11 May 2006

Sister... show mercy!

Preface: "What are you -- nuts?!" Just thought I'd lead with the question you'll be wondering in a few minutes. I am about to stick my finger in the fan, about up to my elbow, and I know it. But I really think someone needs to say this -- and why not me? I have less to lose than many who've thought the same thing, but daren't say it.

This is likely to get the water hotter than the first or second Wright posting did. If I was accused of "ignorance" in daring to Touch The Academy's Anointed... well, just wait. And it won't matter that I will dance more precisely than ever before. (See? "Dance." Already have some Baptists mad at me.)

So here we go.

What will change, and what won't. Spring's springing, and summer looms. Mercury rises, fashions change. But one thing that won't change, unless I'm badly and happily mistaken: some good and regular churchgoers will not dress as helpfully as they could.

I chose that word with care: "helpfully." I am not talking about sin, shame, indecency, wantonness, or the like. Perhaps I could, with some justification, in some cases. But that's for another time -- and probably another writer. At this point, I just want to talk about being helpful.

Sister, if there's one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it's this: I don't know what it's like to be a woman, and you don't know what it's like to be a man. We're both probably wrong where we're sure we're right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.

"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man" (Proverbs 27:20). Solomon doesn't use the Hebrew words that would indicate males exclusively, so this and Ecclesiastes 1:8 may apply across the gender-board. Libbie pointed out very ably that we men wrongly assume that we alone battle with temptations entering through the eye-gate.

But. But if men aren't alone in the battle, they may have a particular weakness for this aspect of it. Consider passionately-godly King David, whose psalms express aspirations after God beside which our own are pale, bloodless things. One day King David is in the wrong place, at the wrong time; sees a naked woman bathing next door, and boom! -- he's gone (2 Samuel 11). Family, kingdom, God -- all forgotten, consumed in the flash-flame of a lust that was only visual in its inception.

And what of that Israelite Philistine Samson and his own "eye trouble?" He sees a fetching young pagan, and bellows at his dad, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me" (Judges 14:3 NAS). Where did Samson's passions take him? How did his course end?

Unless all the men I've known personally or at a distance are completely unrepresentative, it's a lifelong struggle, a lifelong weakness. As I recall from a Proverbs lecture on mp3, Bruce Waltke says that his dad, at around age 100, told him, "Bruce, I still have the same struggles I did when I was 50." It was sobering for Dr. Waltke to hear; sobering for any man! (In fact, put me down for "disheartening.")

Where am I going with this? Oh, don't try to look so innocent. You know exactly where I'm going.

So here comes this brother into the assembly of the saints, hoping for a rest from the battles of the week, a moment to regroup, sing, pray, get the Word, fellowship. He looks up to the choir, or to his left or his right -- and in a tick of the clock, he's facing the same struggle he faced every time he turned on his TV, opened a magazine, or went down a city street. He's seeing things that make it far too easy for him not to keep his mind focused where it needs to be focused.

And he's not in a nightclub, he's not at a singles' bar, he's not at the beach. He's in church.

Now, some very direct disclaimers:
  • Every man's sin is his own, and every man's struggle is his own (Proverbs 14:10)
  • No one makes a man think or feel anything (Proverbs 4:23)
  • It is each individual's responsibility to guard his own heart (Proverbs 4:23)
  • Beauty is a wonderful gift of God (cf. Exodus 28:2; Song of Solomon 1:8, 15, etc.)
Having said all that: while it may be true that I'm holding the matches, you won't help me if you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid. To be more specific: if you know I've had trouble with drunkenness, you won't offer me a glass of wine. If you know I battle covetousness, you won't take me window-shopping in high-end stores I've no business frequenting.

So I put this question: what are some sisters thinking, in how they dress?

As the ladies pick clothes, they'll consider what's pretty, what's flattering, what's attractive. Who could blame them? But, "attractive" to whom? In what way? To what end? With what focus?

Consider the questions again. "Is it pretty?" Good question, no evil in it. "Is it comfortable, is it complimentary, is it fun?" No problem. I'd just suggest you add one more question: "Is it helpful, or is it hurtful, to my brothers in Christ? Will this unintentionally contribute to their having a focus that is harmful to their walk?"

Now, lookie here:
In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21 the signet rings and nose rings; 22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. (Isaiah 3:18-23)

...likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4 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)
Immediately we'll swing in, as we always do, and say, "Now, the writer's not saying that women can't dress nicely, or wear jewelry, or blah blah blah." And we'll all disown our Fundie forebears who focused on nylons and lipstick, and came up with precise hemline measurements. We'll want to make sure that we're not advocating a new line of Burqaware for evangelical women. All that will be true and valid enough.

But I'm concerned that, in our anxiety to be sure to prevent the wrong interpretation, we effectively cut off all interpretation. We have swung from making the passages say silly things, to not letting them say anything. These passages have to mean something! They must have some application! What is it?

Surely the emphasis of the passages is warning against vanity, externality, sensuality; and on highlighting and promoting focus on a godly character as true beauty. Who you are; not just what you look like. Remember: "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion" (Proverbs 11:22 NAS).

Oh boy, I'm going to make it worse now. Deep breath....

What are you clothes saying about you, sister? What are they supposed to say to your brothers? "Hey, look at this?" Well, they actually are trying to look at the Lord; it's not good for them to be looking at that. No, it's not your fault that they have a problem. We established that. And it's really great that God has made you beautiful. I hope your husband (present or future) shows you how grateful he is for that about you.

But you can help the brothers who aren't your husband, or you can not-help them. Which are you doing? If you're not married, and a man looks at you, is he thinking, "What a great character"? Or are you giving him reason to think about something else?

I know many of the responses. "You don't know what it's like to buy women's clothes, you ignorant man!" Mostly true. My first just-for-fun purchase for my wife was, well, it was appalling. What a good sport my wife was. I took it back to the store immediately, and made a much better subsequent choice.

But this: "You can't find anything modest! It's all too revealing! It's impossible to get something that looks nice, yet isn't too tight, or too short, or too-something / not-something-enough!"

Sorry, but baloney.

I put "modest women's clothing Christian" in Google, and 453,000 pages come up. Yes, some are funny and quaint at best. But are they all Amishwear? "Can't find?"

More fundamentally: I do not accept that anyone has to wear clothes that are too tight or too sheer or too short -- unless you are the largest and tallest woman living in the hottest part of the planet. Because I see larger, taller women walking around in hot weather, and they're all wearing clothes, every last one. They got those clothes somewhere, I reason. You could too.

"But -- but they won't look good on me! The shoulders will be wrong!"

I'm not sure that's necessarily true, but let's accept it and pose a counter-question. You tell me. Which is worse: your shoulders hanging a half-inch too low? Or a blouse/shirt that simply (shifting into turbo-delicate) provides need-to-know information to those with a need-to-not-know?

I'm sure we all agree that there are clothes that show what others have no helpful business seeing. Here's what to show, in clothes-selection: show a Godward focus, discretion, a godly character.

And show mercy.

Parting thought. Darlene pointed me to a statement by Arthur Pink, which makes everything I've just said look awfully mild. But there's no denying that he has a point. I'll close with it:
Again, if lustful looking be so grievous a sin, then those who dress and expose themselves with desires to be looked at and lusted after-as Jezebel, who painted her face, tired her head, and looked out of the window (2 Kings 9:30)-are not less, but even more guilty. In this matter it is only too often the case that men sin, but women tempt them so to do. How great, then, must be the guilt of the great majority of the modern misses who deliberately seek to arouse the sexual passions of our young men? And how much greater still is the guilt of most of their mothers for allowing them to become lascivious temptresses?
Now, note, Pink and I speak to different ends. I speak to those who I assume are inadvertently dressing in an unhelpful manner. Pink speaks to those whose intent is to allure. Between the two of us, I can pray we've provided food for thought, prayer, reconsideration, and needed change.

Dan Phillips's signature


Sharon said...

Let me be the first to say . . . right on! Choosing an outfit comes down to attitude and purpose. And I'm amazed at what some of my fellow sisters in Christ are trying to accomplish with what they wear in the Lord's house. Whew!

Steve Sensenig said...

Now, that's a post worthy of calling you by your right name, Dan!

Excellently written. Very delicate, in fact. I'm just offended that you used the word "dance", but... ;)

Seriously, great job!

steve :)

Steve Sensenig said...

(oh, and Sharon's picture next to her comment seems like it's modest enough...hehe)

Yankeerev said...

I'm sweating...

Screaming Pirate said...

I think you just earned your "booyah" title all over again. I must say I am very thankful for my church in this matter, For the most part they nail this one, Its not to often that you see some thing like this.

Anonymous said...

Well done post indeed!

But what about the brides? What about our half-dressed beauties that show the whole congregation way too much at their wedding!

As a pastor, I can testify that more than once I've had to be plenty vigilant in maintaining a certain 'field of vision' when presiding over a marriage service!

Please save that for the honeymoon, please!

A little modesty, even at weddings? Is that possible?

Yankeerev said...

Father Brown...

For me the difference is clear... I would have no problem imagining myself sitting behind the wheel of a Red Viper... There would not be a battle in my conscience... it could be playful and not covetous to imagine it...

The alternative, however, is much more damaging and a genuine struggle...

Still sweating...

DJP said...

Brown, since you ask -- I think you're writing as if you didn't read the essay.

John H said...

Sorry, I've only had chance to glance down your post in a hurry. Think I got the gist, though - something about NT Wright being caught wearing women's clothing?


Carla Rolfe said...

Brother Booyah,

I will add a hearty AMEN to everything you just said.

I will also add, many sisters honestly have no idea how poorly they are dressing, and should be gently addressed with this. It can be rather shocking and humiliating to be bluntly told their attire is causing someome to sin - when they never considered it.

Mary Mohler has an excellent article on this called Modeling Modesty which I highly recommend to anyone.

DJP said...

Steve -- yes, thank you, very astute observation. That one was actually "in the oven" for a long time, subjected to a lot of thought and rethought, and subjected to a bit of review. So thanks.

DJP said...

Thanks, Carla. Probably, in an ideal world, sisters would be talking gently to other sisters about this; a Titus 2 sort of thing.

I envision maybe some will be saying -- maybe even in church bulletins? -- "Say, there's an interesting essay over at Pyromaniacs... see what you think about it!"


Kim said...

Great post, Dan. There was a man who used to teach Sunday School at our church who found himself regularly confronted wiht women in the front row, wearing skirts that were simply too short. He found it very frustrating.

A teenage boy in our church said to some of the girls in in his Sunday School class: "You have the power to tempt us in areas that we are already weak in." Quite an admission coming from a teenager.

DJP said...

John H -- LOL! ExACTly!

Aaron said...

This subject is always needed as the temptation will no doubt always be around.

I've the great privilige of helping produce and edit Nancy Leigh DeMoss' radio program, Revive Our Hearts. I heartily recommend any of her resources on the subject of modesty. In fact, ROH is re-airing one of the modesty series next month (June 6-23).

Also, classical presbyterian mentioned the brides...
Our worship pastor (pardon me for the name dropping), Todd Murray, was "featured" over at GirlTalk on this very subject.

Jacob Hantla said...

New rule: No posting unless you've read the essay.

Dan B. said...

Dan--well said. It is truly hard enough to be in the world and bombarded with temptation through ads, etc., only to come into Sunday morning worship and encounter something similar. If we are truly set apart by God (as His children), then even the way we dress (as to modesty) and carry ourselves needs to reflect that.

Great article.

btw, Garet--I see where you are coming from (I live on the other coast), context being important. But even on the beach, there is swimwear that is modest and would not tempt fellow brothers in Christ, while other types leave hardly anything to the imagination. So, I would say it is context combined with an attitude that seeks to glorify God that should inform the way one dresses, being modest, etc.

DJP said...

Now, let me put a little twist in the discussion.

I did make specific reference to church, in that it is particularly startling in that setting. But I really wasn't thinking exclusively of church.

Should concerns and expectations differ much between dress and behavior in and out of assembly? Why, and how so?

reglerjoe said...


Does this men I need to ask the ladies in my church to quit wearing their TeamPyro Spaghetti Tanks to worship services?

Gordon said...

Dan, this was exactly what needed to be said and you did it in such a great way that even this Baptist is not offended at your use of the word "dance".

In fact, my feet are a little happy right at the moment.

CuriousSaint said...

AMEN! to that bro booyah. Well said! This is something that lurks silently, destroying and warring against the soul and one rarely utters a single word to combat it. All jokes aside, I appreciate that you have addressed this topic. The least we can do for one another (men/women) is help to clear the twigs and lighter fluid from around the others' feet instead of adding to it.

All Honor and Glory to HIM.

Kay said...

Oh thanks. Having my darkest sins lurking around in my barely-read archives is one thing, but having my mates put them on the front page of Pyromaniacs?

Nothing like keeping me humble, eh?

Jamie McBride said...

Isn’t it interesting that our sin nature is still expressing itself today as it did when Paul wrote the Corinthians? I agree Dan, in church or out of church, we are still before the Lord, our brothers and sisters and the world. Great post.

Daniel said...

I recall a pastor from Bangalore speaking about a young lady who used to come to church dressed to the nines. Not so much that here apparel was immodest, but rather that it was as far from "casual dress" as a person can go. For all the world the young lady seemed to be dressed so as to allow no confusion as to which "caste" she belonged to (Bangalore is in India).

If I remember correctly, some of the women in the church made it their duty to rebuke the young lady - but it turns out that it was not her doing - but that her father forbid her to go to church except that she was dressed in all her finery.

Now, while it wasn't the case in this young lady's example that she personally wanted to impress people with her place in society and her wealth - that was the condition by which her father allowed her to attend the church - but there are some in the church who have no such excuse - who dress "immodestly" in an entirely different way - that is, they dress to impress people with either their wealth, social status, or even their poverty.

The moment our clothing is chosen to say something about us rather than to say nothing about it - we enter into the transgression.

DJP said...

Libbie, I didn't notice any ladies over at your blog gasping and telling you they had no idea what you were talking about.

Did I miss that part?


Chris Freeland said...

It really is a fine line, isn't it?

Who gets to define "modest?" I would define modest as one thing, while the senior pastor at the last church where I served would have defined it completely differently.

I think this is where the need for good, strong, female leadership within a church is extremely apparent. The church desperately needs women who are strong enough to build into the lives of young women in all areas, specifically this one.

We need more women who are truly committed to Paul's injunction for older women to teach the younger women. And I don't mean teach in a lecturing sense - I mean it in a shepherding sense... where women pour into girls' lives to the point that the younger girls have the emotional investment in the older women to trust their advice.

Sharon said...

Ah, you brought up one of my pet peeves. I don't care if you live in California, Hawaii, or Santa Monica (practically a country unto itself)--when you attend church, you are to dress up with an attitude of formality. IMO, shorts, T-shirts, and flip flops are not appropriate outfits for the Lord's house. Casual dress = casual attitude. Trust me--sitting in the choir loft, I see this all the time. Men in suits with coat and ties, and women in dresses, come to church with reverence. Those wearing torn jeans, sandles and tank tops approach worship with a flippant attitude. You know the saying, "clothes make the man." It's so very true!

Rhology said...

Chris Free,
Strong female leadership, yes! Also, given that Dr. Boo has so eloquently made it clear that even strong female leaders don't know what it's like to be a man, said female leaders need to be in communication (at least SOMEtimes) w/ males, if for nothing else than to ask what is unhelpful for THEM. Yeah, there may be a lot of differences, but aren't we looking out even for the weakest of these? A reasonable effort can be made to help even the most lust-plagued man.

Finally, this post and the article about wedding dresses made me SO thankful for my wife, who is self-policing and who looked hot but not self-expository on our wedding day. Y'all need a good balance? Drop me a line, I'll get you in touch w/ her! ;-)

Kent Brandenburg said...

I felt bad that this was such a sensitive issue. It was a no-brainer 30-40 years ago in churches that stood for the truth. I'm glad Dan was willing to take it on. Lack of discernment grows exponentially. Immodest dress is a moral issue, not one of Christian liberty. No Christian has liberty to sin. No Christian has the liberty to cause a brother to stumble.

Scriptural nakedness is not the absence of clothes either. A few clothes does more in the imagination than none. If not, then Victoria's Secret would have gone out of business many years ago. Where does the Bible say that proximity to water relates to the issue of modesty at all?

The guy that said that looking at the beauty of women is like checking out a Ferari should look at Job 31. When accused of deserving his suffering, this righteous man defended himself by laying out his standards: "I have made a covenant with mine eyes, why then should I think upon a maid?" (v. 1)

Much of the immodest dress is also tied into the independence of women in our culture. Part of protecting our sisters (actual sisters, wives, and daughters) is building that wall that the Shulamite's brothers built for her in chapter 8. An aspect of male leadership is enforcing dress standards already carefully taught in the home. Instead of turning the world upside down; the world has turned us upside down.

Darlene said...

Note: TeamPyro camisoles and spaghetti tanks are to be worn under blouses, shirts, or sweaters!
Public service announcement--thank you.

Chris Freeland said...

IMO, shorts, T-shirts, and flip flops are not appropriate outfits for the Lord's house. Casual dress = casual attitude.

I completely one-hundred percent disagree. I've been to too many churches where people dressed themselves up to hide the casual attitude that was within them.

The local church isn't the Lord's house. We are the Lord's house. Doesn't the Holy Spirit live inside of us? More important than wearing a tie is wearing the righteousness of Christ - inside and out.

Dressing up doesn't make me an ounce more spiritual, and it's sure not fooling any of the people I see when I'm at church.

DJP said...

rhology --

Dr. Boo

It took me a long time to figure that out... then ROFL!

Even So... said...



Help! Dan's gone Pentecostal!

Kent Brandenburg said...

For the casual-dress-fans-attackers-of-Sharon---some points: First, in Maui there's "dress up" and "dress down" just like in Manila. Dressing down for corporate worship says something about what you're doing. You may not think your casual attire does not communicate that, but what you think about it also isn't all that's important. When we are saved, we are brought to His level, a partaker of the Divine nature, not vice versa, that is, He isn't dumbed down to us. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah noticed that His train filled the temple. Second, we represent Christ, even as one of you said, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. We are not our own, but bought with a price. When Bill Clinton appeared on MTV, he dressed like a president to represent the office. Everyone knows that what we wear represents who we are---we're his ambassadors; let's act like it. Third, casual dress for serious or formal functions started with the world, not with dedicated Christians. Love does not behave unseemingly. Casual is part of the lovers of their own selves movement, where our comfort trumps everything. When we go to worship God coporately, we should be thinking: what will honor Him?(don't bring me your bling argument, because appropriateness comes in too)

Then consider this: 1) And be not conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2)---"conformed" is external; 2) Same word in 1 Peter 1:14, "Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance"---fashioning is external. And 3) Zephaniah 1:8 "And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel." God punished people because they dressed like the world. We know what the world dresses like, and we shouldn't imitate them.

The reason Solomon did not elaborate on "the attire of the harlot" in Proverbs is because we know what a harlot dresses like. She wears less clothes than non-harlots (among other things). When the world goes casual, it does so for a reason; we shouldn't assume it's good.

Kent Brandenburg said...

So what is legalism, Father Brown? Just so that I know that we are on the same page, you know, laid out in black and white like a good Amish.

Of course, when I said "world," Father, I meant the "world system" (kosmos) like is found in Rom. 12:2, not as in planet earth. Last time I checked, most Amish are also on this planet, although someone wrote that the men are from mars and the women from venus. "World" would be the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the philosophies, standards, and ideals of the current system.

Even So... said...

To all: there is a difference between conviction and command.

That being said, too often those that would emphasize their Christian liberty are just exercising their old man.

Instead of trying to justify ourselves, we need to just-deny ourselves.

4given said...

What is so difficult about this is, what one woman defines as modest, another woman defines as slutty.
To some, wearing a sleeveless blouse that is not tight is too risky because your arms are showing. Wearing capri pants that go to your knees is too risky because your calves are exposed.
... to some, wearing a gunny sack is too risky because your neck is exposed.
So how do I figure out what to wear? I ask my husbands permission. He is very conservative.
This was a great post. Well written with excellent observations that need to be said.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jerry and Even So...I agree.

Chris Freeland said...


I appreciate the point of view from which you're coming. And, I hope by "For the casual-dress-fans-attackers-of-Sharon---" you don't seriously think I'm attacking Sharon. She has a responsibility to respond to her convictions regarding clothing as much as I do.

But I think it's important to make a distinction between form and theology. To imply that someone is not as serious a Christian because they don't comply to an individual's dress code is legalistic, plain and simple.

And, I think it should be noted that every single one of the Scriptures you quoted refer to the general lifestyle of the Christian, not just his behavior in the local church on Sunday. Unless you're attempting to make the point that we as Christians should wear a suit and tie every time we set foot out of our house, I'm not sure how the passages or logic applies.

Kent Brandenburg said...

F. Brown,

Convenience justified Jeroboam's worship of calves at Dan and Bethel. I like Kymanika's comments too. The dress for the priest in Israel's corporate worship was ornate and orderly, definitely not dressing down. When they came for an official corporate gathering, yes, they would have appeared in the best they could. Casual dress is less thinking about God as it is about us; which fits right in with the spirit of the age. Casual dress has its place; not church among other places.

I don't expect an unbeliever to conform in any way externally in a God-honoring way. Why consider expressing love for God with our appearance to be meritorious? Sure, people attempt to impress God with their clothes, but today they attempt to show what superior grace they have by dressing down too. Any standards one way or the other, either maximizing or minimizing, are not going to make us righteous. The Pharisees were guilty of reducing the commandments to something they were able to do without God.

Higher dress standards doesn't assume that one ignores other sinning in the church. I do believe that we target the inside and work our way out. The out says something about the in though, and that's where it benefits too.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Since we are to prove all things, I think appropriate suggestions about how one might honor God with external appearance, based on biblical principles, could help someone. People can dishonor God with their outward appearance and do damage to the testimony of Christ. I agree that going sockless for church isn't so much the problem as the underlying philosophy behind the accompanying approach to Sunday worship. As "even so" intimated, this new fad in Sunday apparel comes from a lack of self-denial.

Sharon said...

Perhaps I did not make my point well.

I would no more wear shorts & tee to church than I would to attend a dinner at the White House. I dress up to honor the Lord. Sure, there is no verse that says, "Thou shalt not wear cut-offs in the temple of the Lord." But wearing casual, even sloppy outfits to meet a dignitary is insulting to him and embarrassing to you. And who more "dignified" than the Lord Himself?

Jerry said it best:
For example, if you show up to a wedding or funeral without carefully considering your attire, you will most certainly communicate to others that the occasion wasn't important enough to be thoughtful.

Isn't church an important enough occasion to dress up for?

Sharon said...

Garet Pahl said...
Please Sharon. Are you serious, or just Baptist?

Yes, and no, respectively.

Kent Brandenburg said...

F. Brown,

Last comment before I blog retire for the evening, but you missed my caution not to use the "bling argument" (if you scroll up). The Bible also forbids extravagance, i. e. dressing to be a show. "If I'm supposed to dress nice then I may as well wear a tux, but since that's stupid, I'll just wear this urban camo instead."

Be well. I'm out.

Even So... said...

The dress code for the church I pastor is the same one God uses.

There is only one requirement.


I just reposted my article entitled "God's Dress Code" if any would care to read it.


Sorry folks for the plug and such. I love this blog, and may God bless anyone and everyone who visits here (trolls included).

Even So...(Come Lord Jesus)

reglerjoe said...

These verse come to mind:

Gen 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
Gen 35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
Gen 35:3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

C.A.M. said...

I believe the local congregation has the right to set rules for its members to abide by, just as a family has rules, and a government has rules, that aren't necessarily found in Scripture. Those rules are honest applications of Scriptural principles--whether it be 8:30 pm bedtime, a 60 mph speed limit, or using the church kitchen or a dress code for church. And if someone doesn't like the modesty rules of the church, then there are other places which may not be as careful as these. I know when I preach on modest standards of dress, it is the women who thank me.

I think a lot of this discussion boils down to the rank individualism of the American culture, contrasted to the community-nature of the church.

Thanks for raising the issue.

C.A.M. said...

Also, please see


nancy said...

Bravo - well said and needed today... BUT ...

Have you considered this? Given that many of the women dressing as you described are married, then I ask who are they impressing? I contend that rather than trying to inflame the passions of other men, who are not their husbands, they are actually engaged in a "hottie" contest. Just like having a bad case of "house envy," women who are now beyond the stage of child bearing want to proclaim that they still have that hot bod that they had back in the highschool days.

What do you all think about that?

It does not negate the sin, but it might help the gents better understand the phonomena.

isaiah543 said...

Amen, even so, on the humility dress code. That's the only dress code I want at the church I pastor as well.

That said, I wish some of the girls would wear some more clothes. So I like this post.

But that said, I'd rather have a church full of porn addicts than a church full of legalists, so some of these comments make me real uncomfortable. Lust kills, but not as efficiently as legalism.

Gryphonette said...

You're absolutely right, Dan! A few years ago I wrote to one of the pastors at the church we attend about the immodest clothing worn by some of the young women, in fact. My sister, who attended there at the time, had invited someone to visit and was embarrassed when later she was told they appreciated the invitation, but were put off by the way so many of the young people dressed.

My letter was forwarded to one of the elders, who acknowledged that when visiting the high school youth group he felt compelled to stare up at the ceiling so as to not stare at the scantily dressed girls.

I don't recall any big deal being made, but have noticed over the following years the situation appears to have improved some. Presumably somebody began to address this with the youngsters.

Excellent post, as I said. Booyah, indeed. ;^)

Kim said...


I agree with you 100% about the different "takes" on what constitutes modesty.

Here's a question for anyone who wants to tackle it. What about pants? Frankly, at times, I find pants more modest than dresses, yet in my church, if I get up to sing (and even to play the organ on a Sunday morning) I have to wear a dress. What would a cellist do if she was asked to accompany someone. It's much more modest for a cellist to wear pants than a long skirt.

DJP said...

Nancy -- thanks for getting us back to the galaxy of the topic. (c;

Have you considered this? Given that many of the women dressing as you described are married, then I ask who are they impressing? I contend that rather than trying to inflame the passions of other men, who are not their husbands, they are actually engaged in a "hottie" contest.

No, honestly, I never did. I appreciate your bringing it up. I have honestly wondered, with regard to husbands, "Oh, golly -- you let your wife dress like that? You didn't say, 'Honey, I love that, I love seeing you look like that, but -- whoa! Those poor guys who aren't me!'?"

So it could be a failure of guys not giving their wives guy-input -- and of them not assuring their wives of their love and exclusive devotion?

That's ponderable. Thanks.

Chris Freeland said...

But wearing casual, even sloppy outfits to meet a dignitary is insulting to him and embarrassing to you. And who more "dignified" than the Lord Himself?

Do you dress up to do your devotional time in the morning? How about when you pray without ceasing? When you do evening devotionals with your kids; do you dress up then?

This is the problem with this part of the discussion for me: Sunday morning is not the only time we "meet with God." We have the ability to approach the throne room of grace at any time - truly one of the most unfathomable opportunities in the Christian life.

I appreciate the sentiment behind what you're saying - I really do. I wish people in our churches were a lot more serious about the way that they approach God on a regular basis. But formality of dress is way down on my list of things I'm ready to throw stones at.

Carla Rolfe said...

Darlene - I loved the PSA! lol...


Jeff Voegtlin said...


I'll tackle the pants issue, although I may not have time to answer all the comments it may generate.

1. There are two biblical principles related to Christian dress: modesty and distinction.

2. Distinction (Deut. 22:5) is mostly determined by the culture. Now if a culture is in rebellion against God, then the cultural norm is to be rejected.

3. Even in our godless culture, we still differentiate between the sexes by showing men in pants and dresses on women (think restroom signage here).

4. So, while pants may not show as much skin as some dresses will, in my understanding, they are men's apparel and should be avoided by women.

5. A thoughtful cellist can be just as modest in a dress/skirt as in pants and also be distinctively female.

6. BTW, the cellist in my church orchestra plays "side saddle" if you will, and does just fine. That was her own idea and it works well.


Momo said...

I noticed the men's boxers with the cool logo too. What must Frank be thinking? I mean, I have to wear them so that the logo can be seen, right? Isn't that the point?

Come to think of it, I'm going to have a talk with my 3-year-old about his King Kong undies.

Kim said...


Thanks for your reply. I think I know what you are saying. I think the "side saddle" thing is a great idea for a cellist. I've never seen one play that way before.

What I do wonder is who decides what is distinctive for dress in a given society. Clearly, that which distinguishes women in our society differs from those in other cultures such as Middle Eastern ones. In other societies, facial hair is a distinctive for men to differentiate between age and privilege.

At one time, men didn't wear the kind of apparel they did now. Who decides what makes apparel male or female?

Michelle said...

King Kong Boxer comment: cute.

Description of Pyro Men's Boxers: Enjoy the roomy comfort of our sexy boxers as underwear or sleepwear.

Descriptions of Pyro Women's Cami:
Comfort and style come together with our sexy cami. The thin fabric is a great way to beat the summer heat or for winter layering without looking bulky. Pair it with our thong as an easy, breezy summer sleep set.

If you don't see a difference, talk to your wife.

Phil Johnson said...

To be clear: The ad copy and pictures on the individual Pyrogear® products are supplied and written by CafePress, the company that makes all the Pyrogear®. We disclaim all specific product descriptions. We apologize for any confusion about this.

You can be sure that if Frank Turk had written the copy himself, the label "sexy" would be applied to the Trucker Hat, not the boxers.

Evers said...

The girltalk blog recently addressed this subject in their series on "Fashion and Following the Savior."

They have a *very* well-done printable piece called "Modesty Heart Check" available here.

DJP said...

Mist: some may be tempted if you show up in a potato sack

That's appallingly true. I'll go you even one better: some may be tempted all alone, ten miles away from the nearest women, in the desert, or in the mountains.

I could have gone on in another direction, as well. That proneness, that tendency is there, it's a lifelong battle, and it's a problem in itself.

But think about this: with that temptation comes a revulsion at oneself, which brings discouragement and temptation to despair. "Oh, dear God, why am I thinking that? How did that thought even get into my mind? What a hopeless loser of a wreck I am... I'm here, trying to worship You, and in a blink, without anyone even trying to do anything to me, I'm thinking this!"

One can understand part of the motivation to join a monastery. But of course the problem is that wherever I go, there I am. The real root is in that little outpost of Hell between my ears. That's where the battle is.

As you and everyone (thank God) seems to have understood, my point isn't that anyone else causes this struggle. But it is that others can make it easier, or harder. One cannot cause another to stumble; but (s)he may be an occasion of stumbling.

And one more time: I spoke of church, but did not have only church in mind.

Anonymous said...

If I had read this a few years ago, my face would have been red with anger. I am awed and eternally grateful that the LORD has refashioned me to be the kind of woman to now read this and say "he's absolutely right. And I have to continue to guard myself against committing that."

I'm glad you posted this. We do need to be constantly reminded. We change our clothes every day, after all. I pray that any woman who would be offended by your post would have her pride crushed and her eyes open to reality.

Again, thanks for the post!

DJP said...

Classical Presbyterian asked "What about weddings?" This is long past this post's time, but for the sake of Posterity, I thought I'd add this confirming article, just published.

Lance Roberts said...

Maybe the casual guys should think about the fact that every worship service is the wedding of Christ to his bride, the Church.

Pants while violating the principle of distinction between men and women, are also always immodest on women. They "frame" the crotch, rear and legs, and bring visual attention to them.

étrangère said...

Good post, Dan. Just one bit not helpful - googling modest women's clothing does not signify how easy it is to find the same. Buying clothes online is disastrous. Finding nice modest clothes in shops is difficult - more so than finding clothes that fit generally, which is quite hard enough as it is for those who don't have a 'perfect' figure. Suggestion: pray before and during shopping. I pray that my Father would help me steward well the money he's given me, and that 'my' purchases would honour him. Trying something on, I should not just be looking at how good it looks, but at, 'Lord, help me honour you in wearing this.' My conscience is shouting at me fairly clearly if I'm not wanting to pray that!

Sherry said, "...isn't that why they are dressing like that in the first place? So the men WILL look?" I'd say often that's not the case. Girls dress for other girls. They dress like that because that's what their friends wear, and what all they see in films / on TV says looks good on them. They're thinking about fitting in and looking good - security, identity - not necessarily about attracting male attention. They'll dress that way when they're going round to a girl friend's house where there'll be no guys around! (This doesn't mean they shouldn't be thinking about whether it's helpful to guys - just saying, it's not necessarily that they're setting out to be unhelpful.)

Rebecca said...

Pants while violating the principle of distinction between men and women, are also always immodest on women. They "frame" the crotch, rear and legs, and bring visual attention to them.

Which is why men should not wear pants either. I'm only being somewhat facetious here. But let's face facts: If the pants are too loose, we all too often end up seeing the man's boxer shorts sticking above the waistband. Even worse, we all too often see parts of the man's body we would rather not see. (I really have no legitimate desire to see anything "below the belt" on a man who is not my husband.) If the pants are too tight and the crotch is "framed"...need I say more? I know men are overly enamored with and often quite proud of that portion of their anatomy, but must everyone else's attention be drawn to it as well?

Sherri said...

I happen to agree with you. My church is quite straight forward about this issue. Nevertheless, I have seen a leopard print thong peeking out of a pair of pants on a woman in front of me during worship. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her to pull down her shirt.

Every once in awhile, my pastor will address the issue from the pulpit and serve notice that if the ushers spot indecency, they will ask the person to step out of the service.

And they have done it.


Cynthia Robin said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts on this "delicate" matter. I only have one thing to add to it...ladies, be aware of what you wear not only to church, but the rest of the week and in the rest of the world, as well. You're not only being seen by Christian brothers, but you're a living witness to the world of Who and What our Lord is, and as such, it is our responsibility to set the correct and proper example. Thank you.

DJP said...

Exactly right, Cynthia. This post wasn't supposed to be about dressing in church, alone. That was adduced as an extreme example. I did mean anywhere.