Immodesty is Not in Fashion

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When we dress provocatively, we
dishonored God and display a lack of regard for his holiness. We can
also become a distraction for our brothers in Christ.

been traveling all weekend, and my flight from California to the East
Coast got in at midnight. All I wanted to do was go home, drop my
suitcases and hit the sack.

But the story my husband had waiting for me made me drop my jaw and want to hit–well, not the sack!

“She was just visiting our church service this morning,” he began haltingly.

He didn’t notice her at first, he said. But then came “greeting time.”

“Bob, I’d like you to meet John’s cousin,” a friend said as he introduced her.

That’s when my husband’s mind began to whirl. He’d heard about her.

was the one with the perfect–well, let’s just say she qualified to be a
fitting model for Victoria’s Secret. You figure out what was perfect!

Through the rest of the service he was restless. Intrigued. Annoyed.

He wasn’t the only one; I asked.

of our friends were introduced to her that day, and like us, they had
heard about her unique career. I asked all the men the same question:
“What did she look like?”

The funny thing is, none of them could
quite remember her face. But they all remembered her skin-tight leather
pants with the lace-up fly.

Please understand that my husband,
Bob, is a godly man in full-time Christian ministry. Like most men,
though, he is subject to visual temptation.

psychologist Mark Laaser estimates that 30 percent of Christian pastors
and leaders struggle with pornography. Among Christian men in general,
more than 60 percent are estimated to struggle with continual sexual
compulsions of some type.

Those are scary numbers. I wouldn’t share them with you if they hadn’t been substantiated repeatedly.

husband’s ministry involves helping men of all ages live lives of
mental purity–a battle he himself wages daily. Bob gets into the faces
of other men and asks them to name the specific distractions they need
to remove from their lives in order to live in sexual integrity.

expect them to name temptations such as the Internet, R-rated movies,
magazine covers, even the giant Victoria’s Secret display ads in the
mall. But sadly, they often point to a surprisingly different pit–and
they fall into it every Sunday.

“I’m struggling with the way
women dress in church,” they groan. They are specific in adding those
two words–in church–because the location is what makes them feel so

After all, isn’t church supposed to be a place where
they can go to be free from temptation? What’s a guy to do when the
woman in his Sunday school class keeps showing up in a tight shirt and
miniskirt, announcing that it was a little cold in the parking lot?

suppose he could sit on the front row every week. But come on, sisters!
It’s time we accept some responsibility for this predicament.

Many of us are sinning where the men in our churches are concerned–and in the process, we’re sinning against God.

Christian women, our greatest desire should be to please God in
everything we do. First Peter 3:3 reminds us, “Your beauty should not
come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner
self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of
great worth in God’s sight” (NIV).

But some of us are getting up
on Sunday mornings and adorning ourselves in ways that aren’t pleasing
to God. The outfits we choose are intended to cause all eyes–especially
men’s eyes–to be on us.

For the sake of our brothers in Christ,
not to mention the health of our personal relationships with God, we
need to do four things:

1. We need to understand the power of certain kinds of visual images.
Have you heard of the Gestalt Theory? It’s a visual design theory that
teaches designers to control the attention of their viewers by forcing
the viewers to mentally complete a visual image.

According to the
theory, the challenge of completing an image that is incomplete
intrigues the human brain. Our minds will always pause to finish an
unfinished picture.

Try it yourself by checking out this trio of circles. What else do you see?

think you see a triangle, don’t you? That’s because a triangle is the
most common image that your brain can come up with to complete this

Now let’s apply the Gestalt Theory to the issue at hand.
What happens when a man sees a woman walk by wearing a low-cut blouse
or a long, tight skirt with a slit all the way up the sides? He
pauses–maybe even does a double take–because he sees something in
part, and his brain wants to complete the picture.

He can’t help it. It’s a simple fact of visual science!

2. We need to understand the special weakness of men for a woman’s beauty. The power of the Gestalt principle is multiplied by the fact that men have a God-given craving for a woman’s beauty. Proverbs 5:18-19
says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful
deer–may her breasts satisfy you always. May you be ever intoxicated by
her sex.”

I italicized two of the last four words in that verse
because I changed them to better reflect the actual Hebrew meaning of
the passage. The God of the universe looks down at woman, created to be a
physical masterpiece, and man, created to enjoy the view, and actually
encourages man to be fully intoxicated by her sexuality. Wow!

a guy gets “intoxicated,” his body can’t help but react.
Physiologically, many of our bodies’ responses are activated by
something called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is
controlled not by the will but by the environment.

For example,
have you ever lost one of your small children at the mall, if only for a
moment? Do you remember the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?
The rapid pulse?

Your body reacted automatically to the
situation. You cannot control such reactions by choice. That’s how the
ANS works–it forces the body to respond to the environment.

arousal operates the same way. Certain things in the environment–what
we see, what we hear, what we smell–work together to tell the brain
that the time is right for sexual response. The ANS takes over, and the
brain reacts by sending specific chemicals through the body.

In a
man this reaction is particularly strong since God created him to be
visually stimulated. If he sees a woman walk by wearing revealing
clothing, his pulse may increase; his body temperature may rise. Other
changes may take place as well.

Of course, all this is beautiful
and even celebrated by almighty God when the woman responsible for the
arousal is the man’s wife. But too often that’s not the case.

culture constantly bombards us with sexual content in movies,
magazines, advertisements and more. It’s enough to overwhelm even the
most godly man.

And though he can choose how to act upon this
arousal, he frequently cannot control that it occurs. The environment
controls it.

Exposing a man to continual visual stimulation is
like hanging a noose around the neck of his spiritual life! Yet many
Christian women contribute to the hanging Sunday after Sunday.

3. We need to call immodesty what it really is. The Bible is emphatic: We must never do anything to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble (see 1 Cor. 10:32).
That’s an uncomfortable challenge for those of us who’ve been lulled
into thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just fashion!”

We may squirm even more when we read Ephesians 5:3:
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or
of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for
God’s holy people.”

Get that? Not a hint of sexual sin! But
aren’t we hinting at sin when we wear a low-cut blouse, a tight T-shirt
or a super-short skirt?

According to its Hebrew and Greek
definitions, sin means missing God’s intended purpose for our lives. So
what is God’s purpose when it comes to our sexuality? Proverbs 5:18-19 says that it’s to intoxicate one man with our beauty.

are no doubt quite capable of getting many stares. But God says that
the unique characteristics of our sensual beauty are to be treasured
secrets–secrets kept for one man. When we dress immodestly, creating
arousal in many men, we miss the purpose of the carefully crafted
masterpiece that is our body.

Is it just a matter of fashion? No. Immodesty is sin.

4. We need to develop a righteous response to the crisis immodesty has created in the church.
As you read this, maybe you feel a twinge of guilt. I know I felt one
as I worked recently on a new book for teen-age girls on the subject of
modesty. Perhaps you need to clean a few things out of your closet, as I

Maybe you see a reason for concern in your church. Don’t be
afraid to ask a women’s Bible study leader or perhaps even your pastor
to address the issue. God’s call for purity in the lives of His people
is worthy of the tremendous effort it will take to break through the
strongholds of denial in this area of sin.

If you’re married, be
ready to help your husband walk through a visually tempting world. When I
came home to the news that a Victoria’s Secret model had unexpectedly
visited my husband’s mind, I didn’t condemn him or react with jealousy
or hurt. Rather, I thanked him for sharing his struggle with me.

talked about it until 2 in the morning. As Bob opened his heart, I was
able to erase the shame that had been caused by this woman’s
indiscretion. We agreed to work together to make sure visual temptation
is treated with a zero-tolerance policy in our home.

Whether you
are married or not, it’s important to set a good example. Make certain
the clothes you pull out of your closet on Sunday morning–and everyday
of the week–are a statement of your commitment to live a godly life.

Dannah Gresh
is the author of And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets To Sexual
Purity and Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty (Moody Press).
Contact her ministry online at

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