Underdressing is such an awkward topic. It makes men feel stuck and women feel picked on. I can’t tell a woman “Your outfit is tempting me to lust.” I’d sound like a pervert! Then women feel picked on because underdressing sermons are mainly directed at them. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Men don’t want to be so susceptible to lust and women don’t want to be held so responsible for enticing us. We all feel the unfairness and awkwardness here, so let’s just accept it and do our best to work together to help each other out.
Let’s start with three facts:
1) Lust is sinful. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Notice men, He does not say, “Unless she’s underdressed, then it’s all her fault and you can’t help but lust.” No. No matter what a woman is wearing, we’re responsible for making a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1). The same is true for women who lust after men.
2) Influencing someone to sin is sinful. The Bible word for someone who influences another to sin is “stumbling block.” Jesus said, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than the he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:1-2)
3) Underdressing can influence others to lust. The less clothes a woman wears, the easier it is for men to lust after them, and vice versa. To “lust” literally means “to turn upon a thing.” It’s to take a desire and turn it over and over again in one’s mind. It requires imagination. The less a person wears, the easier it is to imagine. Lack of clothing takes away the guesswork. Some clothes are even designed to lead our eyes to places they should not go. For the young man in Proverbs, the adulterous woman purposely enticed him by dressing like a harlot (7:10).
If we’re influencing someone to sin by underdressing, Jesus says it’s better that we be drowned! Certainly, Jesus considers our intentions. I like to think it’s rare for a Christian woman to purposely influence men to lust. Most Christian women aren’t trying to be stumbling blocks, they just give men too much credit! They don’t fully understand how easily men are tempted to lust, not because they aren’t intelligent, but because they aren’t men. Ladies, we need your help. We’re bombarded by underdressing in our culture and the church should be a safe haven.
The Scriptures don’t provide a dress code, but here are some considerations from a man who knows how easy it is to lust. Not because I’m a pervert, but because I’m a man.
1) Consider length. If a shirt is too short to cover your midriff, men will be influenced to lust. If the collar of your shirt hangs down to a point where we can see the line of separation between your breasts, red alert!
2) Consider how length changes with body position. A skirt may be modest standing up, but when sitting down it may ride up the thigh. Exposed upper thighs are a stumbling block to most men. A shirt may be modest standing up, but bending over to pick up your children can put your lower back and chest on display for all to see.
3) Consider tightness. If we get an anatomy lesson from your clothes, most of the imaginary work is done for us. We should not be able to see every curve and undulation of your body. If you find yourself having to constantly tug and readjust your clothes as you move around, that’s a good sign they’re too vacuum sealed and provocative.
4) Consider Transparency. See-through clothing works well as a top layer, not as a bottom layer. If we can see your nakedness underneath your shirt, what’s the point of a covering? (cf. Genesis 3:21).
5) Consider the raw meat rule. “If in doubt, throw it out.”
6) Consider asking your husband or parents. Husbands, be protective of your wives’ bodies. Their bodies belong to you (and vice versa, 1 Corinthians 7:4) and you shouldn’t want other men getting glimpses of what only belongs to you. Parents, your daughter’s body is reserved for the Lord and for her future husband.
7) Consider asking modestly dressed ladies for help. I sympathize with women today. It’s gotta be hard to find modest clothing. I live in Florida, so people underdress to stay cool. If you’re frustrated because you can’t find modest clothes to wear, keep your eye out for Christian women who dress modestly and they can give you pointers on where to find good clothes (cf. Titus 2:3-5).
8) Consider this truth: modest is hottest. No one is asking you to wear a full Burka or to wear rags like Dobby the house-elf. I see plenty of beautifully adorned Christian women who aren’t overdressed or underdressed. God is not anti-beauty, but He wants your heart. Modesty is a heart issue, not just a clothing issue. The most beautiful women are the ones who put God’s glory on display, not their bodies. Real Christian men know this and will cherish you for it. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)