A Response to Sharon Hodde Miller on the Modest is hottest debate

Womans in different dresses sit on sofa

Sharon Hodde Miller wrote a piece for ChristianityToday.com back in 2011 about how the ‘Modest is Hottest’ movement was hurting young women. I was not blogging back then, and in fact had not heard of this movement until recently. I have a 12 year old daughter and we have been exploring what our family believes Biblical modesty to be.

From other posts I have read of Mrs. Miller, she could rightly be understood as a Christian feminist, I do not say that to discredit her work, but only to offer a little background on where she is coming from in her thought processes.

The main site for “Modest is Hottest” can be found at http://www.modestishottest.com/

Sharon Hodde Miller’s response to this movement can be found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/december/how-modest-is-hottest-is-hurting-christian-women.html?start=1

In this post I will primarily be examining Mrs. Miller’s response, and showing where I agree and disagree with her critique.

Mrs. Miller writes:

“The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

This is the typical teaching of feminists that the problem is not with women, but with men. We need to teach men to stop seeing women as sexual objects, but as people, or so we are told.

In the Feminist, and Christian feminist mindset, it is practically impossible for a man to see women as both people and objects sexual beauty and desire, it is either one, or the other in their view.

If anything, most feminists actually think men can have their minds reprogrammed, to sort of have a “sexual on and off switch”. So that only when it is appropriate, for instance in the context of a committed relationship, or in marriage would a man ever be sexually attracted to a woman. But the idea of men being attracted to women, minus any relationship context, is pure evil to the Feminist and her cousin the Christian Feminist.

I actually have had discussions with some Christians (some who are feminists and some who are not) who believe that a man being sexually attracted to women before marriage, or being attracted to other women other than his wife after marriage, is part of the corruption of sin from the fall in the Garden of Eden. They believe that God’s original plan was that man would only desire a woman sexually after marriage, and then only that woman, and no other woman.

The problem is, this kind of thinking is never supported from the Scriptures. God made men polygamous in nature, and his Word even regulates how polygamy may occur. Many of the great Patriarchs of the Bible, including Jacob the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, were polygamists. God pictures himself as a polygamist with two wives (Judah and Israel) in prophecy.

You can read in more detail about what the Bible says about Polygamy from my series:

Why polygamy is not unbiblical

The reason I have said all this is – goes back to Mrs. Miller’s assertion about men seeing women as sexual objects and that is the problem we should focus on – in her view. I would not disagree with the fact that there are men who purely see women as sex objects, completely divorced from their person-hood, and that is Biblically wrong behavior. God wants men to respect and honor women as human beings, and he wants them treated with human dignity.

But that does not change the fact that men seeing women as objects of sexual beauty and desire is NOT the problem here, it is not a defect, it is by the design of God. A man desiring women’s beauty, is symbolic of God desiring the beauty of his church. That is why God has designed women to want to be beautiful, and why he has designed men to be attracted to the beauty of women.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…”

Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

Just as God desire’s the beauty of his church, so too as symbol of that spiritual relationship, he designed man to naturally desire the beauty of women. That is why men are much more visually oriented then women most of the time. This is not some mistake of the fall – it is by design.

The Early Church fathers and their anti-woman teachings

Now where I have some agreement with Mrs. Miller is when she writes about Christians teaching that women needed to cover themselves as to not cause their brothers in Christ to “stumble”, and the fact that a woman’s body is said to be “beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

She alludes to the harsh teachings of some of the early church fathers against women.

“Of course, this language isn’t new. Consider how profoundly the female identity has been negatively linked to her body throughout church history. For several decades now, feminist theologians have critiqued the mind-body dualism by which Christians have equated men with the mind and women with the carnal body. Citing Eve as the original “gateway for the Devil,” thinkers such as Tertullian have peppered Christian tradition with hostility toward the wiles of femininity. Origen likened women to animals in their sexual lust. According to author Jane Billinghurst, “Early Christian men who had to greet women during church services by shaking their hands were advised to first wrap their hands in robes so as to shield their flesh against their seductive touch.””

First let’s understand something, only the Apostles were inerrant in their writings and teachings on Christian doctrine, because they were directly and perfectly guided by the Holy Spirit of God. Their followers who came later, and other church teachers who lived years after them were not perfect or inspired in their teachings. They wrote some good commentary on the Scriptures at times, but they also fell into heresy.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2 fighting against this errors that were creeping into the church, the errors of Gnosticism and Asceticism. Unfortunately, not long after the Apostles deaths, and for centuries to come, church fathers like Origen, Jerome, Ignatius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all came to embrace and teach the false doctrines of Christian Asceticism.

Christian Asceticism taught that all forms of physical pleasure were wrong, and that the body was completely evil in every way. They actually looked at sex as a necessary evil for reproduction, as opposed to a gift from God and part of his grand design. It was common for church leaders to have Christian married couples who already had children to take vows of celibacy and never have sex anymore. Because of this false belief about sexuality and physical pleasure, they came to see women as the enemy because of how men could desire them, and this desire was seen as sinful.

So we have on one side, Feminists and Christian feminists say it is wrong for men to see women as objects of sexual desire, and on the other side we have the Christian Ascetics and many of their teachings that still survive to this day saying almost the same thing.

The reality is – both sides are WRONG. Men are not wrong in seeing women as both people and objects of sexual beauty and desire, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact the only way to understand sexuality in a healthy manner as God designed it to be.

Sexual desire before marriage, and physical sexual consummation after marriage are by the design of God. There is nothing dirty, or shameful about this truth, and no man needs to apologize for his visual sexual nature, or the fact that he can be sexually attracted to a woman without knowing anything about her person. Where the right and wrong come in, is what he does with that natural sexual desire, does he channel it within the bounds of God’s law, does he treat these women with respect, and does he keep the physical consummation of sex for marriage?

Mrs. Miller writes near the end of her article:

“…we must affirm the value of the female body. The value or meaning of a woman’s body is not the reason for modesty. Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting. On the contrary, women’s bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! Each womanly part honors Him. He created the female body, and it is good.

Finally, language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body. Men and women are urged to pursue a modesty by which our glory is minimized and God’s is maximized. The body, the spirit and the mind all have a created role that is inherently God-centered. When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.”

When I read this line from her the first time – “Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting” I almost fell out of my chair laughing! Only a Christian Feminist could write such non-sense! I am sorry, but common sense tells us women’s bodies are in fact “distracting and tempting” to men. Not only common sense proves this, but years of scientific research into the area of male sexuality proves how visually wired men are, and how they are distracted and tempted by the female body.

But we have to ask ourselves again, is this wrong? Or is it by the design of God? I know Christians are saying – “God would never want us to be tempted to do anything wrong” – and you are absolutely correct. But that is why I would take the word tempted, and replace it with “attracted”.

Men are distracted by the female form, because they are attracted to the female form. One reason that I alluded to earlier that man is attracted to the beauty of woman is, this is symbolic of God’s attraction to the spiritual beauty of his Church.

But this attraction to women’s bodies that God designed in men, has a second purpose. It also has the purpose of driving men to pursue women, to pursue marriage and having children. Neither feminists, nor church leaders should shame men for this very strong attraction to women, they ought to be praising God for it! The human race would not be here today, except for the strong attraction of men to beautiful women!

So I 100% agree with Mrs. Miller when she writes “Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord!” That is an absolutely Biblical statement to make.

I also agree with Mrs. Miller that we need to have an “understanding” about the female “body’s created role”. While all human beings were ultimately created for the honor and glory of God, our bodies were also created for some very practical and physical purposes in this life and world.

God not only created woman for his own glory, but he also specifically created woman for man. Thus her body is also created for man – this is the female body’s “created role”.

“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:9(KJV)

Does this mean a woman was created only for man’s sexual pleasure? Of course not! She was created to be a helpmeet to him. She was created to “bear children” and “guide the house”, to be his companion and mother to his children.

But there is no escaping the fact that a large part of the “created role” of a woman’s body was for the visual and sexual pleasure of man. Her body is both visually attractive, and physically pleasurable to a man, and this is not by accident, but by design. A woman’s body is given to man as a blessing, to be enjoyed.

“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:”

Genesis 49:25(KJV)

“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”

Proverbs 5:18-19(KJV)

“I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.”

Song of Solomon 8:10(KJV)

Did you know human females are the only mammals on the planet that have constantly protruding breasts? Other mammal’s breasts only protrude when they are pregnant, or nursing and after nursing the protruding breasts go away. God design a human female’s breasts to constantly protrude, for the visual and physical pleasure it gives to men before and after they bare and wean their children.

So the next time a wife says to her husband when he looks at her breasts – “those are for babies, not for you”, that is actually a very unbiblical statement to make. If they were just for babies, they would disappear after nursing, like they do on all other mammals, but instead God design them for the pleasure of man.

I would encourage the reader to look at my posts Why God made woman and How God made woman for a lot more detail on this subject of how God designed a woman’s body and why he designed it the way he did.

Conclusion

I disagree with both the “Modest is hottest” crowd on one side, and the Christian feminist crowd on the other side (represented here by Mrs. Miller). The Biblical truth lies in the middle of these two extremes. A woman should dress modestly – meaning appropriate to the occasion. If she is at the beach, then a bikini might be appropriate to that occasion. If she is going to church, she needs to be fully clothed. A woman ought not to dress like a prostitute, but at the same time she does not have to hide her beauty.

A woman does not need to dress in a way that hides her body from men in order to not “cause them to stumble”. A woman does not need to be ashamed of the beautiful body God has given her, and a man does not need to be ashamed of being attracted to women’s beautiful bodies. God calls us to self-control, and to not have covetous thoughts. So if a man is appreciating a beautiful woman’s body, whether at the beach or elsewhere, no sin has occurred. But if he begins to sexually covet her (lust after), by thinking of ways he could get her to have sex with him outside of marriage, then he has stepped outside of God’s boundaries and his design.

See these related posts to this topic:

What is Biblical Lust?

What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9?

7 Biblical principles for how to dress as a christian woman

 

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Does God want a wife’s beauty hidden from world?

Standing girl in checked dress. Isolated with clipping path

Does God want women to hide their beauty in order to “save it” for their husband? Does God want women to hide their beauty so that other men may not lust after them?

While there are some subtle differences, this is actually one of a few things that Muslims, Jews and Christians have in common. The only difference is in how far each side goes with their teaching. The two reasons taught in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for a woman covering her beauty are these:

  1. A woman’s beauty belongs to her husband, or if she is unmarried, her future husband and it is his alone to enjoy in private.
  2. A woman should cover her beauty as to not cause other men to lust and thus sin against God even if only in their sexual thoughts.

Does the Bible say a woman’s beauty belongs to her husband?

Some might point to I Corinthians 7:4 to say that a wife’s body(and therefore her beauty) belongs to her husband.  I would have too in times past.  But if we look closely and examine this passage it is talking about the equal right of a husband and wife to have sexual access to each others body for the purposes of sex.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”

I Corinthians 7:4(KJV)

But this is not talking about exhaustive ownership of each other’s bodies in all ways because one who is to be in subjection(I Peter 3:1-2,Ephesians 5:22-24) – the wife, cannot own the one who is her master – the husband.

God made wives the property of their husbands

There are some relationships in Scripture where the submission of one to another does not involve the ownership of one by the other. Examples of this would be the Biblical admonition to citizens to submit to civil governments and for church members to submit to their church leaders.  God does not give governments ownership rights over their citizens and he does not give church leaders ownership rights over their members. These two spheres of authority are limited in their powers and jurisdictions.

But God established some spheres of human authority where ownership of human property is either allowed(such as slavery under certain circumstances) or ownership is simply implied such as the relationship between a father and his children or a husband and his wife.

The ownership of the wife by the husband is confirmed in the 10th commandment where a man’s wife is included in a list of his possessions:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

Again in the book of  Deuteronomy a man’s wife is included in his possessions:

And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.”

Deuteronomy 20:5-7 (KJV)

These possessions all belonged to the man and he had the right to make use of them.  In fact he was encouraged to make use of these possessions.

There are many that falsely attack the Bible based on these and other passages saying that the Bible makes a woman a possession that is no more valuable than cattle(Exodus 20:17) and a peace of land(Deuteronomy 20:5-7).

Another way of saying their argument is “If a woman is owned by her husband then she has no value as a person”.

But this could not be farther from the truth.  While it conflicts with our modern values a person can be owned by another and yet have great value. The Bible says Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 31:10). I don’t know about you – but I think rubies are far more valuable than a house, cattle or a vineyard!

Also the Bible calls on husbands to give honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel(I Peter 3:7).  So just because women are the property of their husbands does not mean husbands can treat them the same as their cattle.  This a false argument proposed by those who do understand the Biblical concept of human property verses the world’s concept of human property.

I find it utterly fascinating that people have no problem if you made this statement “Christ owns his Church” yet they go utterly bonkers if you say “A husband owns his wife”.  Yet the Scriptures clearly show that the husband/wife relationship was designed as a  picture of the relationship of Christ and his Church:

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:22-24 (KJV)

How does the Church relate to Christ? As an equal partner? No my friends.  The church relates to Christ as her owner and master. She conforms herself to his will.

The husband/wife relationship was not only the first human authority relationship that God designed, but it was in fact the most powerful human authority relationship that God ever designed. 

It surpasses the jurisdictions and powers of civil government, church government and even parents toward their children. In no other human relationship are we told that the one under authority is to submit to the other as “unto the Lord” or literally as unto God himself.

Our culture utterly rejects the concept of a husband owning his wife because we worship the false god of equality rather than the one true God of the Bible.

Fifty years ago what I am teaching here was heard in pulpits across America but now because of the rise feminism Pastor’s fear teaching these truths for fear of being called male chauvinists or misogynists. Many Pastor’s and Christian teachers have actually convinced themselves that these teachings of the Scriptures are for times past and do not apply to our modern era.  They live in a constant state of self-denial when it comes to the truth of the Scriptures in these matters.

As a result this capitulation to feminism, in the last half century the Church has made an unholy alliance with our culture and has allowed the husband/wife authority sphere to be made into the weakest of  all authority spheres. But God’s Word has not changed even if our culture has.

I say all that to say this. 

The Bible clearly teaches that wives are not only to submit to their husbands in everything but that they are in fact the property of their husbands. A wife’s body and her beauty does in fact belong to her husband.

So does a husband have the right to organize his wife’s appearance as he would the appearance his vineyard? Of course he does.

The Bible even shows that Christ molds his church to his own liking:

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Ephesians 5:25-27(KJV)

Again this passage is one that has been so twisted and warped because of feminist influences on our churches today.  We hear Pastors quote verse 25 of Ephesians chapter five telling husbands that they need to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did the Church. But then they do not tell you what the point of his sacrifice was!

Was it to appease his Church and give her whatever she wants? Was it to let her do her own thing? Was it just to make her happy? No my friends it was not.  It was to make her holy and pleasing to him.  It was so he could present her to himself the way he wanted her to be.

I know it took us a while to get to this point but it was necessary for us to build this foundation first. The Bible is utterly clear that a wife is not only to submit to her husband but that she is his property. The Bible further confirms this ownership relationship by telling us that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of Christ and his Church and Christ conforms his church to his will and molds her as he would to present her to himself in all her glory.

So, not only in the area of sexuality, but in all areas of life a woman is to submit to her husband.  That means in the area of how a wife dresses and how she keeps her body and appearance her husband does have the ultimate authority. Her appearance should be made to please her husband – including what she wears.

Since a husband has authority over how his wife dresses, does this mean he is required to keep her beauty from the outside world and only for himself in private?

The Bible never commands a husband to hide his wife’s beauty from the world.

Except for if a husband asks his wife to do something sinful, he has absolute authority over his wife. So technically speaking, if a husband asks his wife to completely cover herself in a burqa Biblically speaking, she ought to obey her husband.

But the real question is – should he force his wife to completely cover her body from head to toe when she is outside their home or in the presence of non-family men?

My answer would to Christian husbands be NO. While a husband’s authority over his wife is almost absolute (besides him asking his wife to engage in sinful activity) – God commands a husband to exercise his authority toward his wife in love, in honor, and in knowledge of how she is made as a woman.

A husband is commanded to honor his wife and live with her in a knowledgeable way

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

I Peter 3:7(KJV)

Yes husbands have authority over their wives – but God gives a solemn warning to husbands. If a husband does not live with his wife in a knowledgeable way, and give honor to her, God will not hear his prayers.

One of the ways a husband is knowledgeable of his wife is by accepting her natural desire to be beautiful and to display her beauty. He honors her by displaying her beauty for all to see.

WomansBeautyGermanDirndl

Women have a natural desire to display their beauty

A common theme you see throughout this site is – God designed man and woman in distinctive ways to represent very important symbols. Yes beauty fades, as does our short lives here on earth, but God’s symbolism in man and woman existed long before we did, and it will continue long after we are gone.

God purposefully designed a woman to want to be beautiful, because he desires the beauty of his Church.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.  She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…”

Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

In this prophecy it shows that the King (symbolic of God) desires the beauty of his wife, the daughter (symbolic of the Church) is made “glorious” with clothing that is “gold” and “raiment of needlework”.

As we mentioned previously regarding Christ and the Church, Christ wants to  “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing“(Ephesians 5:27)

Just as God wants his Church to be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish, so too a woman naturally desires to keep up her appearance. Why do wrinkles and the aging process bother women more than men? Why do women want to cover up facial blemishes with makeup and most men could care less?

The reason is because a woman is wired to make herself beautiful, her desire to be physically beautiful is symbolic of the Church’s desire to be beautiful for God.

Does the Bible call on men to hide their wife’s beauty so other men will not lust?

Absolutely not!

Not one place in all of Scripture, does the Bible say a man has to hide his wife’s beauty from other men so they will not lust. There is nothing wrong with other men appreciating the beauty of another man’s wife. There is nothing wrong with other men even being sexually aroused by the beauty of another man’s wife. Lust occurs when a man thinks about how he may get another man’s wife to sleep with him, Biblically speaking, lust is covetousness.

See my post What does the Bible say about Lust for more the subject of Lust from a Biblical perspective.

But shouldn’t a woman take every step to not cause other men to stumble?

Since appreciation of a wife’s beauty can lead to sexual arousal, and sexual arousal might eventually lead to sexual covetousness (lust), shouldn’t we avoid even the possibility of that by keeping our women covered from head to toe?

Again – this is man adding his own logic to God’s ways. Paul even warns against adding human rules with this type of thinking:

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

Colossians 2:20-23(NASB)

We are not to take away from God’s law, and we are not to add to God’s law. Many have done this (adding to God’s law), even with good intentions. We are to follow God’s Law as it is written, we are not to stray to the left, or to the right.

Where the Scriptures are silent, and thus allow freedom, we should be silent and let each man decide in his conscious before God. Where the Scriptures speak clearly, we ought to speak clearly.

Does this mean husbands should let their wives run around naked?

Earlier I mentioned that a husband honors his wife by displaying her beauty for the world to see. That does not mean I think husbands should encourage their wives to walk everywhere naked for the world to see.

There are lines and even we as Christians may sometimes disagree as to where those lines are. Here are some opinions I have seen from those who believe in the strict covering of women, whether they be strict Christian men, or even strict Muslim men:

  1. If you’re going to let your wife show her hair and face in public, she might as well go around naked.
  2. If you’re going to let your wife show her bare arms or legs in public, she might as well go around naked.
  3. If you’re going to let your wife show cleavage on her shirt or blouse, she might as well go around naked.
  4. If you’re going to let your wife dress in tight clothes, or a tang top and shorts then you might as well let her go around naked.

I could list a lot more opinions on the subject, but I think these four make my point. Most Christians would not have a problem with a woman showing her face and hair publically, but many Muslims do, and they would use the exact logic I have above to be opposed to it.

I have attended Christian churches, and attend a Baptist church now, where many men in including our Pastor, would embrace the opinion in point number four above. I personally disagree with all 4 points above.

WomansBeautyInShorts

I believe there is a time and place for different types of dress, but if it is a hot day and we are playing volley ball and my wife were to wear a tang top and shorts, I would have no problem with this whatsoever. There is no Scripture which forbids her from doing so, unless I as her husband and authority told her not to.

But what about women who don’t desire to be beautiful, or to publically display their beauty?

Let’s come back to the symbolism in God’s design of man and woman. God designed man with a natural instinct to want to lead, provide and protect. But some men, because of either how they were brainwashed growing up, or because of sin they were born with, have no desire to lead, provide and protect. God still calls on these men to lead, provide and protect, whether they have a desire to or not.

It is the same way with women. Even if a woman does not have a natural desire to make herself beautiful, she should cultivate that desire because her beauty is much more than physical, it represents an eternal spiritual symbolism and that is what God wants her to do.

See my post 6 Reasons Why women hide their beauty for more on this subject.

Conclusion

The Bible does say a woman’s body belongs to her husband, but it never says that because her beauty belongs to him that it must be hidden from the world and only revealed to him in private. The Bible also tells men to lead their wives in love, in honor and in knowledge of their nature as a woman. A husband should not hide his wife’s beauty, but should proudly display it to the world as Christ seeks to display the glory of his Church to this world.

He should shower his wife with compliments of how beautiful she is. Even if his wife is shy, he should gently and lovely help to cultivate a sense of beauty in her that her beauty matters not only to him, but also to God.

Never in any passage, does the Bible tell women they need to cover themselves so as not to cause other men to lust after them. If a man lusts after a woman (sexually covets her) that is between him and God.

6 Reasons a woman may not want to display her beauty

Whywomenhidebeauty

Why would a woman not want to display her beauty? Why would she want to wear clothing that hides her skin, her form or even her face and hair? As part of a broader series on women’s dress and beauty I wanted to tackle these questions here in a separate post.

These are 6 reasons women typically hide their beauty:

Reason #1 – Some women believe God only wants their beauty displayed to their husbands privately

Many devout religious women, both Christian and non-Christian (such as the Muslim and Amish Christian women above), hide their beauty for religious reasons. They truly believe that God wants them to hide their beauty, and he only wants them to display it privately for their husbands.

Reason #2 – Some women believe they will lead men to sinful thoughts if they display their beauty

The same devout religious women who hide their beauty only for their husbands in private, often hide their beauty for a second reason. They believe if they display their beauty they may cause other men to have sexual thoughts towards them and thus fall into sin.

Reason #3 – Some women don’t want to be sexual objects for men’s viewing pleasure

Here we come to the first non-religious reason why some women hide their beauty. They hide it because they don’t want to be “objectified by men”. They don’t want men receiving pleasure from seeing their beauty.

Reason #4 – Some women don’t believe they are beautiful

Some women simply do not believe they are beautiful. They look around at other women they do not feel that they measure up, so they give up and hide their beauty.

Reason #5 – Some women are just plain lazy

Some women have no religious, political, or emotional reason for hiding their beauty. They are just simply lazy and do not want to take the time to properly display their beauty.

Reason #6 – Some women are forbidden by their culture or their husbands from displaying their beauty

Some women would love to display their beauty in public, but either their husband or their culture forbid them from doing so.

A plea to Christian women who hide their beauty on religious grounds

First and foremost, if you are not a Christian, I invite you to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, because he and his Word will change your life and outlook forever if you let him.

There is a simple undeniable truth in God’s creation – man was built for function, woman was built for beauty. A woman’s beauty is symbolic of the beauty of Christ’s Church.

God did not make you the beautiful creature that you are, only for you to hide your beauty. He meant for your beauty to be displayed to the world. As believers we may believe in different standards of how and where we display that beauty, but we should be able to agree that God meant a woman’s beauty to be on display for all to see.

God gave you the unique form you have, your beautiful hair, face, eyes, lips, breasts, hips and legs as works of art. He did not intend for you to wear clothing that is so baggy or bulky that someone could not discern your form as a woman.

Yes God call’s women to modesty (I Timothy 2:9), but modesty means “appropriateness”. It means you should wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion that you are in. You certainly should not wear shorts and tang top to worship in Church. But this same clothing would appropriate for a summer picnic with friends or playing volleyball at the beach.

God does not want women dressing like prostitutes, but there is nothing wrong with a woman wearing a sexier form fitting dress for a night on the town with her husband.

Nothing in the Bible says anything about you dressing to not lead other men into lust (sexual covetousness) – check it out for yourself, this is never a motivator for a Christian woman dresses. You dress for God, and for your husband. Please read my post on What does the Bible say about Lust to learn what it actually says, verses what many churches teach on this subject.

Please see my post – 7 Principles for how a Christian woman should dress For Biblical guidelines to follow on how to dress as a Christian woman.

A plea to women who don’t want to be objects for men’s viewing pleasure

If you are this type of woman, I am most likely talking to a feminist. You don’t like how society sees women as sexual objects for men’s pleasure. Your dress style is a protest against the culture. If you are not a Christian, I invite you to call on Christ today to save you and let him change your life. If you are a Christian then I invite you to reexamine your world view in light of God’s Word. The Bible is clear that God made woman for man, and for many reasons. One of those reasons is for him to experience her beauty.

In the same way that God experiences pleasure from the beauty of his church, men are meant to experience pleasure from the beauty of women around them. God meant for women to want to be beautiful, and he wired men to appreciate that beauty.

Your war against God’s creation, and his design, will never make you happy. Only when you surrender to God’s will and his design, will you finally find peace.

A plea to women who don’t think they are beautiful

Perhaps you are a woman that never had a father to tell you that you were beautiful. Maybe you did have a dad, but he always made you feel bad about yourself. Maybe you have an idea based on what you see on TV or in the stores that you don’t measure up to what is considered “beautiful” in our culture.

If you did not have a father that made you feel beautiful, I am very sorry about that. But the good news is, you have a heavenly father who does believe you are beautiful. He created you, he thinks you are wonderful. He wants you to accentuate your beauty in the best way that you can.

Are some women more beautiful than others? Yes. To say otherwise, would be a blatant falsehood. But that does not mean that each woman cannot be beautiful in her own way.

I wrote an entire post on this subject of finding your beauty in – What if I don’t have an hour glass figure?

A plea to lazy women

So you simply don’t care how you look? Maybe you are married, maybe you are not. Even if you are not married, God calls you to do your best at whatever you do:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

Colossians 3:23(NIV)

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I Corinthians 10:31(NIV)

So whether you are married or single, God expects your best in all areas of your life. You need to make yourself as beautiful as you can, in honor of God. When you are married, then you have even more reason to keep yourself beautiful in honor and respect of your husband.

A plea to husbands who force their wives to hide their beauty

Husbands – God has given you a beautiful work of art in your wife. He did not intend for you take the gift he gave you and hide it away from the world. God made your wife to want to be beautiful, and for her to want to display her beauty to the world. God wants you to honor your wife by letting her display her beauty in tasteful ways that do not bring shame to him or you. Please see my post Does God want a wife’s beauty hidden from world? for more on this subject from a husband’s point of view.

7 Biblical Principles for how to dress as a Christian woman

Beautiful summery girl

Does God care about how you as a Christian women dress? Does the Bible provide guidelines for how a Christian woman should dress?

If you are looking for an exact dress code, down to lengths of clothing and what parts of your body must be covered when and where you will find no such thing in the Bible. However, if you are looking for Biblical principles that can guide you as Christian a woman in how to dress the Bible does give these principles.

Here are some Biblical principles for women’s dress that should guide you as you select your clothing, whether it is when you purchase it, or when you are choosing when to wear it.

Principle #1 – Your physical beauty is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of the Church

Your beauty is symbolic of the beauty of the church.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…” -Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

In Ephesians 5, where Paul talks about marriage being symbolic of the relationship of Christ to his Church he writes:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:25-27(KJV)

Just as God wants his Church to be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish, so too a woman should keep up her appearance, not only for her husband if she is married, but also out of respect for the symbolism for which God designed her.

So when you as a woman dress, you should accentuate your beauty knowing that your physical beauty, is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of Christ’s Bride, the Church. You dress first and foremost to please God and to show the beauty of his creation – which is you!

Principle #2 – You should dress appropriately for the occasion

Contrary to the modern meaning of modesty, the Biblical meaning of a woman dressing modestly means that women are to dress “appropriately”. Modesty is such a huge subject, and especially the interpretation of passages such as I Timothy 2:9 that I needed to write an entire separate post on the topic. You can find it here at What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

In summary though, dressing modestly Biblically speaking does not specifically mean “not dressing in a sexual way”. It means to dress appropriately for the occasion. So while it may be perfectly acceptable for you to wear a bikini to the beach, it would not be appropriate for you to wear a bikini to a job (unless you are a life guard or a model) or to a church service.

Principle #3 – You should dress in feminine clothing

Someone should be able to look at your clothes wherever you go, and just by your clothing they should be able to tell you are a woman. Yes clothing styles change, but a woman should always look like a woman in her culture (whatever women wear) and a man should look like a man (whatever men wear).

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” -Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV)

This passage from Deuteronomy does not forbid a woman from wearing pants (yes there are some Christians who still teach this). There was a time in our culture and history where pants were strictly the purview of men, and at those times it may have been wrong for a woman to wear pants, especially when there were no pants designed especially for women. But fashions and styles do change, and women have pants now that are made and cut especially for them, and these pants are pants a man would not be caught dead in.

In Roman society, before 200 BC, men and women both wore togas. After 200 BC women began to wear stolas and only prostitutes still wore togas like men. Before 200 BC, when men and women both wore togas, the only difference may have been a colorful belt or the color of the material that would have separated a man from a woman. Even after 200 BC, peasant men and women still both wore tunics for their daily work. Only color variations or belts may have separated them.

This would be exactly the same as men and women both wearing pants today – there is no issue with this as long as the woman’s pants communicate a feminine style as we understand it in our culture.

Nice woman in a pink dress

Principle #4 – You should dress to please your husband

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

God wants women to submit to their husbands in everything.  Everything includes how you dress and how you manage your appearance as well as many other things.

When you are married, you should dress to please your husband. Find out what colors he likes on you, find out what styles he likes and try to wear those types of clothes.

This also means you should dress sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances. If you know your husband will be taking you out for a night on the town, why not go pick up some sexy dress to wear for him? If you doubt whether this is right or wrong, I invite you read my post I referred to earlier What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

There is nothing wrong with you looking sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances, whether that is wearing lingerie for him at home, or wearing a sexy dress for a night on the town, or wearing a sexy bathing suit for a trip to beach. Your body is work of art that God has graciously gifted to your husband, and you should not be hiding your beauty.

Principle #5 – Don’t be lazy with your appearance

Yes big tee shirts and sweats are more comfortable than wearing attractive clothing. But as a Christian woman your appearance is important to God (see principle #1). If you are married, God has given you to your husband and your appearance should be (and most likely will be) important to him (see principle #4).

As believers, and specifically as a Christian woman, God wants you to do everything you can to the best of your ability. It is one thing if you are sick, or if you are doing some work around the house then your clothing might not be as attractive. But besides those limited times, a woman has duty to keep up her appearance, not only for God but also for her husband.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

Colossians 3:23(NIV)

Modern Christian women today mock the women of the 1950’s who prided themselves in making themselves pretty before their husbands came home from work – what was wrong with that? This is what God wants from Godly Christian women.

Does this mean you have to have a dress and nylons on each day and go to the beauty salon before your husband gets home? Of course not. But what it means is making sure you have showered, that you have done your hair and maybe you have an attractive pair of jeans on with a nice shirt when you husband gets home.

You should not view this as some dreary task, but it should be looked at as a privilege and honor that is given you by God, your ability to make yourself beautiful!

Principle #6 – What others think does and does not matter

This is a very important principle for you as a Christian woman to understand.

In some cases it does matter what others think of how you are dressed. If you as a Christian woman wear the wrong clothing for the wrong occasion, it might offend others and also bring shame on Christ if they know you are a Christian.

You can wear a bikini to the beach, but if you wore it to Church others would be offended, and they would be right in being offended, because that is inappropriate attire for Church (see I Timothy 2:9).

But let’s turn the bikini situation around when you go to the beach. If you and your husband are going to the beach and you happen to be wearing a bikini, and there happens to be a family there from church they need to leave that between you and the Lord. The only exception I would say to this is if you were specifically going to the beach with a family whom you knew were opposed to bikinis, then temporarily out of respect you might not wear one in that instance.

You should not be picking dresses out for a night on the town with your husband, with the thought in your mind of “what would this person think or that person from church think if they saw me wearing this with him” – your thoughts should only be of two people, God and your husband.

God is not ashamed of your beauty, your husband is not ashamed of your beauty, and neither should you be ashamed of your beauty.

Principle #7 – Do not hide your beauty from other men for fear of causing lust

Many Christian women have since the early days of the church dressed with this idea in mind – that they cannot wear nice things for their husband or show their figure as they may cause other men to lust in doing so.  If you believe that Church tradition trumps Biblical theology, then I can’t help you. But if you understand that well-meaning men and women (even some Church fathers who came after the Apostles) added a lot of tradition to God’s Word then I can help you.

I invite you to read my post on What does the Bible say about Lust to fully understand the issue of lust from a Biblical perspective. A summary of what I said in that post is that Lust is not the same as sexual arousal.

There is no shame in a woman displaying her beauty, and there is no shame in men appreciating that beauty or even being sexually aroused by that beauty. Before you reject that premise, please read the post I just mentioned. Sin comes with how men handle their sexual arousal, or appreciation of the female form.

If he begins to think of how he can actually get you to go to bed with him (and you are not married) then those have become lustful thoughts, sexually covetous thoughts. But as a Christian woman you don’t have to go around at all time with a sheet over your entire body from head to toe as to not cause men to lust after you.

No scripture ever teaches this concept, it is completely added by the traditions of men.

Conclusion

I hope as a Christian woman you will search the Scriptures. Then discuss this respectfully with your husband. If you need to make changes, then make them. Know that God wants your best in all areas of your life, and dressing in beautiful ways appropriate to the occasion is what God has called you to. Do not hide the beautiful work of art that God has made, but display it in ways that please both God and your husband.

What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9?

Standing girl in checked dress. Isolated with clipping path

I Timothy 2:9 is probably the most popular passage in all of Scripture that is taught by Christian teachers and preachers regarding how God want’s Christian women to dress.

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”

I Timothy 2:9 (KJV)

What is the context of I Timothy 2:9?

Some people interpret I Timothy 2:9 as applying to Christian women at all times, as opposed to being specifically targeted at how women should dress for worship and instruction in the Church Assembly. This a faulty interpretation.

One of the first rules of proper Biblical Hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture) is to take verses within the larger context of which they are written.

I Timothy, was a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a young church planter who was working under him. In the beginning of I Timothy Paul writes to Timothy:

“2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…”

I Timothy 1:2-3(KJV)

In the first chapter, Paul is encouraging to take on false teachers in the churches at Ephesus. In Chapter 2 of I Timothy, in verse 8 Paul moves to instructions for proper etiquette in worship and instruction in the Church assembly:

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. “

I Timothy 2:8-12(KJV)

Verse 8 is a clear jump into worship with men being told “to pray, lifting up holy hands”.

Paul’s ending of I Timothy, after giving the qualifications for Bishops and deacons, clearly gives the purpose for this entire first epistle to Timothy:

“14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

I Timothy 3:14-15(KJV)

But what about the phrase “every where” in verse 8?

Some in order to apply all parts of I Timothy to all parts of Christian life(not just Church assembly etiquette), have attempted to use the Paul’s phrase of “ever where” to mean this equally applies inside and outside the Church assembly meetings. This is an incorrect interpretation, as this phrase is means for Church assemblies “every where”. Paul makes it clear at the end of his Epistle that this entire letter is aimed at proper etiquette in the Church, taking on false teachers, and the qualifications of Bishops and Deacons.

Four key words in I Timothy 2:9

Now that we understand the context I Timothy, as apply to Church assembly etiquette, we will look at four key words that are found in this passage.

Modest – This is an English translation of the Greek word Kosmios, which means “seemly” or “appropriate”. In modern English, most people think of a woman dressing modest as, a woman dressing in a non-sexual manner. But this was not the meaning of the original word used by the Apostle Paul. Can sexually revealing clothing be “unseemly” or “inappropriate” on a woman in certain situations? But it is not specific to sexually revealing clothing.

With the word Kosmios, Paul is telling women to wear clothing that is appropriate for the given situation.

RomanWomensClothing

Apparel – This is an English translation of the Greek word Katastole, which comes from two Greek words, Kata and Stole. This literally refers to a “complete stola”. A stola in New Testament times was a one piece robe with holes for the head and arms. A variety of stolas women might of worn are pictured above. Often times a strap would be worn around the middle below the breasts to give the stola some form around the body. Sometimes a stola had sleeves, other times it was sleeveless.

When peasant women were working they might wear tunics (like men did), similar to this:

RomanManWearingTunic

The differences would have been in the coloring or extra straps worn by women.

When playing sports some Roman women actually wore bikinis as seen in this ancient Roman painting:

RomanBikini

 

Paul had just told women to wear appropriate clothing for worship and instruction with the Greek word Kosmios. Nowwith the word Katastole, he was telling women what the proper attire for Church worship and instruction was. They were to be fully clothed, as opposed to wearing tunics they may work in, or bikinis they might have played sports in.

Those Christians who still believe it is wrong for women to wear pants (and yes they are still out there and I grew up in Churches that taught this) take the Greek word stole, which refers to the Roman Stola’s that women war, and they go its most literal meaning – which means “long and flowing”. But this is not Paul’s intention in using this word. It was simply referring to what women in that day would understand as the dress that women generally wore when they went out to meetings and gatherings, or special occasions.

Paul is not saying that Christians must be frozen in time with fashion, and literally saying Christian women must wear ancient Roman stolas. If we take it that literally, then men can’t wear pants either, because men back in Paul’s day wore tunics and togas.

All Paul is saying is, it is appropriate and proper for a woman to be fully clothed and covered for Church gatherings.

Shamefacedness – this is an English translation of the Greek word Aidos, which means to show honor, respect or reverence to others. With Aidos, Paul was saying the attitude of a woman’s dress in the Church services was to be one of reverence for God, and respect for others.

Sobriety – this is an English translation of the Greek word Sophrosune, which means self-control. With Sophrosune, Paul was saying woman needed to dress for Church services in a way that showed self-control.

Is Paul forbidding women to have “broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”?

Paul is not saying it is wrong for Christian woman to have nice hair, jewelry or dresses. What he is saying is, the Church assembly should not turn into a fashion show. Unfortunately in many of our modern Churches today – that is just the case. Paul is not saying women cannot wear nice Sunday dresses, he is just saying women should not go overboard or be trying to compete with one another in what they wear for worship.

So if we take I Timothy 2:9 in its full context, understanding the key phrases in it, this is what Paul was trying to tell us:

“I want men in all church assemblies everywhere to lift up holy hands, and do not be angry and doubt. In these same church assemblies, I want women to wear clothing that is appropriate for Church worship and instruction. Women should be fully clothed, in clothing that shows respect and self-control when they come for worship and instruction. I don’t want you to turn the church assembly into a fashion show with broided hair, fancy jewelry and costly clothing. I am writing all this to you so you will know how to behave when the church is assembled for worship and instruction.”

There is one other place where the Apostle Peter mentions “braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses”:

“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

I Peter 3:1-4(NASB)

Here Peter makes a similar statement about women’s adornment. The word here translated as “dresses” in the NASB (and “apparel” in the KJV) comes from the Greek word Himation.  Himation simply refers to garments in general. It is a term that could apply to women or men’s garments depending on the context.

The context of I Peter 3:1-4 is not behavior specific to the Church assembly (as I Timothy is) but this is just talking about the general behavior of women as they go about their daily lives. This is not telling women that you cannot have your hair done, or wear jewelry or put on dresses. Even though the word “merely” is not in the original Greek, the NASB correctly adds this for emphasis as to what Peter is saying.

It is interesting to note there is no mention here of “Katastole,” referring to the more full and formal dress that Paul spoke of for women to wear in the Church assembly in I Timothy 2:9. Instead Peter refers simply to garments here.

Peter is saying a woman’s inner beauty is just as important as her outer beauty. Some Christians historically have incorrectly interpreted this passage as well as I Timothy 2 to say Christian women cannot wear makeup, or wear nice clothes. This is not Peter’s meaning, he simply wants to drive home the point, that you can look pretty on the outside as a woman with your outer adornments, but your inside person may still be ugly. God wants both the inside and outside of a woman to be beautiful.

Conclusion on Biblical modesty

While Paul’s Katastole requirement (women to be fully clothed) is confined to the Church assembly, that does not mean that the principle of modesty cannot apply elsewhere, when we understand that modesty means Christian women ought to wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion.

What a woman wears to church may be very different than what she wears to Church. What a woman wears to beach may be very different than what she wears to work. What a woman wears for a date with her husband, may not be what she would wear for Church on Sunday.

In the end, whatever, we do as men or women, or whatever we wear should all be done in manner that would bring glory to God, and not bring shame to him in the eyes of the world:

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

I Corinthians 10:31(KJV)