The following was originally written for PEARLS, a program in Lads to Leaders. Participation in the PEARLS event is just one of many ways young people may grow spiritually through Lads (www.lads2leaders.com). Here is Part One of “Figuring Out Godliness.”
Cassie was in middle school. Walking home from the bus stop one day, she was talking with Aimee, a girl who had recently moved into the neighborhood. They talked about their classes and their ball teams and then the conversation turned to religion. Aimee said, “Do you go to church somewhere?” Cassie told Aimee about the congregation she attended and invited her to the youth devo. “Does anyone else at school go there?” Aimee asked.
“You might know Bailey Robelsky. She’s in my youth group” Cassie replied.
“Oh yeah, I have math with Bailey, but I would have never in a million years thought she was a religious person–I mean the way she acts and dresses.”
Sadly, this scenario is not too uncommon. Lots of chances to evangelize; chances to make the kingdom of God appealing to our friends are stolen before they are even presented to us. People like Bailey don’t always mean to hurt the work of the church. But people like Aimee sometimes get their very first impressions about the Lord’s church from people like Bailey. Sometimes it’s very difficult to overcome those first impressions. Sometimes people like Bailey may even keep people like Aimee from ever learning the truth that saves. See, Bailey is professing to be a Christian, but her appearance and behavior don’t match her profession.
Now let’s take a look at a couple of key verses about the profession of Christian women:
In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (I Tim.2:9,10).
This passage tells us that there are some outward indicators—things people will notice right off the bat—when girls are godly on the inside. Girls should try to be characterized by these things. Guys should look for these identifying traits as they date and eventually choose their marriage partners.
Do Your Clothes Match?
The first indicator is the way women dress. Our clothes should match! Matching clothes, in this passage, doesn’t mean no plaids with checks. It means what we wear should match or reflect the godliness that we are professing. Then the Holy Spirit goes on to become the wardrobe consultant for all Christian women. He says, first, that our clothing should be modest. Modest apparel is clothing that doesn’t draw undue attention to the wearer. There are at least a couple of ways that we can draw attention to ourselves by the clothes we are wearing. One is when we dress in outlandishly wild or weird kinds of clothing. I once knew a lady who wore giant hats with various wild colors of wigs to services each Sunday. She was not modest. Gothic clothing is immodest in most circumstances because it shouts “Look at me!”
I think the more common way girls dress immodestly today is by wearing clothing that is sexually provocative. The verse tells us that we are to dress “modestly with propriety.” The original Greek word for propriety according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon means with bashfulness. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says it means having a sense of shame. Our wardrobe Consultant is telling us that there are some types of clothing we should be embarrassed to wear. Then He tells us that we should dress with moderation. The original word there means with soundness of mind. It means sensibly or with discretion. The Consultant is giving us some guidelines, but he wants us to use the good sense He has given us to be certain our clothes match our profession of godliness.
Jesus made an amazing statement in Matthew 5:28. He said that when a man looks at a woman to lust for her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. Understanding that adultery is a work of the flesh and those who practice this sin cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal.5:19-21), the seriousness of this statement cannot be overemphasized. But Jesus was talking about sin that happens in the heart of a guy. What does that have to do with the way a girl dresses? Let’s examine that question.
A few years ago my husband was teaching a class of high school boys at a large summer camp. He asked the guys this question: “What is your most difficult temptation as you try to be like Christ this week?” The unanimous answer was “It’s the way the girls dress.” When asked to elaborate the young men explained that “it’s really hard to concentrate on the devotional talk when a girl comes in and sits down in front of you on the bleachers and you can see her exposed lower back and maybe even her underwear.” They explained that tight clothing, low-cut tops, clothing that sometimes exposes a girl’s middle, and short skirts were all great distractions as they tried to keep their minds focused on God’s Will and avoid the sin of lust.
Sometimes girls who profess godliness may be unaware of the effect of immodest dress on the thinking of guys around them. But that’s why God’s Word instructs older women to teach younger women to be chaste and discreet (Titus 2:3-5). That’s what I’m hoping to do in this chapter. It is simply a proven biological fact that normal men are far more visually oriented than women. To put it bluntly, normal men are naturally excited, both physically and psychologically by a scantily dressed woman. That’s why Jesus’ statement about looking and lusting was addressed to men. Christ was, by implication, commanding guys to guard their eyes in order to maintain purity of thought.
But does that mean women bear no responsibility in helping our brothers (as well as men, in general) abstain from fleshly lusts? Of course not! If you were walking through a room full of nitroglycerin with someone you love, would you light a candle? Christian guys in America today are navigating a treacherous path. There are visual temptations all around…at the beach, the mall, at school and at the movies. Guys who are guarding their thoughts have to learn to look the other way a lot. But fellow disciples should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If I am really about helping my brothers go to heaven, I will be less concerned about what is fashionable, what makes me look good, or what is comfortable (those things are all selfish wardrobe factors), and more concerned about helping my brother avoid temptation. In this way, my clothing will match! What I am wearing will coordinate perfectly with what I am saying: “I am a Christian and I want to do all I can to avoid anything that wars against my soul or the souls of others” (I Peter 2:11). Friends don’t tempt friends to sin.
And a word of wisdom to the guys: As you make your dating decisions, make it easy on yourself. Choose girls who look the part. If you want to end up marrying a faithful Christian,—someone who will help you go to heaven—then date girls who dress to reflect godliness. In our society, a young woman who consistently dresses modestly is making quite a statement. She is saying “I want to be Christ-like even if it means making unpopular choices.”