Monday, August 8, 2011

Modesty and Vanity in the Church

Over on Her.meneutics, the women's blog at ChristianityToday, there is an interesting article about modesty in the church.

I'm not really going to talk too much in detail about the article, which had some real strengths to it. One thing with which I strongly disagree, however, is their primary reason why we should be modest--to avoid the causing of sin of lust in others.

This is a common mantra among Christians, particularly those in evangelical circles. And certainly there is some truth to it: some women dress provocatively, specifically to encourage men to lust. I need not say the obvious - this is wrong.

But I have two problems with this being the primary argument for modesty. First, there is only so much that we can hold a person responsible for someone else's sins. Ultimately--even if the women dressed provocatively on purpose--if a man sins in lustful thoughts, the sin is his alone. The fact that she dressed to induce it is not a mitigating factor. You cannot tie her sin or lack of sin to the resultant action of another. If she is an ugly woman and dressing in such a way does not inspire lust, does that mean that she did not sin? Or if a woman is sexy, dresses modestly, and still inspires lust, is she the one at fault? You see the flaw in the logic: women are responsible for their motivations in why they dress a certain way; men are responsible for their own lustfulness regardless of whether a woman was careless (or even purposeful) in creating a greater temptation.

But there is a bigger issue here. We cannot battle immodesty if we do not understand it. Immodesty is not an attempt to cause others to sin. It is a cry for love and appreciation - it is vanity, at its heart. The desire to be appreciated and seen as beautiful.

And this vanity is not limited to women. Think of all the pastors with perfectly coiffed hair and frosted tips and flawless speaking styles. Think of the men with the fake tans and perfect bodies--done purely to gain the approval of others. Think of the rising megachurch worship itself, full of pomp and multimedia and flash and captivation. It is all vanity. It is all, at its heart, a desire to be accepted.

Okay, so it is vanity. How do we attack vanity? We attack vanity with the Gospel. The knowledge that we are loved, simply because of who we are--not because of the airs we put on. Women, you are captivating because God made you captivating. Immodest dress does not enhance this, but detracts from it. The same is true for men, and for worship, and for everything that we pour our vanities into--our shallow desires to be accepted and loved. They all stem from that same root: that same lie that the serpent told Eve: that God would withhold good from us, that He does not love us as He should.

God loves you. Just as you are. Warts and all. And He won't love you any more just because you cover those warts with makeup.


  1. Why do you have to hate on my perfect hair, flawless speaking style, and fake tan? We'll at least the perfect hair part... the amount that I have remaining.

  2. You caught me man - all just jealousy. Although you can certainly grow a mean moustache...and I have some photo evidence if needbe.

  3. Why not express yourself through clothing and hair styles. I think looking are best makes us feel more attactive and confident. It would be silly if we all dressed sloppy, didn't comb our hair, women went without any make-up (just plain scary). It's not vanity, it's working with what you have and feeling good about yourself as you interact with others. Such nonsense and hype the chuch always puts on things.

  4. Because we are to be expressing Christ, and not ourselves. The article reminded you that God loves and cares for you, because you are incredibly special. Where did the author say to dress and act as if you are junk ( sloppy)? It's not about presenting your self, it is presenting Christ, Who is awesome, and in you, and creates love for others in your heart. Such nonsense and hype the world and pop psychology always put on us.