by Sharon Tubbs
Take a look at the magazine covers in the check-out line. One thing many have in common: women showing lots of skin. Plump cleavage. Firm thighs. Bikinied backsides.
They’re on their way to Fifth Avenue, to exotic beaches, to movie sets, to the arms of handsome men. One place they’re likely not headed, however: church.
Today’s pop culture images in all their scantily-clad glory have little to do with God’s definition of beauty. Yet, even in the sanctuary, we see women clearly influenced by society’s need to bare all.
The subject of how Christians should dress and present themselves is touchy, for sure. Some women get really angry about this, accusing their spiritual sisters of looking like skanks and trying to seduce men. The offenders, meanwhile, might get defensive. Why should they be held responsible if men choose to stare? Besides, shouldn’t we be focused on the condition of a woman’s heart, not the way she dresses? Oh, and who determines what’s appropriate anyway?
Things get even more complex when we consider the Word:
- “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” (I Timothy 2:9)
- Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)
The problem: Modesty is subjective. What one woman sees as modest, another sees as anything but. And the thighs that make one man stumble barely raise another’s eyebrows.
I recently wrote an online article about the debate over women’s attire in church. Imagine my surprise when I got this response from a reader who, coincidentally, attends the same church I do. He was a new believer who said that women used to be his “addiction.” He gave me permission to share his thoughts.
I try to follow God’s word as closely as I can and each time I go to Grace, I stumble. It bothers me to see women dressed like they were at the club. I understand some of them may not be mature enough yet, but why should their lack of maturity cause me to stumble? My sisters in Christ should be helping me, not become a stumbling block. I want to go to church and feel safe and renewed from the world, and it’s difficult when I go to church and I see the same things of the world and it shames me. I feel embarrassed because this is something that is not easy for me as a single Christian man…
As believers we shouldn’t be bound to live by others’ opinions, but the Word does compel us to avoid being spiritual stumbling blocks that cause others to commit sin or to have sinful thoughts. So what should we do?
We can talk about the issue with one another in love, rather than harsh judgment or accusation. We can humble ourselves enough to examine our own hearts—and wardrobes. The next time we’re in the fitting room or getting dressed in the morning, we can consider our own hearts: Is my motive to gain attention by seducing men? Am I exposing so much of my body at church that I could distract attention from the worship? Is my goal to express the beauty that God has given me, inside and out—or am I just trying to look like one of those women on the cover of a magazine?
Sharon Tubbs is a freelance journalist and author of “Milk & Honey: 10 Principles to Embracing Your Promised Land” and “Living in the Pink.”