwing themselves around. And until they learn how to do it, their parents need to help them.
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