"Naked and Unashamed"
Our title is taken from a Bible verse. Genesis 2:25 tells us of the time when Adam and Eve "were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Before their sin, Adam and Eve made no connection between nudity and sexuality. However, this condition was about to change. Genesis 3:7 tells us that after their transgression, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked: and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings." They now "knew" that they were naked. Since the Hebrew word for "knew" (YADA) means to "perceive," we must conclude that sin caused Adam and Eve to "see" things differently than before. Their sense of shame caused them to think differently about their bodies. They felt something that they had not felt before. They went from being naked and unashamed to naked and ashamed. In fact, they became so ashamed of themselves that even with their hand sewn fig leaf aprons; they still weren't comfortable in God's presence (Gen. 3:8). Since God's view of sin had not changed, we are forced to conclude that Adam and Eve had changed. This change was not in their physical, mental or spiritual make-up; it was in their perception of sin. Because of this change, life would be much different and much more difficult. Not only for Adam and Eve, but also for all of mankind (Gen. 3:16-19, 24).
The Effects of the Devil's Garden Victory
As we noted, because of sin, a bond was forged between nudity and sexuality. This bond has been exploited by the devil for thousands of years. Whole nations have collapsed, cities have been destroyed, cultures have deteriorated, and societies have crumbled because of sensualism - the primary tenet being illicit sexuality.
Predominantly associated with this sin is the sin of immodesty. Presently in this country, pornography is a multiple billion-dollar per year industry. Millions of people are addicted to pornography and some have been so affected by pornography that it has led them in the commission of various sex crimes. Television, magazines, billboards, the Internet and other forms of visual advertisement have increasingly incorporated immodesty into their advertising. There is a simple reason for this. Worldly advertisers know that lust is a very strong feeling. They know that if this feeling can be incited in viewers in connection with their product, then there will be a greater chance that the viewer will remember that product and later purchase it. As the advertisers always say, "Sex sells!" Given the obvious popularity of this kind of advertising, sadly, they must be right.
What Worldly Advertisers Know that Some Christians Don't Know
These shameless advertisers also know that it is not necessary to use completely nude models in order to sell their product. Using improperly or immodestly dressed models is sufficient to produce the desired response (lust). The immoral woman of Proverbs 7:10 was "attired." The problem was that her "attire" was suggestive and provocative. She had on what was referred to as "the attire of a harlot." It was intended to attract attention and arouse lust in members of the opposite sex. However, it should be observed that whether this effect is intended or not, the achieved result remains the same. That is, regardless of one’s motive for wearing indecent clothing, others will gaze upon improperly exposed and/or accentuated body parts, and the potential for lust will be present. Worldly, profit-driven advertisers are quite aware of this fact. Why do so many Christians ignore it?
The Problem with Many – A Lack of Training!
One answer may be that many young people (even those with Christian parents) are not taught. I have encountered many Christians who simply have not been taught any sense of shame. Jeremiah encountered the same thing - people who did shameful things, but "could not blush" (Jer. 6:15). Such people do not blush because they do not feel they are wrong. They do not feel they are wrong because God's principles of morality and propriety have not been instilled within them. Such individuals may do shameful things, yet they feel no sense of shame or guilt about those things. Some have actually developed what the Bible calls a "seared conscience" (1 Tim. 4:2). This condition results from a chronic rejection of biblical principles and guidelines. I am afraid many of these people have reached the point of outright rebellion. These rebels do not want to be told how to live, how to dress, or what to do. They despise the elders' exhortations, the teachers' instructions and the preacher's warnings. It should be noted that the Bible equates "rebellion" with the sin of "sorcery" (1 Sam. 15:23).
I want to limit my application to the question of immodesty, but what leads to this dangerous condition?
Parents Sometimes Fail
The "accepted styles" of clothing generally tend to be immodest, and it is often the case that even Christians, will either encourage or at least allow their children to dress immodestly in order for the child to be accepted by others. They want their children to "fit in" with their friends and classmates, and this desire leads them to compromise biblical principles of modest dress.
This is especially true in the areas of sports and cheerleading. Though these particular activities usually require participants to dress immodestly, yet many parents are so excited about their son or daughter's abilities and accomplishments in these fields that they are willing to compromise their scruples to promote the child's physical excellence and acceptance. These parents will sometimes argue "the children are young, and these things do not matter as much at this time in their lives." Oh, to the contrary! It is exactly at "this time in their lives" when these things matter most! Young people are often more impressionable and teachable than older ones. It is in one’s "youth" that he should "remember His creator" and develop a deep-seated God-Consciousness (Eccl. 12:1). It is in these early years that the principles of Godliness, including the principles of modesty and decency, must be ingrained in the children. The sense of needing to be covered, as well as the sense of shame when uncovered, should be a part of a child's early psyche.
The Progression of Sin
Immodest dress usually reflects an immodest demeanor. Thus the sin of immodesty generally leads to other sins, especially lasciviousness. For example, compare the way cheerleaders usually dress with the way they are usually handled! Much of today's cheerleading demands that the males handle the females like they were handling a rag doll! No part of the girl's body is "off limits" to the male handlers. By its very nature, this procedure literally drives any sense of shame and decency right out of the young girls! The word lasciviousness (Gal. 5:19) includes "indecent bodily movements" and the "unchaste handling of males and females" (W.E.Vine). Parents encourage their daughters to commit this sin by allowing them to be subjected to this shameless treatment. Furthermore, just as immodesty leads to lasciviousness, lasciviousness often leads to fornication.
Are They "Children" or Young Adults?
Many of those who say modesty is not a factor while the "children" are young are actually defending the dress of their teenagers! Does it really "not matter" how the teenagers dress? Perhaps this is a better question: Does it "not matter" that the dress or conduct of one's son or daughter incites lust and sinful thoughts in a member of the opposite sex? God demands that we dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9 – we will consider this more fully at a later point in the study). God wants people, including young people, to dress and behave in such a way that will not present a stumbling block to others. And once again, let us not be naive. If 10-12 year old children are sexually active, and 12 and 13 year old girls are getting pregnant, then those in this age group are certainly capable of lustful thoughts! As for stumbling blocks, Jesus said, "It would be better for them if a heavy mill stone was tied around their neck and they were thrown into the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6). This "stumbling block" is exactly the kind of offense which could lead to the sin Jesus discussed in Matthew 5:28. There He said, "But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." This "adultery in the heart" is mental only because it lacks opportunity to be fulfilled physically.
Whose Fault Is The "Lust?"
Those who dress immodestly will generally make the argument that the fault is not with them (or with those whom they defend), but that it is with the person who does the lusting. No one denies that the man who lusts after a woman is wrong, and Matthew 5:28 clearly teaches this. Furthermore, the man's lust for the woman is wrong regardless of how she dresses! James 1:14-15 coupled with 1 Corinthians 10:13 proves that each person is responsible for his own lust and any subsequent sin that may follow. However, depending upon her attire and demeanor, it is possible for the woman to also be wrong on such occasions. Such would be the case if that woman either dressed or behaved so as to incite the man's lust, thereby laying a stumbling block and contributing to his sin. Immodest words, clothing and actions are all potential contributors to this sin.
When parents either encourage or allow their children to dress immodestly, they fail to instill a sense of shame in those children, and instead, they succeed in training those children to be shameless and indecent.
Holiness, Modesty, and 1 Timothy 2:8-9
When discussing the question of immodesty we generally refer to verse 9 of First Timothy 2, but verse 8 is also important. In fact, a proper understanding of this verse is essential to a proper understanding of verse 9. Verse 9 begins with the statement, "In like manner also," which connects it to the previous verse. What "manner" is under consideration here? The answer is a holy manner. Verse 8 addresses "holiness" with regard to men and verse 9 addresses holiness with regard to women. Though the genders are addressed with different applications, yet "holiness" is the primary theme. God wants men to lift up "holy" hands without wrath and dissension, and He wants women to display holiness in their character and demeanor. This does not mean that women will still be considered "holy" who lift up hands with wrath and dissension. Neither does it mean that men will be considered "holy" who over or under dress! God merely addressed the sexes in their natural areas of concern.
The history of mankind, including biblical history, proves that men have a general tendency to strive for domination and control. Holiness demands that men turn from their wrath and dissension and give themselves to prayer. They must focus their thoughts and energies on spirituality (prayer) rather than carnality. They must seek to lay aside their petty disputes and rivalries, pursue holiness, and settle their disagreements God's way.
There are exceptions, but the typical woman is not as competitive as the man is, neither is she as bent on world domination as men often are. As beings made in the image of God, we are all, to some degree, aesthetic beings. Genesis 1:31 tells us that after God finished the creation He said it was "very good." God was pleased with what He "saw," and He made us in such a way that we would be appreciative of what we see in that creation (Ps. 8:3-4; 19:1-2; Rom. 1:20).
To a certain degree, both men and women reflect this appreciation for appearances, but it is obvious that women are typically more interested in beauty and aesthetics than are men. Women are generally more concerned about the way things look than they are about the way they work. This fact is certainly reflected in 1 Timothy 2:9 where Paul warns of potential abuses of this otherwise wholesome quality. I say wholesome because there is nothing wrong with a woman (or man) wanting to look their best. This merely reflects an attitude of self-respect (Matt. 22:39). No sin is committed by dressing nicely, neither is such condemned in 1 Timothy 2:9. This passage warns against the kind of dress, whether over dressing or under dressing, whereby a woman accentuates her physical body. Such clothing is sensual and seductive. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, this clothing causes others to look at her in a sexual way.
"God Made Us The Way We Are"
One may ask, "Why not show off the body? God is the one who made us the way we are!" It is true that God made humans "male and female" and that by doing so, He made us sexual beings (Gen. 1:27,28). For the purpose of procreation, God equipped men and women with a sex drive, along with the ability to be attracted to the opposite sex. However, sexual relations are not to be enjoyed with strangers (Prov. 5:20; 1 Cor. 6:18). God has restricted both the fulfillment of sexual desires, and the methods used to stimulate these desires, to the marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:2). Sexual exhilaration and gratification belong in marriage. Notice the following words very carefully, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth... Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love" (Prov. 5:18-19). Yes, God did make us the way we are, but He did this for a specific purpose. We are bought with a price. It is our duty to use our bodies in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor. 6:20). We are not to use our bodies as conduits for sexual immorality, neither should we use our bodies to entice others to commit such (1 Cor. 6:18).
The Way Of The Harlot
Solomon's instructions should be considered in light of the immediate context. The "son" of the passage was being warned of the seductive ways of the harlot. Her lips "dripped with honey" and her speech was as "smooth as oil" (Prov. 5:3). She made herself "beautiful" and attempted to catch men with her eyelids (Prov. 6:25). Like Jezebel of 2 Kings 9:30, she wanted to make herself sexually attractive to her potential victims. The picture is completed with Proverbs 7:10 where we are told that she wore the clothing of a harlot. What purpose did she have for doing these things? The provocative clothes, sensual demeanor, and alluring language were for the purpose of enticing men to commit fornication (Prov. 7:16-18; 6:32).
Now, we must ask ourselves the question, what is the difference between the wicked woman of Proverbs 5-7 and those today who dress exactly like her? (Of course, there are some fornicators among God's people who differ in no way from the wicked woman), but what about the other immodest dressers? No, I am not charging all immodest people with being prostitutes and gigolos, but the answer will surprise you. The only difference between the seductress and many of today's immodest brothers and sisters is in their motive! This is interesting, because the results accomplished are the same. Whether the woman is a flagrant prostitute or a member of the local church, her seductive clothing stimulates the same response in her viewers. To the uncontrolled mind that response is lust. And lust is lust, whether it was spawned by a prostitute's immodesty or by that of Sister X from the local church of Christ!
Two Types of Immodesty
The Bible speaks of two kinds of immodesty. Both forms of immodesty are wrong because they are designed to draw attention to the physical body. One kind of immodesty is overdressing. Both Paul and Peter spoke of this (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3). They condemned the practice of women wearing expensive clothing and jewelry which, either intentionally or unintentionally, attracts undue attention to her physical body. The woman who dresses this way is not focused upon spirituality or serving God, she is focused on herself and how she physically appears to others. She does not seek to display "good works" or a "meek and quiet spirit," she seeks to display her body!
Another type of immodesty, and probably the most prominent in our day, is the practice of under dressing. Paul also addressed this type of immodesty in 1 Timothy 2:9. The woman who wears insufficient clothing commits the same sin as the one who wears expensive clothing and excessive jewelry. By wearing skimpy, provocative clothing, she draws attention to her body, rather than to her character.
Some women claim to be doing this to attract their husband's attention. As we noted from Proverbs 5, marriage partners should certainly be "exhilarated" by each other's love. Obviously, the principle of Ecclesiastes 3:1 applies here. That is, there is a time and place for everything. No sin is committed by the wife wearing suggestive clothing for her husband, in the privacy of their home, but that is not what we are here discussing. The wife who dresses loosely in public attracts more attention than just that of her husband. She attracts the attention of other husbands, and other men! Her actions do nothing but intensify the problem of immodesty. In fact, her actions are self-defeating. All she really accomplishes is training her husband to focus his attention on those particular parts of her body that are uncovered while in public! A woman is sorely deceived if she thinks that her dressing immodestly will keep her husband’s eyes on her and off of other women. Men do not think that way. What this practice actually does is stimulate the man’s thinking and attention on those areas of the body. This increases the likelihood that he will focus his attention on those same areas of other immodestly clothed women.
It sickens me to hear of "Christian" men who actually encourage their wives to dress in a revealing way in public. By so doing, they not only encourage their wife to sin; they also encourage sin in the lives of any that would look with lust upon her. The man who encourages his wife to dress immodestly has no business condemning her if she commits adultery against him. The Bible speaks of "the attire of a harlot" (Prov. 7:10). If a man is going to encourage his wife to dress like a harlot, he has no business blaming her for acting like one.
A Closer Look At 1 Timothy 2:9
Paul said, "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or costly clothing." The verb "adorn" is from the Greek word kosmeo, which means to "put in order, arrange, make ready." The noun (kosmos) means "well-ordered, well-arranged." Thus, the woman's adornment must be consistent with what she is - a Christian! The word "modest" is from a similar word "kosmios," which means "well arranged, seemly, modest." "Apparel" is from "katastole," which conveys the idea of external appearance and signifies a "garment" that is "let down." Paul said this garment is to be worn "with propriety and moderation." This is in contrast with the statement, "not with braided hair or gold or costly clothing." Thayer says the Greek word "aidos" (translated "propriety" or "shamefacedness") combines "a sense of shame" with "modesty" and "reverence." From this we learn that a sense of shame and decency should govern what we wear. This means that scanty, skimpy, vulgar, insufficient attire is condemned right along with gaudy, showy, flashy attire. Those who insist that 1 Timothy 2:9 only addresses the sin of overdressing are mistaken. In fact, secular history tells us that the expensive clothing of Paul's day was often quite sheer and revealing. Such clothing was both fancy and flimsy, and would certainly be condemned by Paul's words in this passage.
The Old Testament Against Immodesty
The apostle Peter invites Christians to consider Old Testament examples when considering one's "adornment" (1 Pet. 3:5-6). Let it be well understood that the Old Testament is not our religious and moral standard of authority, yet we are instructed to consider its examples. Passages like 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11; Romans 15:4, and Peter's words in 1 Peter 3, set forth the proper use of the Old Testament: "now these things are our examples...they are written for our learning." Thus, we are quite safe in turning to the Old Testament for helpful guidelines about immodesty. Since there is a right way and a wrong way to do this, I shall make some observations about how this may safely be done.
The Wrong Way to Use the Old Testament
One brother recently stated that if we were not at liberty to use Old Testament passages to determine the length of dress, then what authority would we use? I might similarly ask, "If we are not at liberty to use Old Testament passages for the use of instruments of music in worship, then what authority would we use?" Do you see friend? The Old Testament is not our authority. Our brother is mistaken when he speaks of our obtaining religious authority from the Old Testament. The Old Testament is inspired, accurate, true, instructive, "holy, just and good," but it isn't our "authority" (Eph. 2:14-15).
An Illustration From Exodus 28
Exodus 28:42 is a very good passage to show that God has, in the past, considered the exposing of the "thigh" as constituting "nakedness." That is, to avoid "nakedness," the priests were to wear linen breeches to cover their thighs. One thing is certain, and most will agree that this verse proves that God considered it wrong for a priest's thighs to be exposed in public (see also Ex. 20:26). Can open-minded, conscientious Christians learn anything from God's views of immodesty as expressed in this passage? Absolutely! However, notice the problem one gets into with this passage if he looks beyond the principle, and attempts to use it as an authoritative dress code.
Just two verse before verse 42 of Exodus 28 is this statement: "And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty." Aaron's garments were even more special. His "holy garments" were to be made of "gold, blue, scarlet, and fine linen," and an ephod was to be fancifully designed and crafted of the finest materials. The attire described throughout Exodus 28 is expensive, distinctive and elegant. Herein lies the problem for those who would bind Exodus 28:42 as "authoritative" for Christians today. Remember that in 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul condemned the wearing of extravagant clothing, yet that is exactly what the priests were commanded to wear! There is an obvious difference between 1 Timothy 2:9 and Exodus 28:40. The passage has a limited application. One must be careful about how he appeals to, and applies this passage today. We can learn about the principle of modesty in attire from Exodus 28, and we can see what God called "nakedness" (exposing of the thigh). However, we cannot label this passage, or any other Old Testament teaching as "authoritative."
The Right Way to Use the Old Testament
As we have noted before, Old Testament writings provide us with useful information for "learning" and "examples" (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). This includes its teaching about immodesty.
On the one hand, we have certain examples that emphasize people's duty to control what they watch and how they think. It was not a fully clothed Bathsheba that David lusted after; it was a naked one (2 Sam. 11:2). Ham's descendants were consigned to an existence of servitude as a consequence of gazing upon Noah's naked body (Gen. 9:20-25). These examples are useful to us for two reasons. From Bathsheba's story we learn that nakedness plays a role in the development of sinful lusts (regardless of who was in the wrong place). A woman's exposed body is an enticement to men. From Noah's story we learn that people are responsible what they watch (Ps. 101:3). The "lust of the eyes" will cause men to perish right along with the world itself (1 Jn. 2:16).
We also learn that God wants certain parts of the human body to be covered. Peter told us to use Old Testament examples in determining proper and modest behavior (1 Pet. 3:5-6). This means passages like (Gen. 3:7, 21; Ex. 28:42; 20:26; Isa. 47:3) should be considered in determining what parts of the body need to be covered in order for one to be considered "modest." Neither human anatomy nor sexual attraction has changed since the days of Adam and Eve, or the harlot of Proverbs 5. This means that men and women of today are still attracted to each other through the same physical and visual stimuli that attracted Adam to Eve and Eve to Adam. Let us consider a few of these Old Testament principles.
From Genesis 3:7 and 21 we learn that human standards may not necessarily attain to God's standards. The "loin coverings" must have been in some way insufficient, for God later clothed the man and the woman with other garments (Heb. ketoneth - long coats). One should not attempt to divine from this word some rigid dress code that God intended to bind upon all men for all ages, for the lexicons vary with regard to the exact definition. Furthermore, that the principle application of the passage is all that God intended for us is quite obvious, for there is no New Testament passage requiring that our garments be made of leather! In fact, Jesus wore a woven tunic (Jn. 19:23). It was not made of animal skin. One violates the authority of Christ by attempting to bind where God has not bound. Let us be comfortable extracting from the garment passages of Genesis 3, only those principles that compliment New Testament teaching on the subject of immodesty.
From Exodus 20:26; 28:42; and Isaiah 47:3, we learn that in the past, God definitely considered the exposing of the thigh as constituting nakedness. For a few different reasons, many of my own brethren hate my references to these passages when discussing immodesty. The truth is that the terms and descriptions used in these passages are just too specific for them to be comfortable with. Though these brothers and sisters have not gone so far as to argue that it is modest for women to go topless in public, which, incidentally, is just a matter of time. Yet, they have often argued that it is modest for them to expose their thighs in public by the wearing of immodest shorts or skirts. For those who would charge that I have "ran to the Old Testament" for my definitions, let it be clearly understood that the New Testament nowhere specifically prohibits women from exposing their breasts in public! Does this mean that such conduct is perfectly acceptable? Will some staunch defenders of "Christian liberty" argue in defense of such conduct? I doubt that they will.
The reader should also notice carefully that I am not binding Old Testament dress codes on New Testament Christians. To charge me with such, especially in view of my disavowals and my several explanations about the proper use of the Old Testament, would be entirely dishonest. No, I am merely raising the question, "Has God ever given us any information about what He considers to be immodest clothing?" The above passages say that He has. Do these Old Testament principles help us in any way? I shall allow the inspired Apostle to answer this question - "Now all of these things happened as examples for us, that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted" (1 Cor. 10:6). It is possible for us to "lust" after the same things they lusted after! If bare thighs produced lust in Old Testament times, then they will do so today.
As for the effect that a woman's bare thigh has on a man, just do yourself a favor by conducting this little experiment. The next time you are in a public area like a sporting arena or restaurant, you might notice what the men do when a woman walks by, wearing a pair of short shorts or a mini skirt! Actually, I don't even believe the experiment will be necessary for you. I think you already know what they do. They stare. And only the well-trained and conscientious men will not. And in case any Christian women are wondering about this, no, the man cannot tell from the mere pair of legs whether their owner is a Christian or a non-Christian! I make this observation because some Christians appear to believe that by virtue of the fact that they are Christians, they are incapable of inciting lust in the opposite sex. They are simply wrong.
Physical human attraction has many dynamics. Social and cultural distinctions may exist, and they may to some degree affect the nature of physical attraction. However, one thing has remained absolutely constant. Throughout the course of human history, nakedness arouses and attracts. And when I say "nakedness," I do not necessarily mean total nudity. Biblically speaking, a man is considered "naked" if he is insufficiently or improperly clothed. John 21:7 described Peter as "naked" because he was in his undergarments. Of course, Peter was out in the sea and only in the company of other men. This circumstance permitted him to "strip down" (NASB) for work. However, how much more than "underwear," do many people wear in public today? From what I have seen, not much more! Let us respect and follow the divinely revealed principles of modesty and demeanor. Let us leave the skimpy and seductive clothing to the carnally minded. Let us "make no provisions for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," or to induce others to do so (Rom. 13:14).