Beach Treats

Since it’s still officially beach weather and pool weather, it seems not too late to plunge into the topic of bikini wear. Why shouldn’t all the sweet little Christian high-school and college girls don the skimpy suits and hang out with their friends poolside or on the boat or, even better, in the hot tub with the boys? And since my last post was about daughters, I thought I’d stay on topic for the moment and mention another dumb thing women (of all ages) can do. And though I don’t want to sound preachy, someone has to address this.

If you are the girl wanting to wear the bikini, or if you are the parent wondering if your daughter should wear it, or if you are an innocent bystander wondering why the sweet Christian girls are wearing them, here are a few things to consider. What does wearing a bikini do to the one wearing it? What does wearing a bikini do to your daughter? What impact is it having on her? I’m not even talking about what impact it has on the guys. That’s their problem. But what does it do to the woman herself?

I will tell you what it does. It hardens her. It makes her get comfortable being nearly naked in public, taking away her God-given impulse to be modest. It may be awkward the first time, but it will soon be easier, especially if she gets encouragement from her friends who tell her how great she looks or how much they wish they could look so good. And once she gets the positive feedback, she will enjoy it more and more. And she can tell herself that it isn’t really about modesty, but about being up-to-date. She can congratulate herself that she isn’t one of the “uptight” girls.  And, after all, the other kids go to the same church as she does, and they think it’s okay.

This hardening also makes her accustomed to being looked over and checked out by the men, all kinds of men. In fact, she can start to keep score. How many heads turned to look? Funny how the guys like to cluster around. And never mind that the guys looking are married men or sex offenders or just horny high-school guys. This hardening transfers her sense of worth and well-being from being loved in Christ, to being found attractive by men, any men. And we don’t have to look far to see what this has done to the women in our culture.

This ushers her right into the world’s brutal competition with all the other women present who are also being checked out and looked over. “You look so hot in your swimsuit” is the compliment of choice. Hot and sexy, that’s what we want our daughters to be, right? If one of the guys commented out loud on her breasts or backside, she would be mortified and embarrassed and shocked. How rude!  But she doesn’t mind letting him look, so long as he saves his comments to share with the boys later. But after awhile, she may not be shocked by such comments any more.  That’s what hardening does. But pretending that she doesn’t really want the boys to notice is to play dumb to the extreme.

Once she has entered into the competition, if one of the other girls is “hotter” in her bikini, it just opens the door to envy, more competition, and discontent.  Hard hearts come from somewhere, and this is one of the places it can begin. So consider what the bikini does to the wearer, not whether it is shocking the church ladies or is giving the boys a treat.

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48 thoughts on “Beach Treats

  1. The, “Amen!” you heard from the dessert was me. My apologies if I startled you.

    My goodness . . . the same things can be said for people who lower their standards in every day dress too . . .

  2. Excellent post. I like that you mention the problem it presents for our young men as well, but that you don’t present from that side only. It is a problem from every direction. From a secular standpoint, we are so schizophrenic…women want equality…yet at the same time our check out lines in the grocery stores are filled with magazines smattered with half dressed women. It would seem that women’s rights activists would have fought down some of these issues long ago on their own principles. It is sad to look there for solutions but it does not seem that the principle of modesty is going to win the day. Another frustration is the exploitation of young girls in order to “fundraise”. We all know that young bikini clad girls are well-known for their superior car washing skills. I fear that all too often we are paying for a show rather than a “free” car wash. This male attention can be very heady and addictive to a young girl. Dangerous territory.

    PS- In fairness, there are also many car washes where everyone is dressed very appropriately and I am certain they do their best to do a good job washing the cars. I am only speaking of those dressed immodestly.

  3. Nancy,
    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been waiting to see something about this from you. I have a couple of questions…

    I completely agree with your standards of modesty, especially in raising young ladies, but are you saying it is a sin to wear a bikini? If so, where would that be in the Bible? If not, when would one be allowable (on your honeymoon, family vacation, etc.)?

    Personally, I have a hard time seeing that a bikini is that much more immodest (strictly in terms of amount of skin shown) then a regular one-piece suit. There have been lots of times where a particular article of clothing (pants, for example) would have been shocking on Christian ladies, and are now acceptable. I’m not saying that the pervasiveness of the bikini is in any way an indication of our culture being healthy; just if we’re going to draw the line at a bikini, why not keep going and stop wearing shorts, or pants, or t-shirts, or…you get the idea.

    Thank you very much!
    Brittany

  4. I really appreciate how you focus on this from the angle of what it does to the girl. Not that it isn’t important to consider our effect on others but I think too often we decide that the others are ok with it, so we can be ok with it too and forget the impact it have on us.

    One thing I think is worth mentioning too- tiny bikinis on little tiny girls. Sure they don’t have anything they are “showing off” at age 2, but my thought is that habits of dress start early, and if they are in skimpy clothes at 2 then they will probably be at 5 and at 9 and at 14 as well. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Brittany,
    I think you missed my point. It is a sin to get a hard heart. If shorts or t-shirts have the same heart-hardening effect on you that I was describing, then don’t wear them. If you can wear a bikini without it having those hardening effects on you, then I won’t stop you.
    Cheers,
    Nancy

  6. And one more thing….I agree that many things are immodest, not just bikinis. But the bikini is designed on purpose to be immodest, and our culture is busy teaching our young girls to be immodest. I was not talking about a girl who was wearing a bikini on purpose to be modest. Hmmm. That’s an interesting thought experiment.

  7. Thank you for clarifying that, Nancy. I hardly want to be seen as defending bikinis (there is, quite literally, very LITTLE to defend!). I always appreciated the way you defined modesty, as the Bible does, as pertaining to your whole behavior, and not just how much skin is or is not covered. A husband or father is ultimately responsible for how the ladies in his home walk out the door (or out onto the sand, as the case may be).

  8. Brittany,
    Actually, I disagree just a tad. Even if a dad or husband thinks it is fine for a wife or daughter to go out in public in a bikini, she has a conscience her own self, and she is responsible to God for her own behavior. She can’t say, “Well, it is okay with my husband if I am immodest, so that means God doesn’t mind either.” Women are to live as free women in Christ, and they are ultimately answerable to Him. Having a husband give a thumbs up to an immodest outfit is not an excuse for wearing it.
    Blessings,
    Nancy

  9. Nancy,
    I hope I’m not taking up too much comment space, but I think I’m still confused. I understand your clarification that the clothing is not the sin, the hard heart is the sin. I also agree that a husband or father’s authority isn’t absolute. But your last response seems to say that wearing a bikini is always, and by definition, immodest. Isn’t immodesty a sin? So, wouldn’t that make wearing a bikini a sin?

    I know I never took logic in school, so I know that I may be completely missing the point here; so thank you for bearing with me!
    Brittany

  10. Hi Brittany-
    I’m hoping that you won’t mind me chiming in here, but I think the point is the immodesty and the bikini is an illustration. I am sure you would agree that wearing lingerie is immodest at the grocery store, and yet not in the bedroom. The point is that immodesty does not reside in an object, but in the heart. And yet she brought up the bikini because it is a common immodesty among people who might happen upon her blog :)

  11. For what it’s worth, I did a fear bit of reading about the history and language of clothes a few years back. I read a number of books by non-Christians, and was always struck by how willing they were to acknowledge the sexual nature of many clothes and changes in fashion. They don’t pretend that a woman wears scanty gear to be modest. One more observation – when most ladies talk about ‘comfort clothes’, they don’t usually mean the figure-hugging, revealing stuff. (Which is not to say that I am advocating P.J.’s in the mall!)

  12. Brittany,
    Rachel nailed it for me! Thanks for your comments….I think we have plenty of room around here in the comment section for interaction, so please feel free!

  13. So I’m guessing (the way this conversation is going) that there’s a difference between hopping in a creek in your sports bra and shorts (say on a day hike or backpacking trip) and breezing down the trail thinking about how hot and fit your look in your sports bra and shorts. This might sounds like an odd application, but since I go backpacking with my husband it’s the sort of thing I’ve wondered about while taking a hot and sweaty lunch break. I’d have to get in better shape for bikinis to be much of a temptation to me 😀

  14. Nancy, I appreciate your willingness to tackle an admittedly thorny subject, and I’ve enjoyed the dialogue in the comments. Like Brittany, I hear two conflicting messages here–one is that the condition of the heart is paramount, and so you can dress in a bikini (or whatever) if it doesn’t harden your heart. Yet, you don’t seem to believe that’s possible, noting in your comment that even if a woman’s husband or father approves her wearing the bikini (or whatever) that she would still have a higher calling to God to dress “more modestly” than that. So which is it?

    I would agree that if *my* conscience bothers me about something (even if others around me grant permission) I should go with my own more “restrictive” conscience. However, if I feel okay about wearing something, and my husband is okay with me wearing it, and the Bible leaves the issue to conscience, then I’m not sure where someone else has leave to step in and judge. (Romans 14:1-12) If I feel like I cannot honor God by wearing a bikini, then I should not wear one. However, I should not assume that everyone else shares that same belief and so dishonors God when they wear beach gear I would pass up.

    I *can* see encouraging others not only to examine their own heart and motives, but to consider when behavior that is acceptable to them may serve as a stumbling block to someone else. (Romans 14:13) This would be a perfectly legitimate reason to avoid wearing something one otherwise would not have issue with, out of sensitivity to the feelings of others.

    OK, bikinis aside, you linked immodesty with a hardening of the heart and with seeking approval in others rather than in God.

    When I was growing up, my older sister told me I was vain any time she caught me looking in a mirror. The message seemed to be that to enjoy your own looks or to take pleasure in being attractive (or being found attractive) was sinful. I hear echoes of that here, sort of a “you should not desire to be attractive to anyone but God; otherwise, it’s sin.”

    As an adult who has struggled for years with my self image, I have to disagree with this. (Of course, I also may be hearing you wrong!) I *don’t* think women should feel guilty for wishing to be attractive. God made us beautiful, He finds us beautiful, and I believe it’s His desire that we should know that and revel in it, the way a little girl knows her daddy finds her beautiful.

    Yes, immodesty is often a cry of “please love me!” and the ideal would be to fill that void with the kind of love God so desires to give. Unfortunately, where immodesty goes wrong is that it tends to attract the kind of attention that will not (ultimately) be fulfilling. Once again, the devil takes what was meant to be good and twists it for his own purposes.

    But how is a woman to learn that if the only message she hears is that she should feel guilty for wanting to be attractive, that she should be embarrassed about the body God has given her? When our “preaching” is law-heavy, it inspires plenty of guilt, but little understanding of God’s better alternative (and even less hope that a fabulous relationship with Him is His desire for each of us!)

    While I think you’ve made some excellent points here in terms of self-examination, I think it’s easy for readers who *don’t* wear bikinis (or whatever other “immodest” gear comes to mind) to walk away patting themselves on the back and miss the other important points:

    1) It’s worth reminding ourselves that what one person considers modest may not be the same standard someone else holds. (Imagine how appalled Muslim men would be at the dress of even a “modest” American woman!)

    2) So while we should be rigorous in evaluating our OWN choices (and the messages they may send) in the light of our own conscience and our husband’s counsel, we would be well-served to avoid passing judgment (yes, especially the smug, self-satisfied silent kind!) on the clothing choices of others.

    3) Why? Well, the glaring issue of *pride* aside, the Pharisee in us tends to look at the immodest person and, in the heat of judgment, forget that when someone’s attire seems wholly inappropriate, deep hurt and shame probably lie beneath. This is a person who desperately needs something, and it’s not a hearty dollop of condemnation, but rather a generous serving of the gospel.

    If we, as Christians, aren’t a people known for our faith, love, grace and resurrection joy, then honestly, our clothing choices mean very little.

    Thank you for the opportunity to dialogue!

  15. Nancy,

    Thanks so much for posting this. I hadn’t thought of it that way. You always help me to see how Biblical standards apply to our lives. I know I’ll be sharing this post with many other women.

    Love to you!

  16. Nancy and Rachel,
    I do enjoy discussing this with ladies like you! The challenge is figuring out how to do this on a web page which is like posting it on a billboard!

    I do understand that you are using an illustration, but I think my question is still the same that Christa states in the first two paragraphs of her comment. If your heart is clear, your conscience is clean, your husband or father approves, and you’re not in danger of harming anyone else’s conscience is there something wrong with wearing the bikini?

  17. The part about becoming comfortable being nearly naked in public is what struck me. Does a woman have to be looking for cat called approval or showing off her hot bod to actually be immodest? Is being nearly naked in public a problem in itself? Seems like it to me.

  18. “If your heart is clear, your conscience is clean, your husband or father approves, and you’re not in danger of harming anyone else’s conscience is there something wrong with wearing the bikini?”

    I’m wondering where, except in private, one could wear a bikini without being in danger of harming anyone’s conscience. This is where community seems to come in: First, we should be aware that our choices affect not only ourselves and our families, but the other ladies, gents and kids in the community. Second, healthy community isn’t characterized by fussy, busybody ladies laying down the law to one another, but by humble, loving ladies (and gents) seeking the collective wisdom of the larger community.

    Our consciences aren’t infallible. If they don’t intelligently and graciously take community into account, they may seem clean, but they may rather be ignorant or blindly selfish or just plain calloused. This is NOT to say that we should seek to appease every member of the community, but to be aware of and generally concerned about how our behavior impacts those we are called to love.

  19. Thanks Nancy! This post (as well as the comments from others) reminds me of the importance of self-examination, self-awareness before a God who sees all things.
    My heart is a deceitful, self-centered thing. Clothing ourselves with modesty requires both rightness of heart and action. On one hand, a person who covers their body appropriately does not prove their heart is right with the Lord. On the other hand, a person who is ostentatious cannot claim that they had “good intentions.”

  20. Hello. I just wanted to address Brittany’s concern/confusion. Ask yourself this question… Would you wear your bra and underwear to a beach or pool? Probably not, yet that is exactly what a bikini is, just different fabric. And again, we could ask ourselves the same about a one-piece. Would we sit around in a tshirt (or skimpier) with underwear in front of people? Probably not. I am not trying to set up rules here, but we need to ask ourselves some questions before we just wear things. Our church encourages tank shirts and shorts over the swimsuit. I know it sounds prudish, but I’ll tell you… no one feels uncomfortable being on the beach with people like this! If our conscience feels okay bearing our nakedness in front of people and we see that other respectable Christians are discouraging such things, it is our job to back away, regardless of our conscience and others who might support it. Do a test… start covering more flesh for a long period of time and once you start to uncover it, you will definitely feel naked! Blessings!

  21. I’m not arguing in favor of bikinis here, but I do just wonder a bit where we get specific standards for modesty. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t address those. For instance, most Christian women now wear skirts above the ankle, which would once have been considered immodest. But as culture changed, Christian women changed their standards for what is modest. So now, the culture wears shorts and so do Christian women. But now also, the culture (almost everyone, when you go to the beach), wears bikinis. The Christian woman doesn’t stand out from the others if she wears a bikini, anymore than she stands out if she wears shorts in the summer, because everyone else does.

    So I guess the question is just where do we draw the line? Do we just call it “common sense” that shorts are modest and bikinis are not? We can’t call it Biblical standards, since we get our standards for modesty based on changing culture.

    I’m personally all in favor of tankinis with swim skirts, but I just thought I’d pose the question. :)

  22. Mrs. Wilson, I am a pastor in Morgantown, WV. I have four boys between the ages of 5 and 11. My question is a dovetail off your post. Should we allow our boys to go to the public pool, where 90% of the girls wear bikinis? They have not hit puberty yet, but they are still getting impressions from what they see around them. I know they will run into immodesty in other places, but should I subject them to it on purpose? Also is it unfair to all of the sudden switch the rules at puberty? In other words, allowing them to go at 7, but not at 17. I would love to hear your thoughts on this or what others do. The post on bikinis was very good. Peter Jones, Pastor, Christ Church of Morgantown.

  23. Nancy, you’ve always said we are Christians first. Yes, we are wives, mothers, and daughters, but we are Christian women first and foremost. Therefore, we are to think like Christian women. So whether it’s bikinis, a movie we are putting before our eyes, or any other thing under the sun…we are always to approach these things as Christian women accountable before the Lord.

  24. Another problem is when a girl grows up with bikinis. Most of the little girls at the pool – ages 2 and up – are wearing bikinis. They won’t experience that awkwardness because their bodies have been exposed their entire young life. No doubt this produces very hardened/confident teenagers. For this reason, we insist on our 2 and 6 year old daughters to wear modest one-pieces. Here is a link to some beautiful and modest swimsuits: http://bathingbeautyswim.blogspot.com/

    I’ve also thought about the same issue as Pstor Jones. We have 3 sons, the eldest being nearly 8. I’d love to hear your answer with regards to our boys being at the pool.

  25. I wonder whether any modern Americans, or Westerners of any nation, can really think about modesty with any clarity. Modesty is necessarily linked to culture, and search the Scriptures as we might, as with so many other standards for living, there is no absolute rule where one can declare oneself in the definite right with no further consideration required.

    We live our entire lives WITHIN some culture or another, and the modesty of our dress or behavior cannot really be evaluated apart from the culture. Of course, the line from immodest to immoral can be tricky, and immorality is not so culture-specific. Nonetheless, modesty is far from a simple question of how much skin one exposes.

    For instance, by our standards the Japanese geisha is far from sexually alluring — they hardly show any skin or shape at all! But would it be modest for a Japanese Christian to dress like a geisha? She’s certainly well-covered, and no Biblical prohibition to opaque white face powder or thick, tightly bound, floor-length robes can be cited, but the association with the geisha would make dressing like one immodest in that culture.

    This relates to Nancy’s point that the bikini is MEANT to be immodest. A one-piece bathing suit serves the practical purpose of allowing freedom of movement for swimming. A bikini has no such practical purpose. They were invented and popularized as SEXY, so questions of midriff exposure aside, the bikini is expressly associated in our culture with immodest display.

    Even looking at the question of a one-piece — would it be modest to wear a swimsuit to the grocery store? How about riding in a boat for three hours after one has been swimming in the lake? How about riding in the boat for fifteen minutes after one has been swimming in the lake? It’s not modest at the grocery store because it is not useful in that context for it’s culturally acceptable, practical purpose. Actually swimming in the lake, a bathing suit is obviously useful, but for how long before and after it’s actual usefulness is it acceptable? And who has to be there for it to be modest or immodest? What if it’s just a group of girls? How about skinny dipping with just a group of girls? As far as I can see these are not easy questions to answer with any real certainty.

    I think that we may struggle with questions of modesty more than those in other times and places because our culture is so crazy. At other times, in other places, a Christian could be modest by avoiding cultural taboos of immodesty. If you are a GOOD girl, then dress like one. Modesty seeks to avoid suggesting immorality, so if in your culture showing your ankles or dressing like a geisha suggests loose behavior, you just don’t do it.

    However, here and now our cultural standards are bizarrely complex and confused, so that it is difficult to say what is suggested by a particular sort of dress. We can’t just follow cultural rules because no one really knows what they are! Even as a married woman in my thirties, it’s tricky. Is cleavage ever o.k.? How does the fact that I’m not very amply endowed play into that question? A lower cut top is certainly less noticeable on me than on my busty sister, so does that make it fine?

    How about a nose ring? There IS actually Biblical precedent for that! But my grandmother certainly wouldn’t consider it very modest. She wouldn’t articulate it this way, but the suggestion of the exotic, of harem dancing girls, of adventuring and exploration is NOT what she associates with GOOD girls. On the other hand to my twentysomething cousins a nose ring would have very different associations.

    Our culture offers few helpful guidelines for modesty and loads of unhelpful messages and ideas. What is the difference between beautiful and sexy, between attractive and alluring? The curve of a woman’s cheek may be universally admired, right? Two pastor’s wives can happily chat about a third’s lovely cheekbones, but how about the curve of her lips? Her shoulders? Her behind?

    And what about men? How is it acceptable for them to admire female beauty? And vice versa? I remember being shocked when my friends discussed which guy on the basketball team had the “nicest butt” and who they would most like to see shirtless, but I would not have been shocked if they were asking who was simply “best looking” and that would certainly include some general thought of physique.

    I don’t really have any particular point. I’m just very full of these sorts of thoughts and questions and glad of a place to air some of them!

  26. Great post, Nancy, thanks for all of your insightful thoughts! Thanks to my mother, I’ve always felt comfortable in only amply covering swim outfits, and my girls are quite happily used to the same (though I’ve certainly had to remind them that it’s not their job to loudly point out if they think someone else at the pool is not modest.) But with five daughters, I really appreciate the deeper reasoning behind the basic standards – I have the feeling it will be very helpful fodder for conversations with my girls as they grow older!

  27. I appreciate this post, looking at the perspective of what the clothing does to the wearer. Why are we as women so willing to be objectified? How does it not bother a woman if she is being checked out like a piece of meat?
    I think it is important what you said, Nancy, that it is not just husband approval & personal conscience, too. It goes back to the very point of your post. That we can get increasingly comfortable with increasing immodesty. So, our conscience is getting hard to it. We aren’t very fit to judge ourselves, at that point. Right?

    To Christa’s comment – I don’t think that this post is in objection with being beautiful or attractive. One of Fanny Groves questions that she poses about noticing beauty, can be used to illustrate, I think. There is nothing wrong with seeing to someone is beautiful. But, when you start “undressing” them with your eyes, have you not crossed into lusting? When we get dressed everyday, there is nothing wrong with being confident in the body & beauty God gave you. But, that doesn’t mean we should want to get dressed in a way to give people permission to view us as a lust object. I think Fanny is also correct to say that the culture often determines what those things are. The lines are shaky. But, if I were to wear something that got regular gawking looks, I think I would be wrong to keep wearing that thing.

  28. Such an interesting discussion. And to think when I read the title of this post I thought it would be some recipe that would be yummy and easy to take to the beach!

  29. Valerie,
    I entirely agree with your comment a few posts back–about the possibility of harming another’s conscience, and the importance of cultural considerations. Here’s a bit of context…I was raised in Idaho where it was attention-getting not to wear shorts and a t-shirt OVER your one-piece bathing suit! Any girl in a two-piece was (knowingly or not) trying to show off her body.

    I now spend the majority of my summers on beaches in L.A. with EVERY woman on the beach in a two-piece. The fact of the bikini in that culture is not attention-getting in and of itself. There are flirtatious, perverse girls hanging on the boys; but there are also wives and daughters spending time with their dads and brothers. My husband, is in fact, a lifeguard on these beaches and he can clearly tell you who’s modest and who is not!

    However, to reference Nancy’s new post on the subject, a thong is still quite shocking, even there.

  30. I agree that a woman should be modest and wearing a bikini may not be the best way to do that. But too often, christians have their children avoid situations instead of teaching them how to handle it if they do come across that particular problem.

    If a father tells his daughter she is beautiful the way God has made her and treats her the way a young lady should be treated and cared for and loved, then the girl will grow up with a healthy self esteem and won’t need to wear a bikini to get attention from guys. But God did make women beautiful and He made men handsome, and to some extent, nothing is wrong in appreciating God’s handywork.

  31. I’m still trying to get a grip on the idea that someone thinks a “bikini” is NOT immodest. If it isn’t immodest, then why are the SI Swimsuit magazines so popular. They are soft porn, that’s why! What are the girls wearing?

    The girls aren’t just “half naked”. They are way more than “half naked”.

    As to what Arab men think of western women who are modestly dressed. I spent week in Egypt at a resort–I wore modest clothing (didn’t go swimming) but talked with many of the vendors who were sitting around trying to sell their goods. One of them told me that my husband was “lucky” because I didn’t show my body to everyone. He obviously thought my clothes were modest. I didn’t wear a head scarf, but otherwise, I basically wore just modest clothes–keeping covered.

    The average girl knows what reaction she is getting when she is wearing next to nothing in public. It boggles my mind that any Christian girls think that bikinis aren’t a problem. I’d have to think that somewhere, a man hasn’t been open about their instinctive reactions to them in these clothes (or lack, rather).

  32. Nancy, I’d love to hear what you have to say about Peter Jones’ question. Did you already answer it and I missed it?

  33. Brittany,
    I can’t let you get the last word in on both beach posts. Ha! So, a thong is immodest on Venice beach. It probably is on a nude beach, too. Right, drawing attention to oneself by wearing something? It may be modest on an beach in Cinque Terra. And, there are husbands who wouldn’t find fault with it, I think.
    I just kidding around with you!

  34. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and the interaction. I do think some of the confusion could be cleared up if we went one step further. A heart involves more than the conscience, though that is often our first warning sign. Our heart also involves motivation. What is the motivation for what we wear and for the time we spend in front of the mirror? To wear a bikini, skinny shorts, a tight shirt, or even make-up so that I can stand in front of the mirror and say, “Mmm. I look good,” is wrong. My motivation should be to bring attention to God—not myself, to glorify God in a well-kept, appropriate appearance.
    Appropriate is the key word. There are occasions for certain outfits. For my husband to think I’m attractive in a private setting–there is no immodesty or inappropriateness. On the other hand, to wear even my most “modest” outfit in public because I love the compliments I get is also inappropriate. My adornment should first be a meek and quiet spirit, embellished with the make-up and appropriate attire that will have others reflecting on my Father, not my figure.

  35. For me the question is not what feels good, or right, or modest, or comfortable to me – the Bible has already declared my heart to be “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” – I don’t want to trust my perception of reality. I am a pastor’s wife and have worked with young people for years and cannot tell you the number of girls that have made shipwreck of their purity all the while telling me that there was nothing wrong with their lack of modesty – that they didn’t feel “convicted” about it or that it wasn’t “their standard.” Bottom line – they ended up crossing lines that God has clearly defined in Scripture – like purity, virginity, marital faithfulness etc… I don’t think that the Lord cares so much about how we think about it, but rather the fruit that it produces in one’s life. Hardness of heart is definitely a great sin against a wonderful Saviour, but so is all the things that pertain to the lust of the FLESH, the lust of the EYES and the PRIDE of life – which are all part of the mixed nudity at beaches and pool parties. I think so often us or our husbands being “ok” with it is a ridiculous cop-out.
    For me, the issue is not how I feel about it – but how God sees it. Scripture is very clear that a woman is to be modest, feminine, chaste, virtuous, pure – and those words simply do not describe a bikini or swimsuit of any kind. The only place for that kind of stuff is the marriage bed, and it is honorable before God if it is undefiled. I want to wholly identify with my God – I want people from a distance to know that I belong to a King and Kingdom that is holy and pure and set apart. A Christian really has no business blending in to the world’s system, fashions, fads, and ways…it would be like an American putting on a Nazi soldier’s uniform!!! Sometimes I think satan has a hay-day dressing the children of God. Sorry if I’ve come on too strong, but I feel deeply about this because I think the stakes are so much higher than we are willing to admit…

  36. Now there’s a good question…would it be immodest to wear socks to a nudist beach? It would draw attention to yourself! I think this is getting absurd…

  37. Nancy,
    I cannot applaud you enough for this post. I have worked with teens for over 19 years, and I have been increasingly alarmed as time goes on how girls have become so desensitized to the Biblical principle of modesty. Christian school girls are posting pictures of themselves on Facebook of them and their friends in their bikinis and commenting to each other how hot they look! I have 3 teenage boys, and I am frustrated at how these Christian girls portray themselves to the young men around them who are trying to stay pure. I teach a Bible class on purity, and knowing the whole bikini issue is a struggle for them, I will ask a girl to come to the front of the class, strip down to her bra and underwear, and walk into the boys’ Bible class. These girls are horrified that I would suggest such a thing–but these very same girls have no trouble showing just as much skin to the very same boys as long as there is water nearby. I want my sons to marry godly, faithful young women, and I am trying to raise my boys to be godly, faithful husbands and fathers someday. I am praying that the parents of these young girls–especially their fathers–will wake up and realize they are prostituting rather than protecting their daughters!

  38. I loved the whole post and the follow up post! But this stood out, “I’m not even talking about what impact it has on the guys. That’s their problem.” Amen!

    My husband has said he’s tired of Christian conservatives making it sound like men have no ability to be mature and have self-control. He thinks it’s ridiculous that the topic of “protecting our men” comes up so often in the discussion of modesty. (This isn’t to make light of the overall topic of modesty; it is important to weigh and discuss.)

    Valerie is right on in that we live in community and need to not think selfishly, but out in the blogosphere and in books I think women being accountable for their decisions based on their own heart condition is not emphasized enough.

    The ancient Christians were not living in a squeaky clean society. They had to deal with an abundance of gray areas as well as outright evil, yet God didn’t tell Christian families, “Stay in your houses, don’t go out into the street, or else you’ll be too contaminated!!” Instead, His light overcomes the world, He gives strength, self-discipline (even over thought patterns), and wisdom to not commune with bad company and yet to minister to “the least of these.”

    I honestly think that it’s better to train our boys to deal righteously with immodest women and to expect our men to handle things righteously than to treat them like ninnies who must be coddled. Technology has changed, but worldlings (as Spurgeon and Doug Wilson put it 😉 ) haven’t. I want my boys to think of their roles as protectors and to be strong men of God, and my daughter to understand her role as a “dangerous woman” for Him. :)

  39. I just stumbled upon this site and don’t have time to read in depth right now all the comments, although I’ve scanned them. Can I interject a few comments from a man’s point of view?

    First of all, in the Bible, modesty seems to be more about not showing off and flaunting your wealth in an ostentatious sort of way. I NEVER hear anyone talk about that and only hear about it from a sexual point of view. For example, MAYBE it’s immodest to wear a $10,000 Rolex watch, drive up in a $150,000 car, and be wearing a $1,500 outfit, (even if that outfit is dowdy and covers up almost every square inch of your body) if you are going to be volunteering at a homeless shelter in Haiti. On the other hand, if you were just going out for lunch in Beverly Hills, this would be no big deal and you would just be fitting in with the culture. In either case, I think the big factor is the person’s spirit. There’s nothing wrong with being rich and having nice things. But it’s another thing to be purposefully prideful and conspicuous about it in order to show others up.

    Anyway, I usually run whenever I hear that “modesty” is part of a certain group’s or church’s emphasis. I usually think of some man forcing a woman to dress in a certain way and am more put off by the dominant attitude of men telling their women how to dress than anything else. I have never once in my life told my wife how to dress. To me, that is utterly absurd. My wife is my friend and wife, not a child or a servant.

    I was attracted to my wife because she didn’t like wearing bikinis when I met her. She didn’t even wear a 1 piece. If she ever went swimming or to the beach, she just wore shorts or something like that. She was naturally uncomfortable sharing her beautiful body with the entire world. But, and this is a big but :), she chose this of her own accord! I don’t “force” my wife to be modest. I chose my wife because we share similar views. To me, it is pathetic and sad that a man has to tell his wife how to dress. But maybe that’s because I’m an American and don’t view my wife as property. What’s really funny is that many men who are hung up on forcing modesty down women’s throats have wives who are so out of shape and unattractive that anyone would run if they saw them in a swimsuit. Maybe if these same men had actually used their heads before they married and found a woman who actually enjoys physical fitness and keeping herself up, by talking about it before marriage, just maybe they wouldn’t be so hung up on sex and how women dress. My wife and I talked about practical things before we got married such as how we would exercise and keep ourselves up and look attractive for each other.

    I guess the whole point is that, at least in my experience, I chose my wife because I didn’t have to “tell” her what modesty is. We both had the same values and were attracted to each other because of that. I would NEVER even date a European woman, much less get married to one. Nudity is no big deal in Europe, at least as far as being topless is concerned. There are “family” beaches in Europe where thousands of people congregate and girls and women are topless. I have two points of views on that: It is beautiful and extremely attractive. The girls and women who go topless are stunning and elicit extreme lust. On the other hand, I find women and girls who share their privacy and sexuality with the entire world, literally, pathetic and a major turn off. I would not want a wife who shares her sexuality with any old person in the world.

    To the person or people wondering about a one-piece swimsuit, yes, they can be extremely lust-inducing in men. I was going to be graphic and say why, but I better not. If you have any brains or imagination at all you can probably figure it out on your own.

    Are bikinis or one-pieces sinful? That is certainly not my place to say. The only thing I can give you is one man’s personal opinion. While I find them extremely attractive, if I were single, I would not be as interested in the gal who shares her intimacy with the whole world to see.

  40. I was glad to come across this. As a Southern California resident, let me tell you that it is extremely prevalent for Christian women and girls to wear bikinis. My pastor’s wife wears one along with most women in my church, my BSF leader wears one (I know because I saw her picture on FB!!), EVERY girl in our church youth group wears one except for my daughter. I used to wear bikinis when I was a teenager. When I became a Christian I thought it was a no brainer that I would no longer wear them (I wasn’t raised in CA). No one told me I should quit wearing them. It just made sense to me. This is definitely not the mentality of Christians I am surrounded by. I do believe that it is desensitization that has has taken place here. I have had MANY Christian women tell me that they don’t think it’s a big deal. They think tankinis or one pieces look frumpy or they say “my husband likes for me to wear bikinis.” I have had Christian women who don’t wear bikinis tell me that they WOULD wear them if they were in better shape. WHAT??? I have Christian friends on FB (grown women) who make posts that say “it’s bikini season” and stuff like that. I don’t get it. I feel sorry for my daughter because of course she wants to wear one, but we don’t allow her to. She stands out when we are with her friends. I know that is hard for her. I hope and pray that one day she meets a godly man who appreciates that she was obedient to her parents and was willing to be different. Sometimes when I myself (as a grown woman) feel peer pressure I have to remind myself that my husband appreciates my modesty. Of course he would like to see me in a bikini, but he wouldn’t want any other man to!

  41. Dear Nancy

    Thanks for this wonderful post, I have linked it to Facebook and sent it to a few Pastors wives. It is fantastic! I often feel even more sickened by the forty year old women who like to expose their breasts. I mean could you put them away?! I don’t want them thrust in my face and at church of all places! Thanks for being so brave and being the “someone who addresses it”!!

    Sue,
    New Zealand

  42. “I used to wear bikinis when I was a teenager. When I became a Christian I thought it was a no brainer that I would no longer wear them (I wasn’t raised in CA). No one told me I should quit wearing them. It just made sense to me.”

    (I won’t mention who this is because I can’t recall any links right now to prove I’m not making this up.) There was a lady in the 80’s who was extremely famous and extremely beautiful. She even is listed sometimes as one of the most beautiful persons in the world, in her prime. Not only was she beautiful, she was also very forward in her sexuality by the outfits she wore and her attitude.. It was very alluring and attractive. Anyway, she became a Christian! I remember either seeing an interview of her and/or reading about her where she said when she became a Christian that she threw away many of her outfits and old photos and videos of herself because she just knew that she should be modest now. She still is beautiful, physically, even as she’s older, but more so than anything she has a beautiful spirit and a wonderful testimony.

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