This is a subject in which I am probably preaching to the “already converted,” and if you want a quick answer, I believe showing humility in how one dresses is important.
However, I really don’t want to focus on that. I have been posed a situation the last week where the succession of unlikely events makes me feel compelled to speculate on the subject here.
What I want to talk about is sin. As Paul muses about in Romans 7, we do what we don’t want to do, as if there is a law of the flesh at work in us. I think for most heterosexual men, their attraction to the opposite sex can very quickly become sin. Most men can relate that it is almost entirely outside of their power at some level. God gives men different strengths and some are better in this department.
I would actually consider myself “good” if my measure is versus other depraved men, though I fall woefully short in God’s eyes. By God’s grace, I don’t gawk at women when I drive or on television, or anything like that. I make a regular practice of treating women who are not my wife like they are the sun. I know the sun is there, but I don’t look right at it! However, I have a tendency to make comments when prodded on, which is bad and is encouraged by my work environment (an auto repair shop).
Now, I do this out of my own weakness. I purposely don’t watch certain television or want to expose myself to certain situations (such as going to the beach), because if I am not around it, I don’t have to deal with it. But, if I per chance get exposed to something (such as by searching for a movie on Youtube and there is something sexually explicit), I turn away. It doesn’t make me man of the year or anything, but I do this out of obedience to God. I am not always perfect, but I really try. And it has caused disputes at work because other men don’t live this way.
Nevertheless, men are culpable for the desires of their own heart.
Now, there are many women who adorn themselves in such a fashion in order to exude sex appeal. Now, clothing does not have to be showing skin in order to encourage men to stumble. Just look at any eligible bachelorette. Even if the clothing isn’t technically unseemly in any way, the care put into cosmetics, jewelry, and hair styling is meant to convey their availability. This in of itself is attractive to men and let’s not lie to ourselves, eligible Christian women would not dress in such a way if they if they were not trying to attract attention from eligible men at the very least.
But this poses a conundrum. What attracts eligible men also biologically attracts ineligible men. I think the discerning eligible Christian woman must keep this in mind when assessing whether her adornment is modest. Further, ineligible Christian women have to be even more careful, as they have no practical purpose for adding the “accents” which accentuate their physical beauty, other than to puff up their own self-esteem.
This proclivity to exhibit pride in adornment to me appears as evil as the proclivity of men to want to look at women. Both are outward manifestations of something evil within the person’s heart, one lust and the other pride. Worse yet, the ineligible women have no practical purpose to warrant such adornment, so I think to flaunt one’s “charms” to be completely unnecessary and immodest.
Being that it is a given that men are weak in the physical attraction department, and women essentially live in full knowledge of this and dress accordingly, I believe only the exceedingly ignorant and unobservant can “dress to impress” and not realize that what they are doing is sin. But, this point aside, some would say, “Well, who are you to tell me how to dress, my conscience is not conflicted by it.” Good point. However, doesn’t the Scripture say not to give weaker believers, in this case men, an opportunity to stumble by what you yourself consider to be clean?
In the same way, Christian fathers and husbands should not encourage the woman under their headship to accentuate their physicality in such a way in which could cause other men to stumble. Men should not be so insecure that they feel the need to flaunt their wives around like objects. As for Christian parents wanting their daughters to take part in cheer leading, I just think that exhibits all sorts of wrongheadedness and ignorance.
Ultimately, we all stand before God and must give an account. May He have mercy on us in our ignorance and give us eyes to see where we fall short so we may please Him and edify others in His Church.