Immodesty: A Forgotten Sin?

Recently someone asked our blogging team to take on the challenge of dealing with immodesty.  One does not have to think more than 30 seconds to see some of the challenges.

Challenge #1:

Let’s pretend that you were browsing a National Geographic magazine.  In this particular issue there were two articles related to areas of the world where clothes are simply optional.  Would you say that they are immodest?  Or would you excuse that behavior as part of their culture (they don’t have easy access to a mall, Meijer, or even Wal-Mart)?  I suspect that many of you would not really think much about it.  You would read the article and move on.

The situation is very different, however, when one sees a skimpy dressed model on the cover of Cosmopolitan with a headline of “10 great tips to drive your man crazy in bed.”

Even if the “tips” article has nothing to do with who is on the cover, it will not take very long for those browsing at the checkout line to put those two pieces together.  Isn’t that what the editors want?  Don’t they want us to draw that connection?  Would this lady be immodest?  If you had your 13 year old son standing with you, would you say she is immodest?

Challenge #2:

Am I being immodest when the doctor asks me to remove some of my clothing for the purpose of an exam?  Most of us would probably say “no.” Could the doctor put me in a situation where he/she is causing me to immodest?  I will not give examples, but I think we can all think of a few.

So, does immodesty = skimpy or no clothing? I am not ready to make that equation.  After all, isn’t it possible to be “covered up” and still be immodest?

So, part of the challenge is giving a definition to immodesty that is flexible enough to cover these bases.  Immodesty might be better defined as “the desire to draw attention to oneself and encourage others to view you as “attractive” or “sexy” through the means of revealing clothing to persons who should not view you this way or see what you are showing.” This last phrase attempts to solve one additional potential problem; namely, is it acceptable for a husband or wife to dress or reveal himself or herself to his or her beloved?  The answer is obvious.

It should be clear that immodesty is not simply defined by the lack or type of clothing, but it also involves the audience and the intended result.  Immodesty is an issue of the heart, not simply an issue of what one puts on their body.

Using this definition of immodesty makes it pretty clear that immodesty is a sin.  It is selfish rather than selfless (as Christ would encourage Phil 2:5-11), it is loveless since you are intentionally encouraging others to sin (1 Cor 8-10 clearly explains how loving others encourages us not to do things that might cause them to stumble), and it is prideful since you want others to notice you (as opposed to the humility God encourages in James 4:6).

So, are you immodest?

  • Do you want others viewing you as a “10”?
  • Do you want others to think sexual thoughts about you?
  • Are you exercising freedom in a way that cares little for those who see you?

If so, please repent.  Then, check your wardrobe and make sure you dress in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor 10:31) and gives first place to Jesus (2 Cor 5:9).  Overcoming immodesty requires that you see the cross of Jesus as more important than the way others see you.

Rob Green
Pastor Rob Green oversees Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. A seasoned counselor, Rob also teaches others how to counsel--through FBCM's training conferences and Faith Bible Seminary's MABC program.