Aim: to remind women of the need for modesty in worship.
Thesis: all clothing makes a statement – our worship attire especially ought to communicate purity.
TURN to Proverbs 7. In Proverbs the wise man is passing along some friendly advice to young men, and one of the first dangers he highlights is the danger of adultery. He warns against it in all of Chapter 5 – then returns to the subject in Chapter 6 – and then illustrates it again in Chapter 7!
READ Verses 6-27. This vivid little vignette is a reminder that even back then, in the days of Solomon, young men could be naïve and foolish, and women could be just as sorry as men.
This entire passage is a striking story, but I want to call our attention to one verse in particular. Did you notice that when Solomon describes this individual intent on infidelity, he says in Verse 10 she was “dressed like a prostitute”?
QUESTION: Why does Solomon call attention to her clothing? Because our clothing always makes a personal statement. The fashions we choose reflect our personality, and our outer wear is an extension of our inner values.
Why was this wayward wife dressed like a streetwalker? She had chosen apparel that advertised her availability: the message of the clothing she had selected was saying loud and clear, “I may be married, but I’m not moral.” To put it bluntly, her outfit was an invitation to a proposition. Our clothing always makes a personal statement.
That is worth remembering, because we are Christians, and we don’t want to send the wrong message! And that is worth remembering, because as American society becomes increasingly coarse and vulgar and immoral, Christians need to be ever more careful that we don’t inadvertently project a worldly image.
Let me be blunt: given the current fashions in our culture, if a woman was dressed like a prostitute today, she would fit right in! And that’s not just my opinion: Jennifer Moses, a Jewish writer and the mother of teenage daughters, recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That? (March 19-20, 2011, p. C-3). In it she asks:
“Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this – like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves – but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?
With the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily.”
More and more women in our world, both young and old, are wearing less and less. And, they are wearing those provocative outfits in settings in which previous generations would have been ashamed to be seen, including worship assemblies.
This morning’s lesson is a gentle reminder that we all need to think twice about the message our clothing presents, and it has a special application to the ladies for two reasons:
First, today’s sermon is being preached by special request. In the past couple of months several of our ladies have asked me specifically if I would address the subject, because they are concerned about fashion trends in our society and their negative effects on young ladies.
I am sympathetic to the challenges that ladies face when shopping for clothing, because fashions are often dictated by worldly, even ungodly designers, many of them homosexuals who don’t necessarily have a woman’s best interests at heart. And styles are becoming increasingly casual, even at church, which might lull individuals into becoming careless about the decency of their clothing, especially now that we are in the summer months.
Second, men and women are wired differently – men are more easily tempted visually. Jesus recognized this in Sermon on the Mount: in Matthew 5:28 when he says “If a MAN looks at a woman lustfully, he has committed adultery with her in his heart.”
In our series on the life of David last year we saw that when the king was on the roof of his palace, and caught a glimpse of Bathsheba, his eyes led him into sin and ultimately led the nation into civil war.
But honestly, if the situation had been reversed and it was Bathsheba up on the roof, and David in the tub…..well, she might have had a good laugh, but that’s as far as it would have gone.
So ladies, on behalf of all the men, I’m asking you to have some consideration for your brothers, and make sure you’re not a distraction or a temptation. Don’t come to worship with thigh-high hemlines and down-to-there necklines; skintight slacks, skimpy skirts, or short shorts; or backless, strapless, shameless, clueless outfits. Casual clothing is ok – carnal clothing is not.
I want all our ladies to look their best. But if your fashion is not modest, you’ll attract the wrong kind of attention from men and you’ll make the wrong kind of statement about your character. If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your apparel, find a trusted, mature Christian woman, and ask her.
If you think I have been singling out the ladies, you are half-right. So far I have been speaking to the ladies this morning, but that doesn’t mean men don’t have wardrobe malfunctions of their own. So let me close with some suggestions for us men:
Guys, be sure to read the message on your t-shirt to make sure you aren’t a walking advertisement for worldliness.
Don’t come into worship wearing a baseball cap, cowboy hat, or doo rag – 1 Corinthians 11:7 says that a man worships with his head uncovered as a sign of respect to God.
And if you decide to have a mid-life crisis, don’t show up on Sunday with your shirt half-unbuttoned, because nobody wants to see your hairy chest, even if you are wearing a gold chain on it.
Both men and women should remember that all clothing makes a statement – and while we should be modest seven days a week, our worship attire especially ought to communicate purity of character and reverence towards God. Paul is speaking of the worship assembly in 1 Timothy 2:9 when he says, “I want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety.”
A few moments ago we saw that Solomon’s picture of the wayward wife on the prowl in Proverbs 7 said “She was dressed like a prostitute.” I can never read that passage without thinking of a former prostitute I counseled many years ago. She and her husband came to me from another city and they were having severe marriage problems. They were an unusual pair: he was a wealthy professional; she had once been a streetwalker in New Orleans. And even though she had become a Christian, was now married, and had a couple of kids, this lady had never updated her wardrobe!
Her clothing was, quite frankly, embarrassing. It was one of those situations where I never knew where to look, and I probably made her husband uncomfortable, because I ended up staring at him much of the time!
I helped them patch up their marriage, but as we were concluding what I thought was our last session, the woman asked if she could come back the next week by herself to discuss some personal issues. When she returned, the first thing she said was, “I don’t like the way men look at me. It makes me feel cheap.”
I gently asked, “Do you think it has something to do with your wardrobe?”
“But Dr. Dan, this is all I’ve ever known. Tell me what to do?”
Now, fashion advice is way out of my league, but every so often in a counseling session I get an inspiration, and this time the light bulb went on. I asked the lady, “Do you read any of those women’s magazines? You know, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, etc.”
“Yes.” “Well, here’s your homework assignment. Take your magazines, thumb through several issues, and cut out pages that represent the way you think men look at you now. Then cut out some pages that represent the way you want them to look at you. Bring them both back to me next week.”
When she returned for her next session the lady was more enthusiastic than I had ever seen her. She had two file folders filled with pages ripped out of magazines. The first folder contained page after page of lingerie ads. “This is how I’ve been presenting myself in public,” she explained. And she was right – up until now her wardrobe had indeed resembled lingerie.
When she opened the second folder, I was surprised. It contained only one photo: of a cowgirl at the rodeo, in boots, jeans, a plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat. I asked, “Is that the way you want to present yourself?” She said firmly, “That’s the image I want.”
I asked her only one question: “Does your husband have a credit card?” The lady laughed, left, and I never saw her again.
A couple of years later, however, I received a letter in the mail. There was no return address, just a postmark from a town in Montana. Puzzled, I opened it, but there wasn’t any identifying information inside, either. No letter, no name, just a small color photo……of a smiling cowgirl, standing with a happy husband and grinning children, and every one of them was dressed in Western wear!
Remember: the fashions we choose reflect our personality, and our outer wear is an extension of our inner values. Let’s make sure the apparel we wear in worship, and every day, communicates a reverence for God!
June 12, 2011 Dan Williams
Sermon: “Modesty” College Avenue church of Christ
Text: Proverbs 7:6-27 El Dorado, Arkansas