Isn’t it wrong for woman to dress in a way that causes men to lust?

This seems like a rhetorical question for Bible believing Christians.  But the answer Biblically speaking might surprise you. All of us enter adulthood with a set of presuppositions based on how our parents raised us, how our culture influenced us, what our church taught us and of course own life experiences.

Most people have been taught that causing a man to lust means simply causing him to be sexually aroused by the mere sight of a woman regardless of her actions toward him.  So the thought goes – if a woman is fully covered this will sharply reduce a man’s chances of being sexually aroused by her form which they believe is lust on his part.

Because of this belief about what lust is some conservative Christians have their wives and daughters dress in very baggy dresses with that go to the floor with long sleeves to completely cover their arms.  They may even wear their hair tied up with a head covering of some sort.

This same concept when taken to its logical conclusion is why some Muslims make their wives be covered from head to toe with only a screen to see through on the face.

But true wisdom comes from being able to recognize our presuppositions or preconceived notions of morality.  Only when we are willing to question things that we have believed since before we can remember anything else will we be able to find the truth in many areas of life.

As Christians we believe that the starting point for our all the moral questions of life is the Bible. So if we are to truly understand what the Bible teaches about any subject of life – we must disregard all our presuppositions and let God’s Word to speak to us.  We must do as I have said on this site many times “remove our cultural glasses” and see the truth regardless of our presupposed ideas.

So take off your cultural glasses and put on your seat belt as we show you that the question that is the title of this article gets it all wrong.

Let’s first establish some two Biblical truths that are applicable to this discussion.

The Bible says it is sin to lust

 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Romans 7:7 (KJV)

As we can see from the passage above, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that to lust is to sin.

We then can see from the Gospel of Matthew that sexual lust is sin:

“27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28 (KJV)

The Bible says we should not do things that tempt other to sin

““Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

Romans 14:13 (KJV)

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we as both men and women should never do something to could cause our brother to sin.  We should not put things in front of them that might trip them up spiritually.

So this is an open and closed case right? These Scriptures prove that the question of this article truly is a rhetorical question right? Well not so fast. Keep your seat securely fastened and keep your arms in the vehicle as we continue our quest for the truth in this matter.

What is lust?

This is the huge presupposition that sits right in front of us. We are presupposing what lust is.  In our language when we think of lust we think of sexual arousal.  If a person is turned on sexually by the sight of someone who is not their spouse that is lust according to our culture.

But is that the definition of lust according to the Bible? Let’s find out.

Remember that passage from Romans 7:7 where Paul was saying lust was sin and we were all saying “Amen!”? Well he actually tells us what it is sin – because God said in the 10 commandments “Thou shalt not covet”. So what does that tell us? It tells us that lust is synonymous with covetousness.

So if lust is synonymous with covetousness then what is covetousness?

 “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)

So up to this point we have established with absolute certainty that lust is sin and lust is tied directly to the 10th commandment.

The 10 commandment shows us by the context in which covetousness is used what it means. Is covetousness finding your neighbor’s house desirable? No it is not. Is covetousness dreaming about or fantasizing about what it would be like to live in your neighbor’s house? No it is not.

Covetousness is the desire to sinfully possess something that does not belong to you.   

We have seen this story play out in many movies. A man desires the land or home of another man.  So he offers him money for it but he won’t sell.  He says he will never sell it. Was the first man finding the second man’s land desirable a sin? No it was not. But if he cannot legally acquire this land and begins to think of how he can illegally acquire that other man’s land he has now gone from righteous desire to sinful covetousness.

This exact same principle applies to a man’s wife, his daughter or any other woman.  It is NOT lust (covetousness) when a man simply finds a woman sexually desirable no matter her marital status. It is no more a sin for this man to imagine her naked or even imagine having sex with her than it is for a man to imagine what another man’s house looks like on the inside and what it would be like to live there.

Lust is born when a man’s natural God given sexual desires are turned into sinful sexual covetousness and he desires to unlawfully possess a woman.

I know your head is probably spinning.  Your presuppositions about lust have been completely blown out of the water.

But we are now coming to end our journey so just hold tight just a little longer.

Now let’s take the original question of this article and look at the presupposition right in the middle of the question:

“Isn’t it wrong for woman to dress in a way that causes men to lust?”

So what is the presupposition? This question presupposes that if a woman dresses in any way which might cause a man to be sexually aroused by her or find her sexually desirable or think fantasize about having sex with her that this is her causing him to lust.

But what we know from our journey in the Scriptures is lust does not refer to sexual arousal or sexual imagination.  It refers to covetousness which in the context of sexual lust means that a man has the desire to unlawfully possess a woman in a sexual manner.

I would argue that once we understand what lust actually is then we understand better what enticing someone to lust looks like. I would argue that for 99 percent of cases a woman causes a man to lust after her first by her actions and then secondarily by her appearance.

A woman has to draw a man with actions in the form of words or body motions before true lust develops in most cases. The vast majority of men will not desire to unlawfully possess a woman unless that woman motions in some way either verbally or through body movement toward him that she might be available to him.  In other words she flirts with him in some manner.  This is when the seed of lust in 90 percent of cases with men.

Now are there men who lust after women who have not flirted or motioned or talked in any sexual manner toward them? Yes! But if a man lusts after a woman simply because of her beautiful appearance and not any sexual flirting or actions on her part that would draw him to lust after her then his sin of lust lays 100% at his feet and she is innocent.

So now let’s change our original question to what Christian women should really being asking themselves in regard to causing men to lust after them:

Instead of asking:

“Isn’t it wrong for me to wear this because it might sexually arouse a man or make him have pleasurable thoughts about me?”

Women should ask themselves:

“Did I just flirt with him? Did I lead him on in some manner?”

So are you saying women can just walk around half naked or completely naked wherever they go?

No In am not saying that at all. But as the Scriptures say “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). That means we should wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion.  It may not be appropriate for a woman to wear a tight tee shirt and shorts to her job unless she works at Hooters and it may not be appropriate for a woman to wear a bikini unless she is going to beach, swimming pool or sun bathing.

But what about I Timothy 2:9’s admonition for women to dress modestly?

“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)

I am glad you asked that. I have written an entire post on that verse going in-depth into what modesty actually means and the context in which this verse is talking about women’s dress. You can read it here.

The very short answer is that like the word lust, our culture has made up its own definition of modesty.  Modesty in I Timothy 2:9 refers to women dressing in attire that is appropriate to the occasion. It then tell us that for the occasion of gathering in the church assembly for worship and instruction women should wear “modest apparel” or literally “be appropriately clothed[modest] in full covering garments[apparel]”.

Paul gave a similar warning about food in worship.  He told the Corinthians not to abuse the communion table by turning worship into a feast when he wrote:

“And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.”

1 Corinthians 11:34 (KJV)

Paul was not saying it was wrong for us to think about food or sex or be aroused to hunger for food or sex. He was saying in that when we come together as a Churches for worship and communion we need to put these natural God given hungers aside and fully focus on God.  He was not condemning sexual thought or women dressing in sexually appealing ways outside the Church in the same way that he was not condemning being aroused to hunger for food outside the Church.

It was all about time and place.

Conclusion

I hope that this journey through the Scriptures has help to change your perspective of what lust actually is. If you are woman – you don’t have to be ashamed to dress in beautiful clothing, or even clothing that might be sexually arousing to men provided that you follow these Biblical principles:

  1. If you are married or still under your father’s authority are they are ok with you dressing in this manner? If they are not then you need to submit to male headship that God has placed in your life.
  2. If you are able to wear clothing that some would consider more form fitting or sexually arousing are you doing so at the proper place and time? Maybe it is ok to wear tight fitting leggings for a night out with your girlfriends but it may be inappropriate for school. It certainly would be for Church.
  3. Whether you are wearing more sexually appealing clothing or not – are you flirtatious with men to the point that you make them think they could have sex with you outside of marriage? If that is the case this needs to stop. That is the very definition of a woman causing a man to lust.
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