16 June 2009

Sister... show mercy! (Annual repost #2)

[This one was in fact already being requested before I asked for suggestions. This post from 2006 created a bit of a stir, and some very gracious response. Let me add this one word to husbands: you too. By which I mean, you remember what it was like to be single. You know how guys are. You show some mercy to your brothers, and help sensitize your wife to showing love for others in this important way. Or worse still, if you know what's going on, and you derive pleasure from the thought of the effect your wife is having — do you really need me to tell you to repent?]

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.

So here we go.

What will change, and what won't. Spring's sprung, and summer looms. Mercury rises, fashions change. But one thing that won't change, unless I'm happily mistaken: some good Christian sisters 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. 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.

This is... church? 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 the one holding the matches, you won't help me if you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid. To be a little more specific: if you know I've had trouble with drunkenness, you won't wave a glass of wine in front of me tauntingly. If you know I battle covetousness, you won't take me window-shopping in high-end stores I've no business frequenting.

That is, you won't do those things if you love, if you care for me at all.

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

"Attractive"? 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?

I want my lure to attract trout so they will bite and get hooked, and I can kill them and eat them.

A business wants to attract buyers so they will spend money and acquire their product or service and make them rich.

By that blouse, those pants, that skirt — what are you trying to attract? Attract to what, so that they will focus on what and feel what, and want to do what?

Consider the questions again. "Is it pretty?" Fine 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 holy 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)
What it isn't. 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 Bible Burqaware™ for evangelical women. All that will be true and valid enough.But... what is it? 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 passages warn against vanity, externality, sensuality; and promote a 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....

Say what? What are your 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, not helpful 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. May your husband (present or future) celebrate your beauty.

But, please hear me: 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 something else about you is "great"?

I know many of the responses. I've heard them. "You don't know what it's like to buy women's clothes, you ignorant man!" Mostly true. My first just-for-fun purchase of (what I thought was) a pretty blue dress 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 choice.

"I caaaan't." But this: "I 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 63,500 pages come up. (Up from 43,200, last year.) 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 than you walking around in hot weather, and they're all wearing clothes, every last one of them. They got those clothes somewhere, I reason. You could too.

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

Need-to-not-know. 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/skirt 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 off 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 Pink 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 audiences. I speak to those whom I charitably 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.

One last thought: it is a mistake to think I exclusively have church-attire in mind. That is lifted as a particularly egregious example of what-are-you-thinking? In what I say, I have in mind any place where both sexes are present.

Dan Phillips's signature


FX Turk said...

This is my favorite post on TeamPyro, all-time. It's probably the most practical and serious advice any of us have ever given, and it's really such a small thing.

Great post, Dan.

FX Turk said...

What we should do with this post is make a video of it so that all churches who want to can show it and give a sound and sober plea for summer modesty. I'm not sure how to do that, relly, but it's a great idea.

thepaperthinhymn said...

several women at my church, ages 15-40, have taken to wearing "short shorts", which are hiked up and sit about a foot above the knee, as well as tank tops, some more low cut than others. which raises a question- would this be a matter of church discipline? as in, i don't really care what they do in their own homes or at the park or beach or whatever. but they are wearing these to church, and i know that it isn't modest which both peter and paul mention. would it make sense to write the pastor and tell him my concern, and ask why they aren't addressing it? and if so, would it be a matter of church discipline to confront a sister [or even brother, i guess] who consistently comes to church dressed in what is essentially beach-wear?>

DJP said...

I have really appreciated that the overwhelming majority of response to the first two postings of this reflected most folks' understanding that I am not calling for a new legalism, nor a revival of rules about lipstick and nylons. But (as I say in the post) many people have gone from silly-rules to total-abandon.

So, GT, I don't think what's missing is discipline so much as discipleship.

Ideally, mature women and godly husbands will wake up and start applying some gracious wisdom, a la Titus 2:3-5. But of course, as Proverbs reflects, the best transmissions in the world are worthless if they're not received.

So some ladies need to "hear" better, too.

Raymond Nearhood II said...

What we should do with this post is make a video of it so that all churches who want to can show it and give a sound and sober plea for summer modesty. I'm not sure how to do that, relly, but it's a great idea.

In a 50's reel-to-reel style, like we used to get in school.

"This is Billy. Billy wants to focus on God and worship the King. Look at Billy sing!"

"Oh no, here comes Pam in that questionable attire."

"Focus Billy, focus."

- cut to Dan sitting behind a computer, turning to the camera -

"Hi, I'm Dan Phillips..."

- cut to 50's style video. -

Start it out with the funny, retro thing, but make the serious point as the video progresses. At least I think it's a good idea.

Raymond Nearhood II said...

Very good post Dan.

I think you did an outstanding job of balancing character v. legalism. I may need to print this and keep it with my Bible.

VcdeChagn said...

Sent to my wife, my best friend's wife, and my pastor and his wife.

Along with a thanks to them for dressing modestly.

The sneaky thing is, they'll pass it on to those who need to see it ;)

DJP said...


Kim said...

I'm with Frank; do a video!

Love this post, as you know!

I was out shopping recently, and I did indeed find modest clothing. Funny how wearing our size can make all the difference in the world.

Rob said...

This is a good post, Dan, but one of the things I would have liked to hear more about, in connection with this topic, is the topic of head covering. Having recently read through a work bu Sproul in which he believes that the principle of covering the head is still in effect, I'm curious to hear other's take on this.

DJP said...

Interesting subject, but not relevant to my focus. Can't say everything in one post, though some accuse me of trying.


Colloquist said...

Kim: Funny how wearing our size can make all the difference in the world.

Oh, sister! I want to emblazon that in every fitting room in every department store. One might claim to be a size 6, and it certainly feels good to the ego to say so, but that doesn't mean one actually looks decent in a size 6.

Dan, do you mind if I link to this on my Facebook page?

DJP said...

Not at all, Rabbit. Folks have printed this up and handed it out at church. When properly sourced, I'm delighted for these posts to be used, and grateful to God.

Unknown said...

This is a great post. (I had to deal with this when my daughter was a teen.) We desperately need a return to Biblical values, even in our dress. Fundamentalism? How about just good ole common sense. A video would be the next step in educating the masses.

Doug Hibbard said...

Very practical, and a very good point made. And one fathers need to remember as well. It amazes me the times I hear the men's Sunday School class lament the world's evil seductions, and then I see how their own daughters, aged 8-14, come to church dressed.

You feed them, you clothe them, you get to veto it.

And like you said, it's not just about roaming about with rulers to measure hemlines, as we were doing at youth camp slightly more than a decade ago. (Leading to the question: why did they give a 19-year-old single man a ruler and tell him to look at teenage girl's legs/shorts and see if they were too revealing? That wasn't smart, in retrospect.) It's about developing an attitude of godliness in our behavior.

That being said, I'll not wear my sleeveless muscle shirts at church workdays anymore either. Not that anyone was tempted by that image.

Eric Kaminsky said...

Great post and repost Dan.

There's almost nothing more frustrating than short shorts and tank tops right in front of me at church, and I agree that these issues should be addressed formally by pastors, leaders, and parents.

Who wants to think of gouging their eyes out when they want to gaze unto the author and perfecter of their faith.

That being said. The problem is deeper than choices in clothing. We live in a media saturated culture where showing skin is in. And frankly, these low cut shorts and tops never used to bother me until I became really serious about purity. I don't have cable TV. I don't watch rated R movies and most PG-13 movies. I have filtered internet service and only have access when my wife logs me on to it. This puts me at times in more danger at church than I would be at home or work.

My point is that until parents and pastors, leaders, and fellow Christians get serious about guarding their hearts and minds for their own sanctification and assurance, little will be accomplished.

I whole-heartedly agree with the CalviDispoBaptoGelical on this one.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Thank you!

Carol Jean said...

Someone told me recently that pastors really struggle with having to look down from their pulpits into a sea of well...you can figure it out. Just another thing women don't always consider when dressing for church. Things look different in the mirror than they do from above. Maybe the emergents are onto something with the couches.

Dan, my question is why the standards would be different for church than for anywhere else. I understand you're making the point that men need a respite from "the world," and need a safe place to worship without distraction, but I'd argue that women need to be consistent and not have one standard for church and another for their "real" life.

To that end, I struggle with the swimsuit issue. While I would never, ever wear a mini-skirt or micro-short shorts, why am I OK wearing a swimsuit, even the one with the mini-skirt attached for the perceived extra modesty? It's showing way, WAY more skin than I show at any other time in my life, save the doctors office or privacy of my home. Do men men struggle with lust at work and church but not at the beach?

DJP said...

Right, Carol Jean. Check my last paragraph. I added that to the first repost because so many took me as just going off on churchwear, when that was never my intent. I started with church to say "Even there!"

The extrapolation would be, if these ladies dress that way at church....

Gary said...

Yes! We need a video! Maybe NOOMA style...

Kate said...

As a woman, I take your charge and applaud your courage. Thanks for the reminder. It is always important to share this message!


theWayPA said...


As a wife of a husband who has, by the Lord's grace, been pure from sexual immorality for a couple of years now (at great price and sacrifice), nothing is more frustrating than watching my husband in the pursuit of holiness being pursued by the great ungodliness of the sensual dress of women AND GIRLS in church. I am thankful that this is not much of an issue in my church, but was one of the main reasons we left a church. The pastor's own daughter was the most immodest dresser in the entire congregation. When confronted about the issue, the pastor basically said he and his wife "choose their battles," and that was not one of them. I was heartbroken. He is the shepherd of the flock that has been entrusted to him, yet refused to protect and love that flock--rather exposed them unnecessarily to temptation.

I didn't see that this was addressed yet: It's one thing for a grown woman to wear something inappropriate--it's another when you see children (anywhere in the age of adolescence and young adulthood) who are still living under their parents' roof, who come to church with their parents, dressed as little harlots. These parents ought to know better! Every father is a man who knows EXACTLY how men think, yet they let their daughters out wearing next to nothing--and not only in church. But I am so tired of seeing professing believers who tote their children to church looking like they do. These parents should be confronted and disciplined if necessary.

Eric Kaminsky said...

I agree with Carol Jean that women and men should be modest in and out of Church. The emphasis on church attire has to do with being subjected to a certain amount of skin that could be easily avoided by: not going to beaches or swimming if we're feeling weak, not driving by a certain billboard on the way home, not surfing the internet without a filter and accountability, basically being aware of tough situations with Pagan people who don't care about tempting others.

Church should not be one of those situations, but it so often can be.

Marie said...

Of course you're not trying to start a new legalism. I agree with you, for all the reasons mentioned! It's common sense (something that seems in short supply these days).

Personally, I'm glad to see the longer, looser skirts (70's style?) coming back in fashion. They're comfortable and you don't have to worry about modesty.

Boerseuntjie said...

1 Corinthians 8:9-13; Romans 14:21

"But beware LEST SOMEHOW THIS LIBERTY of yours BECOME A STUMBLING BLOCK to THOSE WHO ARE WEAK...And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother PERISH, for whom Christ died? But when YOU THUS SIN against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, YOU SIN AGAINST Christ. Therefore, if___MAKES MY BROTHER STUMBLE, I will NEVER___, LEST I MAKE MY brother STUMBLE."

Nash Equilibrium said...

"To that end, I struggle with the swimsuit issue."

Me too - but fortunately, I don't subscribe to Sports Illustrated!

Larry Geiger said...

I wish that I could write well enough to invent something like "(shifting into turbo-delicate)". Truly a marvel of human written communication.

Liz said...

They (whoever “they” is) did some research. They showed the same photos of bikini clad women to men in the middle of winter and in the middle of summer. The same photo (same woman, same bikini) was judged to be less attractive in the summer.

Their conclusion (based on this and similar studies) was that the men judged the woman less attractive in the summer because they were so conditioned to seeing so much skin on women all around them in the summer. Thus, there was less novelty and excitement and more judgment and comparison used in rating the attractiveness of the woman in the summer compared to the winter, when most of the women around them were more covered up.

Thus, immodesty hurts all women (not just those normally considered “less attractive”) by making men more judgmental of all women’s attractiveness. So, even if you are “hot” by worldly standards, men will find you less hot if all the women around you are dressed immodestly (and even if you are also dressed immodestly – remember, in the study the comparison was the same woman in the same bikini).

If we all dressed more modestly, men in general would be more appreciative of our feminine beauty. It’s not just porn that makes men objectify women!

CR said...

John Piper said it well some time ago. Women should draw attention to their face and eyes, not the body parts.

As an aside, I've never seen this before, but on my way home from work, no joke, there was a bikini car wash. You had women out there in bikinis with signs luring people to wash their cars. Of course, I didn't do it.

Carol Jean said...

Ugh...and I've seen more than a few CHURCH youth group car washes with scantily clad young girls, some even with bikini tops. As others have asked, WHERE ARE THE DADS?? I ask this every time I see a girl wearing the shorts with words on them. If I were a braver person, I'd ask the dad why he's inviting people to look at his 12-year-old daughter's back side.

When I was involved in youth ministry, besides having the talk with the girls about purity and holiness and their responsibility to their brothers in Christ, I also warned them that the way they dressed had an effect not only on teenage boys, but also on the 65-year-old pervert at the mall. That was usually a very eye-opening moment for them.

Rachael Starke said...

What I've always loved about this post is that it is so well-written, with the usual dash of Dan-ish (as opposed to Danish :) ) wit...

but with no vulgarity, no crassness, and no explicitness that perhaps might cause the very problem it is seeking to minimize.

It can be done.

Unknown said...

Someone told me recently that pastors really struggle with having to look down from their pulpits into a sea of well...you can figure it out. Just another thing women don't always consider when dressing for church.

Wow... not being a pastor and yet aspiring to be one, I would have never thought of that. Thanks for the mention. It's something I'll ask God's help for even as it lies (potentially) in the future.

So... what of the women who respond to this saying, "Alright! Me and a couple of girl friends are going to start our Christian clothing line!" Is that a good thing? If so, why hasn't it been done to a greater degree?

Carol Jean said...

FWIW, the LDS folks are way ahead of Christians in this area. Just google "LDS modest clothing" and you'll find a plethora of more *fashionable* modest clothing as opposed to Amish-wear or Little-House-on-the-Prairie wear (nothing against those who prefer those styles!).

I sheepishly admit to purchasing from one of the sites and thereby helping to further the cause of Mormonism in some round-about way I suppose...

I think it might have something to do with their requirement to wear Temple Garments. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Doug Hibbard said...


Yep, it can be an issue. Because then, instead of preaching, you're spending a lot of energy making sure you don't look at things you're striving not to look at. It becomes a battle with temptation that hits right in the middle of one of the most important things you'll do all week.

Solution? I look up at the bright stage lights, get blinded, and preach on. Probably not the most efficient method, but you do what you gotta do!


DJP said...

There are times when near-sightedness is a great blessing.

Unknown said...

GREAT post! I totally agree. Sometimes we women can be a little clueless about what men are thinking (we may think it's fine but a man may not) and that's where it's helpful to get a relative's opinion (preferably a husband) about our modesty. There is lots and lots of modest clothing out there. The main reason I know of that Christian women who should know better don't dress modestly is that they just don't think about it, or they are too obsessed with looking fashionable. --KG

Eric Kaminsky said...


The great gift of shortsightedness at the swimming pool. Leave your glasses in your swimbag.

I wonder if my astigmatism is God's 1Cor10:13

CR said...


Women can dress beautifully and fashionably but as Piper says, dress in a way, that draws attention to your face and your eyes and not towards other parts of your bodies.

Piper also says handle your desires to be noticed by saving it for one man whether he is present or not.

Jay said...

Just occured to me that preachers can't use that old public speakers trick to imagine that the audiance is naked in order to overcome nervousness.

TAR said...

When adult men and their wives went to the session (PCA) to ask that the teen agers have their dress addressed (as it is often provocative), they were given this as an answer... "Christian Liberty " allows them to dress as they will.

Later a young mom held a tea for girls and moms..she gave a little talk on how we look on the outside tells much about what is on the inside..

She was "corrected" by the Pastors..

She left the church ( and I do not blame her)

We now exist in a redeem the culture world in my PCA..

Anonymous said...

When I first visited the church my wife and I now belong to, the FIRST thing I noticed was that it was SAFE for men. All the females were dressed modestly - wide variety, young to old - none were dressed as trollops. None of the males were dressed as gangsters - wide variety, young to old.

A mother told me she was horrified by the way some females dress at "normal" churches and she had taught her daughters to NOT be a cause to tempt any man.

How I bless God for a safe haven on Sunday!

Years ago, when I spoke at a men's breakfast about this issue, an old man told me that he wondered when the female body would quit being so attractive to himself. For most of us, it is when we stop breathing.

May God continue to have mercy on us.

Carol Blair said...

Regarding the current fashions at any given time, I think to myself, “It can’t get any worse.” But it always does. Satan has no end to his wiles and to his attempts to steal purity, to kill modesty and reticence, and to destroy lives, marriages, and families.

The answer to these shopping laments is thrift shops. Thrift shops are the only stores today that have modest, conservative, and classic styles---and all at very low prices. I have been an avid thrift shopper for many years, and I have a closet full of beautiful, modest, and feminine clothes for which I paid next to nothing.

Anonymous said...


...Empowered Traditionalist is a website by two young ladies that has many, many resources to help women, young and old, become and remain modest in their clothes and lifestyle . I stumbled onto this website a while back from one of my friend's blogs and loved it. I thought you guys might appreciate it.

Oh, and, wonderful post, btw. Loved it.

CR said...


mitzi said...

Awesome post! I learned about this in the ninth grade year of high school, when one of my teachers often dressed immodestly, and the boys had difficulties with distraction.
When I started teaching, I wore long skirts or pants and collars buttoned up to the neck most of the time. The few times I did wear something that shrunk in the wash, I saw the difference in the students' demeanor (middle school) and never wore it again. Women and girls should be told clearly exactly what they are doing when they dress immodestly, and Dads and minister's/elder's/deacon's wives have an important role in shaping their perceptions. Thanks for the repost!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Well said, Dan. ("Dan-ish" as opposed to Danish... nice, Racheal!)

And Kim, so right about sizing! Took my sister-in-law shopping for clothes to wear to court (custody battle over her daughter). She, in the dressing room, insisting she wears a seven. Me, bringing her a fourteen... which was the only time I ever saw her dressed modestly.

Even for those of us that aren't Amish, Prairie Muffins, or whatever, modest clothing can be found.

"So dress and conduct yourself so that people who have been in your company will not recall what you had on." - John Newton


T Boots said...

What really bugs me is that our Christian School has a strong vollyball program and the girls all wear the Vollyball shorst that are WAY too short. I don't go to the games, the last thing anyone needs is to see that when you are a dad to 3 girls and a youth leader to these girls. (my girls played basketball and wore the big ol' baggy B-ball shorts!).

What I find "funny" is that the boys wear Basketball shorts for vollyball... Hmmm...

Domestically Inclined said...

Thank you so much for this repost! Yes each spring the matter rears it's ugly head again. I am not one most would consider the "hot" one, but no matter... I am an older woman setting an example of Christs mercy and modesty to the younger girls and women. I am so emabarresed for those young ladies and older women who think it is necessary to wear the least amount and watch for looks.
Personally I am one of those large tall women who makes every effort to sew my own clothes because it is difficult to find modest clothing. I don't "feel" comforatable wearing a long skirt and long enough sleeves to be modest in summer when the temperature and humidity hit higher levels, but then it's not about my comfort is it? It's about Jesus and setting a godly example for the next generation. It is up to them to accept or reject it, but at least my heart has done what my Father has asked of me, for it is more important to please Him, than to be fashionable. Some assume I am dresses only, but it's only really only because I don't have the talent to sew pants. :) May I please link this post to my blog and facebook page?

DJP said...

You sure may.

Persis said...

Thanks for reposting this. Also, thanks for addressing this as an issue of the heart not just following a dress code.

Angie said...

Always something that women need to be reminded about! When I was in high school I recall someone saying, "The eye stops where the line stops." And in college when our RA was talking about dress code, she made a remark that if you can't grab fabric without grabbing skin, it's probably too tight.

Along with the mini skirts, I've seen more and more tops that aren't fitted - they're loose and a bit more flowing. Carrying a bit more weight than I'd prefer, I like these because they cover and they're comfortable. Yeah, it may not be as "flattering" but it's modest.

Regarding women's clothing at church, I'd warn to watch the skirts when you sit. Are they showing more than you realize if you cross your legs? Especially watch it if you're sitting on stage (choir, worship team, etc.). I remember one Sunday morning sitting in the balcony when I happened to look down and was shocked at how much of a young lady's upper body I could see from that angle. The shirt may not have been "that bad" at a different angle, but it was definitely showing too much from above.

I'm sure I am not as modest as I could be, but perhaps I should be thankful that I have some extra weight. "Nobody wants to see that" might help my brothers more than I realize.

Unknown said...

I remember my mom telling my sisters to always dress as to insure an opportunity for imagination.

I think that method of dress is always the most attractive and conservative.

I think women can dress stylish and beautifully without embarassing themselves by revealing too much.

I often wonder if those few women who do dress-to-impress are cruising for a date or comments from other women. Regargless, church is probably not the best place for these pursuits anyway.

Carol Jean said...

My son attended TeenPact Leadership School this spring and they have a rather strict dress code (for both guys and girls). On the first day they gave separate talks to the guys and girls. I sat in on the girls' talk and was so grateful (as the mother of two sons) that the young female leader gave both biblical and practical reasons for dressing modestly. She specifically addressed the heart issues (i.e. if you're having to yank your skirt down when you sit down to conform with the dress code, there might be a heart issue, like you're trying to see how much you can get away with). She gave common sense guidelines - like 1" of loose fabric all around, nothing clinging. No skin below the collar bone. She gave it all in the context of "this will help your brothers in their walk with Christ." She also said that dressing this way would help them be respected when moving about the Capitol that week. The girls were shocked at the end of the week to find that their "leader" was only 17-years old! She dressed and acted liked a young professional woman.

All I could get out of my son about the guys' talk was that "a tie is a respect magnet." I have a feeling there was a bit more to it.

bassicallymike said...

Frank Turk said...
"What we should do with this post is make a video"

At minumum a bulletin insert! You there Jim Elliff?

DJP said...

Carol Jean, your post composes a Next! in my head, but I don't think it's quite worth its own post.

CHALLENGE: Well, we don't want to be legalistic Pharisees!

RESPONSE: Right! We want to be antinomian libertines!

Bob Edwards said...


As a father of six daughters and five sons most of who were adopted from very pagan cultures when they were older, this is a constant area of struggle in our family as I try to get my girls to think biblically rather than like their native culture (or like ours for that matter). It's hard for them to "get it." We will probably read this to the AGAIN as it is always helpful to have others tell them what we are trying to teach them. And you say it much better than I do.

One of our constant struggles is to get the girls to realize that what is modest for one may not be modest for the other. Some share clothes regularly. My daughter from Vietnam is perhaps the worst as she was very style conscious when she first came. God has also gifted her bountifully with the physical attributes of womanhood. She is also 4'9". Trying to get her to understand that she cannot always wear the same things as her less gifted sisters who are also much taller and thus not being looked at from above by every male over the age of 12 is a constant struggle. Modesty is definitely a matter of the heart, but what is modest for a given woman is also dependent on how God has made her physically.

Sharon said...

I'm so glad you reposted this. Here in Southern California, well, you can imagine what I see from the choir loft. It isn't pretty.

A Musician by Grace

Markus said...

Excellent post, Dan, for the umpteenth time. The issue of modesty in dress is not a small thing, not a peripheral thing, it is a HUGE subject that simply must be dealt with in the local church, with regularity, and using specifics. Sisters (and their enabling parents, pastors, teachers, et al) need to be made aware of the role of visual stimulation in causing men to lust – and thus sin.

As for rules (which you haven’t proposed), personally, I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, Christians believe in applying principles rather than rules to the heart, which in turn (ideally) produce proper behavior. Trouble is, you bring up the topic of modesty to many sisters these days, and you’ll soon find they consider themselves modest – because after all they’re not in a bikini., The standard is so low, the mentality so warped, that I wouldn’t rule out the idea of dress codes, at least for coming to church, or doing things where one is representing the church (including gospel outreach and Sunday School picnics.)

My wife and I also have a hard time finding modest clothing, which is why we do a lot of shopping on the web.

This one may be a little traditional for some, though I wouldn’t classify it as Amish-wear. We’ve bought from them, and have been quite pleased:


This one is more contemporary:


Finally, I sympathize with Carol Jean who doesn’t particularly like supporting the LDS church by buying modest clothing from them. However, what of supporting the (largely homosexual, gender-bending, multi-culti and overall anti-God) crowd that has given us the whole temptress look that we cannot escape from – even in the workplace?

Steve Scott said...

I like your emphasis on the personal awareness and action rather than resorting to rules.

This issue is one that can cut both ways. Overall I think provocative dress has waned over the last 20 years, thanks to the grunge and hipster fashions. The internet has probably helped lust increase, yet with the higher air brushed standards fewer women will probably be lusted over.

But a greater number of "acceptable" fashions in many situations I think makes this a more difficult issue to deal with.

Carol Jean said...

Marcus said, "However, what of supporting the (largely homosexual, gender-bending, multi-culti and overall anti-God) crowd that has given us the whole temptress look that we cannot escape from – even in the workplace?"

Great point!

Julius Mickel said...

I love it,thanks!
Hear is an awesome song (by a Christian artist by the name of Cam), that if i had the lyrics i would have posted it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eQwNiItvMY

I heard one sermon address this in a church i used to go to and that by a brother who rarely preached (and it was also balanced) yet, you could hear a pin drop and their weren't many 'hey good sermon!'!

I blogged a similar thing a way back for anyone wishing to read more, it's short and to the point! http://www.constrainedbygrace.com/search/label/LADIES%3A%20Modesty%20please

Tim said...

Pop quiz: V-neck shirts and blouses with too many buttons unbuttoned function as arrows pointing down at.... what?

They draw a guy's eyes downward before he realizes what's happening.

Mercy, please!

FTF said...

Hi there. Good post, definitely needs said, congrats on stepping your way through the 'minefield' !
Women's immodest attire in church can certainly have unwitting affects upon the males. An unattached younger man can suffer extra cracks across a lonely heart, or a married man with a, how should we say it, not so pleasingly carved wife may suffer dissatisfaction with his lot.

I was disheartened to hear lately of an unsaved man invited to a friend's church. He came back saying it was 'legs central', better eye candy than any nightclub he had been to!
Imagine your church being known for that!

"That no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." Romans 14:13

DJP said...

FTF — wow. Ouch.

If accurate, that ought to be passed to the pastor, or someone. It should be made an announcement, or otherwise communicated.

Aaron said...

A woman I met at a work conference (she was one of the guest speakers) told me that she didn't fully grasp the power lust and sex have over men until she had a health problem that required her to be treated with testosterone. She said that her libido jumped dramatically while she was on it. She thought that if just a little bit of testosterone does that, how bad can it be for guys who have much more flowing through their veins through their entire life.

I thought it was an amusing story, but it only reinforced what I already knew. Women understand men's lust conceptially, but can't fully appreciate the power of it. IMHO, this is why it's especially difficult to teach younger women about why they should dress modestly.

Aaron said...

I always find the argument about "comfort" to be especially amusing. Having been married for nearly ten years now, I know that what a woman really finds "comfortable" is usually the least attractive thing she has in her closet.

As far as out in public, I'm really not that concerned about tank tops or shorts...I'd just be content if women wore clothing that didn't have the equivalent of neon sign with an arrow that "look here!" And why a father (being one myself) would allow a daughter to wear wording on the behind of her shorts is beyond my understanding. I see this for very young girls too, which takes ordinary acceptable clothing and turns them into immodest advertisements for perverts.

Last one for now. To that person who posted about his Pastor and the Pastor's daughter. It seems appropos that Frank has had a series on qualifications to be an elder...one of them being that an eleder must have "faithful" children. If the Pastor can't control his home, why is he Pastor?

philness said...

Hey Rob,

On the head covering thing with Sproul: I think the key word there is principle and not to be mistaken as ceremony.

Besides, the women back in Pauls day at Corinth were not covering their heads to showing mercy to other men from lusting at them, no, as I think that is what you might be getting at.

Actually that whole head covering debacle thing was a confusion in orderly roles of submission. God being the head of Christ- in that Christ submitting to the Father, Christ being the head of the church, man submitting to Christ, man being the head of his wife, wife submitting to her husband, and so woman doesn't feel left out God gives her some cool hair. lol.....inhale.....I can't resist... hair becomes too time consuming and causes both husband and wife to be late for church then skipping altogether and so man makes wife a head covering and expects her to wear it to show submission to him so they can both submit to their local church on time lest some performance-based, pretentious all smiley, nothing goes wrong in their world couple comes knocking in the middle of the week "concerned they haven't seen them in a while".

Live As If said...

Never saw the original post, but this week keep returning to this post and finding new information in each iterative reading.

"Helpful" is the word that keeps coming back to my mind, as in, "is it helpful, or hurtful, to my brothers in Christ..."

This is (to me) and mind-blowing paradigm shift that reframes the whole conversation; no one, I should hope, would seek to deny to women the pursuit what is fashionable, comfortable, even elegant. However, in the effort to be fashionable, Dan writes that it is possible to be hurtful; the wine/drunkenness analogy was instrumental in conveying the relevance of this issue.

Most men I know, including the ones who passionately seek after God's heart and character, struggle mightily with what some characterize as "roaming eyes." I understand that men must own their passions and behavior; that's a given.

Yet, if some women can be helpful in this area, but choose not to, we can conclude, and accurately, I think, that their heart attitudes stink.

Brought the issue up with my pastor yesterday and his reply was "it's the man's responsibility to look away." Well, ok, but what about the other side? And, what about teaching men to be responsible in "looking away?"

I am thinking about crafting a message around this theme; Dan, can I use your post in its majority?

DJP said...


And thank you. One of the nicest gifts for someone who tries to write carefully, is people who try to read carefully.


Aaron said...

Brought the issue up with my pastor yesterday and his reply was "it's the man's responsibility to look away." Well, ok, but what about the other side? And, what about teaching men to be responsible in "looking away?"

That is such a naive statement from a Pastor. Certainly, we men have such an obligation. But that becomes so difficult when the some if not most of the clothing women wear is designed to attract the eye.

DJP said...

I don't want to diss anyone's pastor, so I ask: could you show him this? I think I surround that argument. At least I try to.

Aaron said...

Dan, your article addresses it, surrounds it, and nails it into the ground with wonderful alacrity.

It just amazes me that you have to do that. < sigh > I guess it shouldn't. It was this naivety that on which I preyed when I was a heathen.

DJP said...


Well, one of the first two postings of this article caused some outrage. There was this one site, IIRC, that basically said I was blaming the victim, or trying to make women feel bad for being beautiful, or something.

Circus knife-thrower stuff.

Live As If said...


That was his response after having viewed the article (I sent him the link and requested a response).

DJP said...

Thaaaaaaaaat's... discouraging.

Markus said...

Rob was asking (much earlier in the thread) how this topic links with head coverings. The two are separate and should be treated separately.

Head covering is a God-ward (and Angel-ward) form of symbolic dressing that depicts externally what ought to be true internally. It indicates the principle of submission to the headship of man and ultimately of Christ -- regardless of whether the wearer is truly submissive or not (note I said it indicates the principle).

Furthermore, not wearing a head covering, while it may be wrong from heaven's vantage point, it will hardly cause a brother to stumble sexually. It's not THAT kind of a covering.

With modest dress, the issue is more man-ward (though failing to dress modestly could reflect a deeper, inner defect). It's also not just about covering, since a full-body wetsuit would not be modest, and can easily cause a brother to stumble.

In fact, when Peter treats modesty (1 Pet. 3), he also brings up the matter of flashy clothes, which can draw unnecessary attention to self, stoke the fires of covetousness, and generally encourage a carnal, live-for-this- world lifestyle.

Hope that helps

Aaron said...


This whole theme reminds me of Dennis Prager, a Jewish talk show host, who is on many of the same stations as Hugh Hewitt. Dennis has a male-female hour once a week. He often discusses issues similar to this and apparently has received the same vitriolic responses.

I like to give the following example to youth. If you put a sign in front of your house that advertises your wealth and and that you don't lock your home when you leave. So whose fault is it when you get robbed? The thief, of course. But don't you reap the consequences of your failure to use Proverbs type wisdom?

Matt said...

This article was passed along to me from a member of the church where I serve. I have been contemplating on it deeply for awhile determining how best to respond. My response may not be liked by all, but looking through the comments, I don't see anyone else pointing out the obvious.
The passage from Proverbs is being interpreted in a very narrow sense. There is not a lot to be pulled from context, as it is random proverbs recorded. But, as I read the Prov. 27:20, I understand this to be more general with a covetous greed in mind. This is greater struggle that is equal between the sexes.
I cannot more strongly disagree with your explanation of the David's sin with Bathsheba. You said, "Family, kingdom, God - all forgotten, consumed in the flash-flame of a lust that was only visual in its inception." The inception of lust began in David's heart alone. It was an issue with the heart and not the eyes.
This is a tough issue for many men, and especially men in the church. A seminary professor once noted that he was amazed by the fact unbelievers did not act in a more depraved manner as there was nothing to keep them from doing so. For sure, the knowledge we have and the spirit within us makes a bigger target for attacks from the enemy. But I think there is still more we are missing.
Consider the strong desire we men have to look at women, especially those who we consider beautiful, perhaps even the desire to see them naked which leads so many men into pornography. Two questions: why did God make women beautiful to men, and second, where does this strong desire to admire their come from? Does it spring from our sinful flesh or part of the way we are created? We are then told not to look, or to focus on the face and eyes. I have seen the eyes alone of women that possessed such beauty my heart would stutter for a moment. I believe this is part of the way God has created us as men.
But looking will naturally land in the place of lust, or not. We treat the appreciation of a woman’s beauty as an unnatural and the lustful response as natural. So, whenever we do take in the sight of a beautiful woman or linger upon an image that reveals more of them than we are accustomed to seeing, we don’t think twice about the lustful response and indulge ourselves. Why can we not simply admire a beautiful woman and say, “Wow God, you sure have made women beautiful!”
I appreciate your intention is not to promote some form of legalism, but ask yourself this question. How are you addressing the problem you see? Are you addressing it outwardly or inwardly? Is the heart changed? Only a change of heart brought about by the Truth and the work of the Spirit can bring this inner heart transformation. All the clothing in the world cannot correct the lie of the enemy we swallow whole.
I do appreciate the fact that younger women need to appreciate a genuine and biblical understanding of modesty. As I read scripture, I understand a modest woman to be a woman who doesn’t dress to draw attention to herself, but draws attention to herself by her good deeds and quiet spirit. She dresses appropriately for the context. Too many teen girls today do dress to compete for attention and this is certainly unhealthy. Too many people dress well in church to be seen by others and this is just as unhealthy.

DJP said...

While I appreciate whatever time you spent contemplating the article, I'd like to suggest in a friendly manner that the time would have been better spent reading it then perhaps re-reading it.

You don't really give evidence that any reader missed any obvious point, though you seem to have missed some obvious ones yourself.

Your points are simple enough to answer:

1. The article is not titled nor focused on "What Causes Lust?" So it's to no point to fault me for not treating what I'm not writing about.

2. The article is precisely focused, from the title to the conclusion. You seem to have missed that.

3. I say explicitly and in so many words that I am talking about being helpful or not helpful. There is no blame-shifting in the article.

4. The positive points you make about younger (why just younger?) women were already made in the article, increasing the feel that you did not read it with sufficient care.

5. In re. David, God means us to deal with what's in the text. As with Eve, as with Samson, so with David. He sees, he wants, he takes. That's the narrative, that's the point.