October 14, 2016

Addressing the Dressing X: The Second Amendment ctd.

by Lyndon Unger

Welcome back for the final installment of Addressing the Dressing!

So far in this series, we’ve discussed what modesty means in the Scripture, what elaborate hairstyles were associated with in Roman culture, and discussed the key biblical texts associated with “modesty” in the Bible.  In the previous post we set up the theological framework for, and briefly discussed, a general principle that covers a wide gamut of clothing/fashion related questions:

Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

That’s definitely not the thorough discussion many may have been expecting or wanting, but it does work in giving a general orientation to this discussion.  If clothing bears skin or appears as skin, avoid it and move in a contrary direction.  Flee from the kinds of revealing, sensual or sexually-charged clothing that has become “normal” in contemporary culture.

Having dealt broadly with the issue of clothes, we now turn to the second (and final) issue.


Causing a Brother to Stumble

Again, this is going to be simpler than you expect.

Point 1: It’s all right to dress fashionably:

Dressing in a way that covers up one’s nakedness is not synonymous with dressing like you’re from a previous century, or wearing some form of modified tarp, or avoiding all make up.  There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful, and there’s nothing wrong with dressing in a way that accentuates your beauty or makes you feel beautiful/feminine.  By all means, do your hair.  Wear makeup.  Buy clothes at whatever stores you want with a mind for being properly modest with your clothes; don’t buy clothes for the purpose of flaunting your wealth or having other women recognize your brandname clothes and covet your closet.

Dress fashionably and beautifully.  Just don’t forget to stick with the points in the previous post and avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.   When in doubt, cover it up. It’s not like there aren’t fashionable contemporary options available for girls who want to cover up and yet avoid re-purposing curtains and potato sacks.  Almost every brand of clothes has multiple options for fashionable clothes that avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.


This is part of the 2016 Dolce and Gabanna line: jeans, plain white t, cute top.  You could copy this look at almost any decent store.

The whole “modesty equals frumpy” idea is the “teachings of demons” that Paul was talking about in 1 Timothy 4:1.

It’s…uh…in the Greek.

Point 2:  Forget your fears of “causing a brother to stumble”:

In the light of the previous point, I know of girls who have been berated and shamed over dressing fashionably with an eye to aesthetics and have had hormonal guys complain and attempt to blame those girls for the guys’ unhinged sexual lusts.  I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to be told that you’re a big reason “so-and-so” is struggling with lust, especially when you’re doing your best to cover yourself up and be above reproach.

Women in this scenario essentially take two approaches to the “don’t cause a brother to stumble” problem:

a. They play the “it’s not my problem” card and use that as an excuse to ignore a wounded conscience that convicts them that they do indeed dress in a way that’s self-shaming.  The guys’ lust isn’t their fault, but these women do recognize, at some level, that they’re dressing shamefully.

b.  They fall into the trap of trying to guess whether or not something will “cause a brother to stumble”.  They want to wear this or that, but also want to do what they can to help their brothers in the Lord.  They try to anticipate the reaction of the opposite sex and often toss their hands up in frustration when that effort proves fruitless.  No matter how they dress, someone always finds flaw with it.

I got some ideas for women in both categories:

a.  For the women in category (a) – Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

The previous post is important here.  If you dress in a way that willfully uncovers your nakedness, the problem isn’t modesty; the problem is that (biblically speaking) you’re dressing like a prostitute.  I’d like to refer you to the previous post if that seems excessively harsh.  When you dress in a way that uncovers your nakedness, there’s a biblical category for that.

Now, this isn’t to say that all complaints are valid and the minute some guy complains, you’re automatically dressing like a hooker.


Not at all.  I’d suggest that women take their cues regarding appropriate clothing from other, more mature women in their lives rather than young and hormonal guys.  Learn the biblical principles, and then get some wisdom to understand what their application looks like.

Also, if you are dismissive of any suggestion that you may not be dressing appropriately, stop and consider the suggestion for a moment.  You may not be dressing inappropriately, but definitely let the Bible and your conscience be your judge.  That involves taking some time, searching the scriptures, and doing a little searching out of your own heart.  Don’t just dismiss all comments or complaints out of hand.  When two or three people (or more) make comments about your dress habits, or if you find yourself getting mad or defensive at the mention of the topic of modesty, I’d dare suggest that there may be something worth considering for a moment.

b.  For the women in category (b) – Don’t ever participate in any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

If you have to stop and wonder “will dressing this way cause a hormonal young man to tempted with thoughts of sexual lust?” the answer is yes.

Write it down.

Some of the young men out there have self control and don’t turn into donkeys in heat, sniffing at the wind, at the slightest provocation, but too many do.  Most of them have the wherewithal to not show it…much.  Your concern shouldn’t be hypothetical lust, but covering your own nakedness with the Lord and your biblically-informed conscience acting as your guides, not your own hypothetical suspicions regarding the penchant for young men to set their minds on things they shouldn’t.

But wait!  What about Romans 14?  1 Corinthians 10?  What about the weaker brother, or the passages that talk about causing a brother to stumble?

In those passages, what’s being discussed are matters that are “grey” issues; issues where the Bible doesn’t draw clear moral lines and the conscience of a weaker believer is violated because they don’t follow the same moral standards as the stronger believer.  The conscience of a young man is not being violated in this scenario, but rather a young woman is violating her own conscience (or the conscience of other women) when it comes to matters of clothing.

The real application of those passages here would be in not judging (as spiritually inferior) a woman who dresses differently than you .  The matter of clothing is in fact a grey issue, but it’s a grey issue between women.  Guys need to avert their eyes from things that tempt them (i.e. Job 31:1; Matt. 5:27-30) and ladies, both young and old, need to avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

But wait again!  What about bathing suits?

Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.  That means “cover it up”.  I’m TRYING to avoid making a list of rules!   Wear a t-shirt and a swim skirt over your bathing suit.  Wear a wet suit.  Wear whatever you need to wear to avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness…Heck, wear under armor or even over armor.


But wait AGAIN!  What about context?  Do different contexts have certain allowances?

Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.  That means “at church” and “at the beach” and “when you’re in a wedding party”.  Do whatever is realistic in order to avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.  It might involve an uncomfortable conversation, or bystanders may wrongfully assume that you’re ashamed of your body, but don’t violate your conscience for the sake of social convenience.

Do whatever you need to do.

Get a retro 1920’s swimsuit and make a joke of it.

Who cares!

So, the bottom line is cover it up.

No, I’m not going to give any more pictures or examples.   I’m sure a few people who have got this far in the post have already analyzed and dissected it.  I’m sure that a few hearts have been tempted to either judge me for my standards or create a list of rules based on the singular image above…so I’m now going to give the most cautious direction I can think of with regards to looking for examples.

If you want some direction, look at the remaining royalty in the world.  Read The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor or even better: the Royal Hats blog.  Sure, a blog about royal millinery mainly has photos of royals when they go out on formal occasions.  That being said, its’ not a horrible idea to follow royalty when it comes to looking for general guidelines on how to dress.  I say this because the remaining royalty in the world have no shortage of 2 things:

a.  Money.

They can afford whatever they want and wear nice/expensive clothes.  They don’t just run off to thrift stores and buy whatever is cheap.  They buy whatever they want, regardless of price (generally speaking) and they dress respectably and elegantly…or in a “courtly” manner.  I believe that word has already come up in a previous post!

b.  Personal advisors.

In other words, they never dress shamefully because they represent nations and there are plenty of people making sure that they dress and act with the appropriate decorum.  Royals define the term “class”, so if you want to dress “classy”, keep abreast of how royals dress.  They’re generally fashionable, but they don’t follow typical Hollywood fashion trends.  They’re not a perfect standard, certainly, but they’re also a relatively decent one.  If you don’t like how they dress, that’s fine.  Copy the principles behind their style and make it your own.

And thus concludes another long series of mine!

I hope it’s been somewhat helpful!

Also, if you think of questions regarding the 9 million specific scenarios I didn’t address, ask away.

I’ll try my best to keep up.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Lewis

    Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful posts. I waited until your final post to see if you might answer my questions.

    One confusion I have is how to define nakedness. Skin? Private parts? Close proximity to private parts? Seems from the Bible that nakedness only refers to the private parts, no? What is your advice to cultures where topless women is the norm?

    A second confusion I have is, why is it the females’ responsibility to protect the males from sinning? It seems the males should be responsible to handle their own temptations and learn how to protect themselves from such temptations…like by looking the other way, no? Are many males actually too weak to control themselves?

    Thanks again!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your thoughts and questions Lewis.

      Ah, the subtle and unavoidable manufacturing of rules via seeking definitions.

      How does one define nakedness? Well, the Bible doesn’t give us an answer along the lines of “this but not that can be showing”. It’s most definitely private parts, but drawing lines is up to the individual’s conscience, as informed by Scripture.

      I would point out that in passages like Exodus 20:26: “And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.”

      Priests wore robes that went down to the feet/ankles. That much we do know.

      Also, Exodus 28:42 reads “You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs.”

      Remember, that’s their undergarment. The essentially wore boxers under their various layers of clothes to shield their naked flesh.

      I think the point in the Bible is trajectory: aim away from exposing your sexual and sensual bits. That would DEFINITELY mean covering up breasts, regardless of culture.

      As for your second confusion, I wonder if you missed that I made a similar point in the article?

      Women cannot stop guys from sinning, but if they avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness, that will certainly help many men avoid sin. Their focus should be on themselves and the Lord, but that focus does indeed have benefits to others.

      • my2cents

        I would have to disagree that breasts are considered sexual regardless of culture. There are many cultures around the world where women’s breasts are exposed and it’s completely normal- certain African cultures for example. My husband spent some time in Africa and said that women would breastfeed their babies in public with no covering and *gasp* no one cared!

        • Maranatha

          OK my2cents, but what does this African behaviour does indicate if not extreme disengagement from the biblical truth i. e. from GOD itself who declares shamefulness and covering as the “normal” state of sinful mankind since Gen3? This is not “culture”, this means darkest heathendom – btw the same regarding the ‘natural’ religious fashion of nudism in Europe from the beginning of the 18th century on. The same as Greek modern ‘gymnasium’ style at the apostles time. Always the same reason: extreme ungodliness, furthermost distance between creation and creator and deepest heathendom.

          • my2cents

            Yikes. I’m not going to dignify your comment with an argument. However, you should know that many of the people you’re referring to as engaging in the “darkest heathendom” are women who love Jesus.

          • Maranatha

            Dear my2cents, I am far away to bother or to offend anyone, at least you. If you tell stories like this, what’s your point then? If those women you tell about REALLY love Jesus, then it would be the same argument as for ALL His believers all over the world, each in another specific point of their “culture”: obedience in His word, i.e. the Holy Bible. Their order by God is then to cover their nakedness in Africa as much as any other christian woman. And if a Massai converts to Jesus, he would have to obey God not to drink blood anymore, which would certainly offend his family and neighbors as well. But the main thing is always the same, because all TRUE followers of Jesus obey THE SAME LORD. That’s the point for anyone following Jesus, be it in which “culture” whatsoever.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Thanks for your two cents.

          And cultural consensus has the ability to determine the moral nature of actions, right?

          Oops. That’s actually not true.

          There are cultures where plenty of things are “normal” and accepted that the Bible speaks clearly on: drunkenness, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, theft, bearing false witness, idol worship, rape, etc.

          Just because the populace was unconcerned about women publicly breastfeeding in some place in Africa doesn’t mean that their nakedness wasn’t shameful. Rather, that’s a harsh condemnation of just how far from God’s design those places have fled.

          • GinaRD

            C. S. Lewis had some good and helpful things to say on this in “Mere Christianity”:

            “The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of ‘modesty’ (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest’, proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned.”

          • GinaRD

            And he added later:

            “I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing. At its present stage, however, it has this inconvenience, that people of different ages and different types do not all acknowledge the same standard, and we hardly know where we are. While this confusion lasts I think that old, old-fashioned, people should be very careful not to assume that young or ’emancipated’ people are corrupt whenever they are (by the old standard) improper; and, in return, that young people should not call their elders prudes or puritans because they do not easily adopt the new standard. A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems.”

          • Jim Sarco supreme courts

            Gina, know that mennoknight will soon be a legal expert in order to legalize cessation so that justice arrives to the nation’s!

      • Lewis

        Lyndon, thank you for your reply. And, I forgot to thank you for your wit and humor in your posts. 🙂

        You noted in your comment that “drawing lines is up to the individual’s conscience, as informed by Scripture,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Looking at Scripture, I simply do not see anything in the Bible that suggests women’s breasts are part of her nakedness. Even the passages you cited seem to point to genitalia as nakedness.

        Having lived in non-Western cultures for nearly six years away from the pressure of many Western ideologies, I am beginning to question why females in the majority world are forced to cover when men have a free pass. I know I am in the minority here, but seriously, what is the rationale for women to cover their breasts? A wife’s breasts please her husband just as much as her face, her hair, her hands, her feet, etc. all of which are currently acceptable to expose to others. I just don’t appreciate that men can walk shirtless without car, but there is tremendous pressure on women to “cover it up.”

        As someone else noted in their comment, thank you for writing about this in great detail so as to cause many to think critically about these issues.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Well, I’d dare suggest that you know full well the answer to your question. Your wording already betrays you.

          Why do you automatically speak in terms of “wife” and “husband” when you talk about bearing breasts? You’re already showing your cards, morally speaking. Your conscience cannot help but subtly come out in your own efforts to circumvent it.

          A wife’s breasts are meant to please her husband (Prov. 5:19) and he’s NOT supposed to ever be intoxicated with the breasts of another (Prov. 5:20). That would preclude allowing his eyes to behold them.

          What’s more, on planet earth I encounter FAR more guys who tend to ogle the female chest as opposed to the feet or hands. My local grocery store doesn’t have dozens of magazines with saucy pictures of cuticles on them, and neither does yours, regardless of what country you live in.

          If I NEED to go into further and far deeper exegetical detail about what the Bible says about unclothed women, I will.

          Do I really need to do that?

          I mean, honestly?

          As for the whole “men get a free pass”, that’s easy.

          Keep your shirt on and encourage the Christian guys around you to do the same, if it offends you. If that’s really a matter that offends your conscience, cover yourself up rather than trying to uncover others.

          I’d also recommend speaking to your pastor about this.

          I’m sure he can help you sort out the underlying issues surrounding this far better than some guy on the internet, thousands of miles away.

          • Lewis

            Wow, Lyndon, I’m surprised by your apparent irritability toward my inquiries.

            I obviously do not know the full answer to my question, which is why I am commenting on a post of someone who has done some quality research. I used the terms “wife” and “husband” because that is the relationship argument I hear about this subject. Prov 5:20 doesn’t seem to be a good argument because of the use of the words “intoxicated” and “embrace.” I am not suggesting getting drunk on such exposure as this verse suggests; rather I am suggesting that men have put tremendous, and what seems to be unbiblical, pressure on females to “cover it up.” Regarding guys ogling, could it be that people have hidden certain things in life for so long that people just want to peek?

            I am exploring an area of concern for me, not to satisfy the desires of men, but to release the great pressure on women who are burdened with this weight–a weight that doesn’t seem to have substantial support.

            No, there’s no need for you to exegete, I can do it quite well, thank you.

            By the way, I am your sister, not your brother.

          • Lyndon Unger

            Hey Lewis,

            I apologize for the unnecessary capitalization that I used, or whatever rhetoric made you think I was irritated. I’ve edited the post to tone it down. Let me know if it’s still as acerbic.

            I’ll come back tomorrow and answer your questions in more detail.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Were it not for the universal male tendency to mentally “undress” women, regardless of their sartorial choices, none of this would be an issue in the first place. So fellas, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” In a world where both the glutton and the starving think only of food, there’s always going to be this tilt toward lust. And in the 21st century, where it’s everywhere, the battle is even more intense.

    Women can’t help what we are, and even modest choices of clothing are often insufficient to stifle our imaginations. Kate Upton could dress in sackcloth; it’s not going to change anything.

    Most of us have seen completely nude women in full body paint, and yet were less alluring than others on the Hollywood red carpet in their $10,000 Oscar de la Renta that appeared to be missing most of it. We’re going to see what we think we see, or wish we were, whether we do or not.

    • Maranatha

      Dear friend, my hsb makes the difference here between the “first” and “second look” onto a woman (as he calls it). To explain this, read Job 31,1 and Ex20,17 “thou shalt not COVET”. It is that ‘coveting’ look onto a woman that makes the difference between simply looking at a beautiful creature that God has made and coveting her. Men certainly have to train on staying at the “first” and innocent sight of a woman and then immediately turn to 2 Cor 10,5 to capture any further coveting sight under Christ.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Good point. My husband calls this concept of looking away, “The bounce.” 🙂

        • Lyndon Unger

          Yup. Something I sadly learned too late in life, but something that is incredibly important.

        • Maranatha

          Dear Jane, sometimes this can also turn out funny: When we raised our son with Job 31,1 he would turn not even his eyes but his whole HEAD when getting in eye contact to a girl in school (or a female teacher) with plunging neckline – which is very common clothing here, together with a quite cup double D – so that the other person thought he would not want to speak to her. ;-))) It took him a while to learn… successfully until today, hopefully as well until tomorrow.

        • Ira Pistos

          To echo Lyndon, incredibly important.
          I’ve always loved my wife. Her friendship has always been precious to me.
          When I learned to honor her though, through the grace of God, those feelings blossomed vibrantly, growing in depth and intensity to an awe inspiring degree.

          I mean awe inspiring literally as I’ve learned over the years how this is a hint of what it means for us to be the bride of Christ.

          Also as Lyndon said, sad is the time wasted prior to this. I’d regret it more though but for that it’s made us aware of the poignant difference between with and without.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            My husband and I are also best friends…I cherish him deeply and am so grateful God brought us together. He’s a keeper!

    • Jane Hildebrand

      Well that was depressing…

      Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot. In other words, if you knew your wives’ tendency was to mentally undress all the attractive men she saw. That she always had this ’tilt toward lust’ towards other men, not directed at you of course, she knows what you look like naked, nothing new or exciting there.

      What if you knew that regardless of how men dressed, her imagination would undress them and she informed you there was really nothing you could do about it, that’s just the way she was. So many attractive men everywhere!

      I wonder what would go through mens’ minds if that were the case with their wives. Would we be shown as much mercy as we are instructed to give?

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Oh, I don’t doubt that wives, girlfriends–any female–decry the fact that men are creatures of the visual. I’m not blaming God, but it’s a universal thing (apologies to any gay men; I can’t explain their wiring.)

        No, most of us don’t let those natural tendencies evolve into overt acts. We’re gentlemen. But it’s the rare man–and I don’t care how godly he considers himself to be–who doesn’t mentally stumble from time to time. Any who tell you he doesn’t will tell other lies, too. Women are a lot less so, but they are not immune.

        The Muslim world “solves” the problem by making their women dress as they do. I don’t consider that an acceptable solution, but they–both sexes–apparently do. To each his–and her–own.

        It’s a battle for sure, and whoever thinks that battle will be over any time before glory is deceived. You needn’t be depressed about it.

      • Jason

        There’s a lot of factors to this.
        1. It’s okay to be jealous for your spouse. However, it needs to be a godly jealousy, which is a thing and generally results in more passionately pursuing your love.

        2. Temptation is not something we should EVER let negatively influence our opinion of someone unless Christ isn’t good enough for us either (Hebrews 4:15).

        3. If a man is getting beyond the temptation into the area of actually lusting after women whom he finds a temptation, it isn’t just “men being men”. Christ proves that man can be tempted and not sin.

        4. The shoe *is* on the other foot in many relationships. Emotional intimacy is very important to my wife. When we first got married, she would still go to her family first for emotional support. It took time and many conversations for me to convince her that I wanted to be that relationship for her. Other women depend on romance novels, chick flicks, casual flirting, or any number of other ways to get their emotional needs met outside of their relationship with their spouse.

        The world messes with intimacy differently for the genders. For emotional needs, society encourages husbands not to get into all that “girly talking stuff” and wives are told a bit of casual flirting or idolizing Hollywood romance is perfectly harmless. For physical intimacy, society tells everyone the man is a pig for caring so much.

        Essentially, it’s socially acceptable for a women to meet her intimacy needs anywhere and everywhere, and a man is considered awful for even having needs. I believe marital infidelity is being committed by both sexes on a fairly regular bases. In one case it is openly encouraged. In the other it is seen as a serious disgrace.

        The church needs to recognize that both are a disgrace and while it seems to be at least trying to ensure that husbands start recognizing their wife’s needs, it needs to toe the Biblical line for men as well (1 Corinthians 7:5) instead of buying the feminist rhetoric that there’s something shameful, primitive, or sexist about it.

        • Jane Hildebrand

          Jason, I agree with much of what you say, but I’m not sure putting emotional intimacy on the same level as being sexually tempted by someone is quite fair. For example, your wife may have initially been getting her emotional needs met from her family, but not in the same way a women would get her needs met by romance novels, chick flicks or casual flirting. That’s just wrong and yes, disgraceful. I would certainly consider that a form of sexual unfaithfulness.

          The point I was trying to make to C4C was in response to his claim that there is this “universal male tendency to mentally undress women.” Argh. My point was to get men thinking how they would *feel* (there’s that word) if they knew their wives were “tilted towards lust” for other men. Would they be sympathetic and patient or jealous and defensive? Would they hit the weights and go for that six pack or withdraw to their man cave with a pint of Rocky Road? That is all.

          And just so you know, I have a great husband and have been married for 32 wonderful years to my best friend. We’re the funnest couple on the planet. 🙂

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Jane–just a clarification. “Tendency” is the word I used, not “habit” or “goal” or any other term that would imply a problem you need to lose sleep over. Men are programmed by God to be visually oriented. That’s both a blessing and a curse. There’s lot of other distinctions, but that’s the pertinent one here.

            All this doesn’t mean your husband–or any other man–is obsessing over women who happen to enter his field of view. But it does imply a “default” setting in our nature that sees the outer beauty before it ever takes the time to discover the inner.

            I don’t know if that helps.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Yes. But there is a difference between noticing the outer beauty of a woman vs. having a tendency to mentally undress her. Call me naive, but I’d like to believe that Christ can give men the power to do the former without the latter.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Well, if I can use an analogy:

            Many people overeat, and it’s become a lifelong problem for them. They can be around food, eat a moderate meal, and go to bed happy. You’d never imagine that doing so was a struggle for them.

            But if they stand by the cupcake table too long, they’ll eat every last one. Christ can give them the power walk up and take one, but He also makes us responsible for how many we eat.

            So too, men can be–and often are–in the company of women who are in various outfits of their choosing. For some men, a woman would have to be in rather skimpy clothing to elicit the wrong thoughts; for others, not so much. Each is an individual. What gets the attention of one is barely noticed by the other. Which of those two is the “strong” christian, the one who is bothered by the least visuals, or the one who isn’t bothered until it’s blatant? I can’t say.

            It’s like humor: there’s no explaining it, there’s no agreement on what’s funny, it’s completely individual. Some consider Red Skelton funny, others Howard Stern, and others Jerry Seinfeld. And some have no sense of humor at all and are offended by jokes of any sort.

            So this subject can be seen a lot of ways, and there’s no right or wrong answer. What passes for “normal” wear in Alabama isn’t what you’ll see in the Congo, and men in both places will react to the same sight differently.

          • Jason

            I get you. I just feel like the church today does almost as much to marginalize men as the culture, and also like the more mature sins among believers are often because we marginalize the sins that are socially acceptable. By the time we care we are often too shocked/disgusted to actually love as we should (I’ve been confronted with this attitude in myself recently in my men’s study group, where I was initially shocked to find what some very godly men struggle with, in silence).

          • Jane Hildebrand

            I agree, Jason.

    • Lyndon Unger

      If it weren’t for our penchant for sin, sin wouldn’t be a problem?

      Can’t disagree there.

      So men have to train themselves to do a few things:

      1. Avert their eyes (Job 31:1; Ps. 119:37)

      2. Set their minds on righteous things (Rom. 8:5-6; Col. 3:1-3; Phil. 4:8-9)

      3. Cultivate discipline, and aggressive reaction to sin, in their eyes and minds (Matt. 5:29-30; Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5-10).

      Women can’t help what men are (sinners), but men have a responsibility to put their faith to action.

      Also, no need to get graphic on discussions of things related to sexual lust: given your point, your level of detail on the final paragraph seems rather ill-advised.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        After several articles about lust, temptations, and women’s outfits, making a lone observation about a common experience on that front seems apropos to me. I guess I’m more jaded and/or less shocked than some. Must come with age. My apologies.

    • chrisleduc1

      “Were it not for the universal male tendency to mentally “undress” women, regardless of their sartorial choices, none of this would be an issue in the first place.”

      I would be very careful of projecting this (what may be your own personal experience it sounds like) onto redeemed men as a whole. To do so reflects a poor anthropology, hamartiology, and soteriology. Not everyone struggles with the exact same sins to the exact same degree.

      To insist this, as you have, is to totally misrepresent reality to many women who have to take others’ word for it (the experience of being a man). This is why James reminds us that not many should be teachers…

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Thank you…that was comforting to hear.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        I never suggested that “everyone struggles with the exact same sins to the exact same degree.” I said men are visual creatures–and we are; God made us that way. Not to put too fine a point on it (lest some be offended), but there’s a reason “men’s magazines” feature women and “women’s magazines” feature articles on fashion and relationship advice. Our priorities and proclivities are different. Not defending it, just saying. Playboy Magazine may have included “Playboy’s Gifts for Dads and Grads” from time to time that featured cool gadgets and electronics, but that wasn’t what made Hef a millionaire. It’s a story as old as time.

        Being a “redeemed man” doesn’t make us immune to the old nature; it should severely modify its manifestations, yes, but anyone who says his conversion ended his eyesight isn’t being honest. Doesn’t Paul write about that “besetting sin which so easily entangles us”? It’s not the same for all, of course, and everyone struggles with different things. But anyone who says his “besetting sin” is impatience, or failing to go through his pockets when he takes his suits to the cleaner, is someone custom made for politics.

  • Maranatha

    Some sermons of Paul Washer come to my mind (available on illbehonest-dot-com or at youtube) – in one of them regarding this topic he tells the story of a woman calling a radio pastor and asking “Is it a sin for a woman to wear make up?” and the pastor answeres: “Sister, it’s a sin if some women DON’T wear make up!” :-))) – I recommend to look up these brilliant videos e. g. …/watch?v=AOg3xCqsIeU – Washer makes the difference here between BEAUTY and SENSUALITY which I find a remarkable and good point, too.

    Dear Lyndon, please excuse my objection regarding your last recommendation with the “Royals” and that they would ‘never dress shamefully’ in public. Think only about all the 9/10-nude bathing and holiday photos of certain celebrities (“Royals” as well!) being papped all over the world. I do not think a christian woman should imitate a kind of Stefanie of Monaco which was a quite popular paparazzi item in Europe AND a “royal”, too. Better some kind of Grace Kelly which was her mother, but not the actual generation of royals – today they are the same way rotten as anybody else being not-royal. Decency is very “out”, with the royals as well…

    But the full-covering bathing suit as well would not be my personal solution today. In Germany, we actually have a serious problem of imported migrant islamization (and thus extremely high rape rates, too, as consequence of this ‘clash of cultures’) as you perhaps have already heard or read of since autumn 2015. So, a modest christian woman regarding this full-covering “Burka-style” would act and behave the same way as the antichrist muslim woman does, but not out from the same belief and spirit (which is the contrary, then). Personally, to avoid any public or inner-church discussion about this, I would better tend to visit male-female separated swimming (if possible) or even avoid it completely (which I indeed prefer, I love water and swimming very much but have now quit completely when faced with the actual development in my country today). But I agree, Gods ‘sharia judgement’ over Germany (and northern Europe) is certainly another thing, even if touching the modesty topic here… The “christian whore” and what the Laodicean endtimes-church has made out of biblical truth brother Martin Luther revealed 500 years ago out from medieval catholicism gets its judgement now after this era of reformation spirit and world mission centered in Germany like Israel did in ancient OT times when turning their back on God totally (which includes nudity and shamelessness in relations to the outside world). Today, God ultimately turns his back on my beloved country. We all know what that means spiritually and in reality: The end is near, and it’s really THIS time. Thank GOD He saved us through Christ Jesus nevertheless out from this wicked generation (Acts 2,40)!!

    Thank you ever so much, dear Lyndon, brother in Christ, for your serious effort and work on this highly interesting topic, very valuable for deeper personal reflection! See you and your family soon above with Christ, looking very forward to the next 1,000 peaceful years and HIS everlasting kingdom! Be blessed! 🙂

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your kind words and thoughts.

      I’d like to articulate that one doesn’t blindly emulate Royals, but rather uses them as a very broad guide (with exceptions being made regarding swimming attire, or revealing gowns, or whatever).

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Umm, don’t be too disappointed if “the end” seems to be on hold a lot longer than you may have expected. Regardless of how the lay of the land may appear, many generations before you thought they were going to see it all wrapped up, too, and they didn’t.

      For all any of us knows, God has several chapters yet to unfold, and even our great-grandchildren may be saying, “Any day now.”

  • Mitzi

    This has been an interesting series of articles, and I agree wholeheartedly as a teacher and professor with avoiding self-induced nakedness- young men in class can participate unhindered instead of being distracted. My hope in the long run for Christian women’s culture (unrealistic, but hopeful nevertheless) is far more radical- I strongly believe Christian women should not be forced church-culturally to pretend to be something they are not- and that includes wearing makeup. It’s not a sin, but it is a mask. We should not be pushed in church to be fashionable and damage ourselves in the process with nasty hair-styling chemicals, caked-on masks, and high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes. Church should be a refuge where we can come, unmasked, before God Who sees us that way, anyway. I’m allergic to almost all the “personal beauty” products out there, and have saved THOUSANDS of dollars over the course of a lifetime being unable to go to hair salons or into department stores selling makeup and perfumes (asthma). Wouldn’t it be nice if we taught our daughters to learn how males actually think (instead of ignoring or guessing and worrying) by being friends with them from childhood, and to be themselves in a world forever presenting them with impossible (and destructive) role models?

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your thoughts Mitzi.

      What about women who want to utilize make up to cover blemishes that are troublesome? I know some women who use a small amount of makeup to accentuate the features that are already there, and it also helps them feel confident and “assembled” when they go out into the world. Are they buying into a worldly view of beauty or putting on a mask?

      • Mitzi

        That depends on the person. Is she afraid other people will see her as imperfect, or is she protecting her skin from further injury or sunburn? I live in a culture where women apply makeup with a trowel, seemingly. The Avon catalogs in the break room at work advertise that women can have a “pore-free” appearance. Trying to look like Barbie (including her tiny clothing, perfect plastic skin, and impossible figure) is a pathology planted in girls’ brains from early youth. I’m not saying women can never use makeup for skin protection or artistry, but our obsession with putting on appearances can be quite unhealthy

  • Jane Hildebrand

    Thank you, Lyndon, for all the effort and research you’ve done in this series. I have learned so much through this. You are a scholar to be sure! Understanding the history behind the texts, coupled with your humor and graphics makes reading your material so enjoyable! Thank you again. Blessings to you and yours!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks so much Jane.

      I’m glad that some of it has proven helpful and edifying; that’s all I hope for, but if it’s also somewhat readable and enjoyable, then my mission is most certainly accomplished.

      God bless you and yours as well.

  • Jason

    Neighborhood picky editor: “don’t guy clothes”

    • Lyndon Unger

      Well, it’s true. Don’t guy your clothes.

      Whatever that means…?!?

  • Thank you for this series. It has been very helpful. I appreciate the time, study, and effort it takes to prepare it.
    Regarding one of the 9 million scenarios: The skin-tight and skin-baring design of modern clothing for athletes.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your kind words Linda!

      Athletic clothes?

      I don’t really know what to say there. Those are essentially required by someone who performs certain sports, and they’re not really a negotiable item as they’ve proven their benefit. To avoid them would be to give oneself a significant impediment to victory.

      I’m also thinking of swimming suits for swimmers, or the wrestling singlets.

      One basically has to wear those to participate in the sport.

      Maybe one could take steps to cover up when one isn’t competing?

      I’d wager a guess that in the midst of a 200 meter sprint, or a 100 meter swim, people aren’t going to be noticing certain parts and lusting after them. That’s FAR more likely afterwards when someone is loitering around in those revealing and tight garments. Maybe some sort of robe, like boxers wear, for walking around the pool/track/whatever?

      Just taking a stab in the dark off the top of my head here.

      I’d certainly recommend taking it in a case by case basis, giving it significant study, prayer and thought, and doing what’s reasonable.

      I don’t think it would be necessary to give up sports; there are almost always ways around certain obstacles.

      • Maranatha

        I recently watched the Olympic Games in Rio on TV together with my hsb and I agree with both of you – well, if you do certain sports, the clothing is definitely necessary to have a better e. g. wind or water resistance and thus getting advantage in winning the contest.

        Otherwise, I am not sure if those kinds of sports, where such a clothing is needed, really should be in the first place for a christian woman. I refer to 1 Timothy 4,8 here. I think not every christian woman has the special order to glorify the LORD like Eric Lidell did. And even he did not spend his whole life with running but in spreading the gospel.

        So YES, I also have no problem with a woman who likes her sport but in Christ will happily renounce it to act it out in front of TV cameras in worldwide Olympic games (and, by doing so, refrain from participate in a list of the worlds best) – or even to quit it completely because Jesus Christ has far other and better things to do for her that have ETERNAL value. Kind Regards!

        • bs

          Why is it that we Christians often end up looking more like the Pharisees than like Jesus?

          • Lyndon Unger

            Because of drive-by blog comments that are meant to instigate trouble…but that’s just a guess.

          • bs

            Lyndon, I don’t see the relevance of your reply. I am sorry that you are unable to handle counter evidence to your claims and to consider seriously the implications of your approach to modesty. Again, are the above comments on other cultures and on sports more Jesus-like or Pharisee-like?

          • bs: Pharisee-like? As for myself, my incomplete sentence was intended as more a topic than a comment. It is something I’ve wondered about. In particular, the skimpiness of the bikinis of women’s beach volleyball this year really raised my awareness. Considering Maranatha’s comment, I was not the only one to notice. I don’t see the necessity to the sport to wear almost nothing. I was uncomfortable watching it but not ready to say that all tight athletic clothing is wrong. So, with Lyndon open for questions, I pitched the topic out there to learn from the perspectives and thoughts of others. The input given without accusations has helped me think through it more.

          • Lyndon Unger

            And I don’t see the relevance of your clear and obvious trolling.

            How did Linda present counter evidence to my claims>

            How was I unable to consider it?

            Same for the comment about Africa.

            Come out and say what you’re not-so-subtly trying to insinuate.

            And speaking of Pharisees, who in the New Testament loved to rhetorically paint themselves as the righteous seekers who made insults under the guise of asking “innocent” questions?

            “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” – Mark 8:11

            “And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.” – Mark 12:13

            “When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the tax?’ ” – Matthew 17:24

            “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ ” – Matthew 19:3

            “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?” – Matthew 22:15-18

            “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:29

          • bs

            Maybe I am a troll. Or maybe I am a teacher and I realise when students make claims which data or evidence does not always back up. You have made a couple of those claims, e.g. the references to clothing in some NT passages not having anything to do with prostitution and the claim that Roman women did not wear veils to cover their hair. You did edit the later claim a little — good on you, but I think you seem unaware of the paucity and spasmodic nature of the evidence for NT background. Also when I see people writing about etymology, semantic fields and the idea that “this word really means this…” in looking at vocabulary their understanding of the language issues involved is often quite obvious — not always positively.
            On the implications of the study you have done I think you simply avoided any discussion of burka/burqa in the comments above and you really have not grappled with the practical implications of your study, e.g. for missiology — your solution seems to be simply that cultures are sinful and Western clothing was required.
            On the Pharisees: wasn’t it the Pharisees whom Jesus said were adding to people’s burdens and focussing on relatively minor issues but ignoring the more crucial aspects of the law? Is it lifting a burden or adding to one when the clothing which Christian women are “allowed” to wear is dictated to them?

          • Lyndon Unger

            All right.

            I’ve had just about enough of this pursed-lip prancing around and taking subtle slaps at me.

            First, the references to clothing in 2 Peter and 1 Timothy don’t have anything to do with prostitution. I’ve spent several blog posts arguing this and am not going to repeat every argument here. The clothing and hair issues in the church in Ephesus (among other places) were clearly not nearly as related to prostitution as they were related to the far more acceptable sin of flaunting wealth. That was also a significant issue in the early church too.

            In fact, outside of these apparent hair and clothes references, there is no place that I know of in the New Testament where women were accused of acting like prostitutes…maybe because that would have been so utterly unthinkable in the early church. Roman culture wasn’t exactly subtle, and a women in a semi-transparent coan silk toga, showing her naked body to the world, wouldn’t have even made it into the church of Ephesus…or at least wouldn’t have remained for more than a few minutes.

            I have several friends who work with prostitutes on the street, and they tell me that all prostitutes know one thing instinctively; you don’t dress for work when you’re going to a Christian church. The prostitutes in Bangkok apparently know that just as well as the ones in Las Vegas.

            Secondly, I seem unaware of the paucity and spasmodic nature of the evidence for NT background?


            Because I didn’t just roll over at your genius when you presented some information from a single obscure book who gives citations from documents that I cannot find mention of anywhere online?

            Thirdly, as for the etymology issue, you’re really hung up on that. It’s clear you don’t really understand *why* I had to dig into their etymological components…and when I pushed you to show me how defining “honourable” and “modesty” should be properly done, you fell apart.

            In fact, your response showed that you didn’t even really understand what was being asked of you. I asked you to define what “honourable” and “modesty” meant in the passage, and here’s your response:


            Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 12:23 consists of two main clauses: [those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour] and [our less respectable members are treated with greater respect]. The second of these clauses could be restructured to remove the passive voice and parallel the structure of the first clause to: [those members of the body that we think of as less respectable we treat with greater respect]. The topic of both these clauses is [those members of the body] which we think are [less honourable] or [less respectable]. This probably refers to the sexual organs. The parallel main verbs are [clothe] and [treat] and the actor in both cases is [we] with the same referent as in the relative clauses, [we think]. The complements of the main verbs are again parallel: [with greater honour]
            and [with greater respect].

            Thes two clauses are then contrasted with a third: ‘our more respectable members to not need this’ which could be similarly restructured to parallel the first and second clauses. The topic in the third clause is [the members that we think of as more respectable] i.e. our non-sexual parts. and the comment is [do not need [to be clothed]]. The third clause would seem to be a comment emphasising the first two clauses, so contrasting the two groups of members (body parts), those we treat carefully because of our perception of them as less respectable/less honourable (any meaning difference
            between these is not relevant to the contrast) and those we do not.


            That’s a whole lot of verbiage for doing absolutely nothing to answer the question that you were asked.

            You, in absolutely no way discernible, gave me any understanding of what “honourable” or “modesty” meant in the passage. You didn’t even guess at a definition at all.

            Pontificate all you want.

            When it comes time to put your money where your mouth is, you’re struggling to find a penny.

            Fourth, the burqa? For the love of re-fried beans, why would that come up? Wearing a tarp with eye slits is NOT REASONABLE. That’s why I said “avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness”.

            I provided a picture of what I thought reasonable would be. It’s the second picture on this post: the Dolce and Gabanna ensemble. How is THAT some sort of suggestion that women wear a burqa?

            Fifth, you have, in no uncertain terms, missed the entire point of this whole series.

            Congratulations. That seriously takes some doing.

            I’ve gone to great lengths to point out that this is an issue of conscience, meaning it’s not an issue of immediate concern for anyone other than the person wearing the clothes.

            I’ve tried, at great lengths, to not give any rules about length, style, etc.

            I’ve given a single principle that should liberate women to evaluate clothes for themselves, instead of relying on some arbitrary list of rules.

            So, in answer to your question, it’s lifting a burden.

            That’s what I’ve attempted to do.

          • bs

            Fair enough Lyndon if that’s what you think you have attempted to do. I will make two simple points. (1) Philip Towner (on 1 Tim 2:9) does not have the same estimate of Winter’s work as you do (“obscure”!!??). So I conclude that you simply have not done the research on the place of clothing in the time of the NT!
            (2) The meaning of a text is not found in defining the individual words used. There was no point in _defining_ “honourable” and “modesty”. Language does not work like that.

          • Lyndon Unger


            You know what?

            I wrote far too harshly and was uncharitable.

            I’d like to ask for your forgiveness to lashing out at you.

            Regardless of how I’m slapped in the face here, that doesn’t give me an excuse to slap back. I went back and edited the post to drop the level of rhetoric.

            So, for interest sake, what other books did I miss in doing my research?

            I’ll simply agree with you on how language, works.

            So what should I do now?

            How should I change the posts to fix the errors I made?

          • Maranatha

            Dear Brother Lyndon – just ignore bs and pay attention to 1Tim6,20-21: Do not get involved in nonsense discussions. You have done very well, much of work, everybody can feel and see your sincere love for the Lord here. Don’t let Satan use another brother (if he really is one?) to get academic clash (and trash) into the community of saints who are very interested in the topic. Do not justify yourself, you ARE justified already. 😉 God bless!

            PS: And if there are some errors, so what? Your series was meant to be an opener to think about it biblically, not to do a word-by-word Interpretation.

          • bs

            Hi Lyndon. Thank you for your response here. I also ask for your forgiveness for labouring on something which is probably not important.
            Do you have access to Towner’s commentary on the Pastoral epp.? Maybe pp.204ff. on 1Tim 2:9-10 would help the early posts? He cites more than Clement and the papyrus letter we argued about.
            I do agree with your conclusion on conscience. That is why I wonder about statements suggesting “the TRUE Christian woman should not take part in these activities” based only on a dress code.
            Of course you are welcome to ignore me but I assure you I have not “departed from the faith”.

  • Matthew

    Haven’t had a chance to read all of your posts on the subject, but did you address men going shirtless? I know that it makes my wife uncomfortable, when guys did this. Not to mention in some cases causes irreparable damage to the eyes.

    • Jason

      How else are people supposed to read what team you support on your beer belly?

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Clearly you’re a Packer fan.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Jane, don’t be mean…Not all packer fans have beer bellies.

          Some get it from gluttony.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Brats and cheese! #onwisconsin

    • Lyndon Unger

      Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

      You cannot force other men to do this, but you can do it yourself.

  • Ira Pistos

    Lyndon, thank you for the effort that you plainly put into this, it’s both scholarly and very practical.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks so much Ira!

      May the Lord use my work to help you in your labor to be more like Christ.

  • Judy Parker

    Dear Lyndon, thank you so much for this series, I have so appreciated the time that you must have put into researching and explaining this topic and for the gracious way you have responded to comments. It has been so helpful and helped make sense of a number of passages of scripture. God bless you!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks so much for your kind encouragement Judy!

      I’m glad that it’s been helpful to you with certain Scripture passages, and I hope this information blesses you and through you blesses others!

  • John

    “Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.” So I guess Christian women should just start wearing a burka. Christian men too. Thanks a lot.

    This certainly isn’t the final word, but I appreciate you starting the conversation and encouraging us to wrestle with this important issue a little more.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Look at the second picture. I spent a little time looking for a good example that was from an influential fashion label, was cute, and still covered up what I’d consider the necessary elements.

      You may have noticed that it’s hardly a burka, but why would you think all faithful Christians should wear coats traditional to the Caucasus region?

      Oh wait. You mean “Burqa”.

      Thanks for your two cents John…well, your thoughts. We can negotiate price later.

  • Lyndon– I have enjoyed the articles and the discussions. I always enjoy hearing your voice. An eye opener for me. I remember maybe 10 or more years ago a pre-teen girl was shopping at Nordstrom and couldn’t find any thing that she could wear as everything revealed her stomach. She wrote a letter to management and complained. They redid their inventory and I think to this day the young girls can find clothes to wear that don’t reveal the stomach. One voice can make a difference.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Wow! That’s a great story!

      Thanks so much for your kind and gracious encouragement! I’ve also enjoyed your interaction StowellBrown!

  • Maranatha

    Another thought regarding the ‘burqa’ theme here which some find not being enough appreciated: Next chess world championship will take place in Iran; any Western female participant will be forced to wear a Niqab (or sth like) to cover the head under prison penalty. For a true christian woman, a real challenge? Well, I would as well quit the competition here because of this reason as I would in beachvolleyball for another. A Christian woman in the freedom of Christ does neither submit to satanic religion nor she will serve exhibitionism.

    • Jeff Schlottmann

      Hey you’re the pickle guy right?

  • GinaRD

    Clearly, sir, you have never tried to swim in a T-shirt. 🙂 I have, and it ain’t easy.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Well, be creative and do something else.

      There’s always a way to be covered up and yet somewhat functional, right?