Indulge me in a parable . . .


Once upon a time, in a church far, far away, there lived a not-very-attractive middle-aged woman who was terribly insecure. She seemed to both resent and fear any and all attractive women, and she also considered herself to have “the gift of rebuke.” Because of this happy combination of character traits, her duty was clear. She appointed herself as the Modesty Sheriff, and she diligently and patiently informed the women in her church whenever she felt that their skirt was too tight. Or when a slip or a strap was showing. Or if they needed to be more careful about their posture. Needless to say, no one liked her much, and behind her back she was called Cranky Fun-Buster.

But she doesn’t come into this story at all.

In a different church (your church actually) there was a very young and very cute girl. So cute, indeed, that whenever she went to the mall, random pimply teenage boys would ask for her phone number. When she walked down Main Street, truckers honked and whistled. She kinda liked it. Well ok, let’s be frank. She really liked it. So much so that she started to really work it. She noticed that the shorter her skirts were, the better the reaction, so she began to shop accordingly. The skimpier the bathing suit, the better the day at the beach – which made her bathing suit choice a no-brainer. She filed away all those whistles in her heart, and when she thought about them they made her smile. Her shirts got tighter, and as she walked down the street she learned to spend most of her time in her peripheral vision – anxious to see if any guys were noticing her.

Of course she couldn’t say any of this out loud. If she’d been a pagan cheerleader down at the local highschool she could (and would) have talked about it all day long. But she was a Christian girl, so she had to pretend that none of it was happening. It was tricky to do, but she mastered it in the end. Her solution was elegantly simple – what she did was to burn down the bridge between her internal self and her external self. Her internal self counted whistles. Her external self said, “Geez Mom – it’s not about that at ALL. What do you think I am? I didn’t even notice that he was looking at me.”

Of course, all this meant that her nickname really should have been Hypocrite Pants, but she was very careful never to let anyone get a glimpse into her internal self and she had mastered a very sincere and genuine facial expression which fooled many people. As a matter of fact, she had also managed to fool herself. She carefully avoided ever noticing that her internal self flatly contradicted everything her external self said, and vice versa. Her internal self practiced her best sultry-pouty-lip-face in the bedroom mirror, her external self practiced her wide-eyed, slightly tearful, I-can’t-believe-you-would-even-say-that face which she used when speaking with her parents.

Every so often this girl heard some older woman speaking about modesty. If she thought about it very much she would inexplicably get very angry, so she cultivated an ability to not listen. If and when that failed, her next defense was to pretend that this woman was in fact The Legendary Cranky Fun-Buster. (Everyone has heard of Cranky Fun-Buster, even though very few of us have actually met her.)

This young girl grew up, and as she did, her addiction to male attention grew as well. But so did her knowledge of Scripture and theology. She grew past her, “la la la I can’t hear you” defense, and began to manufacture a defense of the way she dressed that sounded much more mature and Scripturaly relevant. She said things like,

“For pity’s sake – the verse about modesty is NOT about cleavage. Grow up people! Paul was actually speaking about ostentation which is really a heart attitude more than anything.”

“The Bible has ONE verse on modesty. Count em – ONE. Would everyone please stop panicking about bikinis? Let’s be mature people – please.”

“The Bible never tells us what modesty actually means – and these things are obviously societily determined. Latching onto a particular dress code simply creates a legalism which is far more deadly than legs.”

“Lust is definitely a problem, but it’s really the man’s duty to guard his heart and be righteous. We women can’t be responsible for a man’s thought life. That’s really between him and God.”

This tactic worked for the most part. When the young woman ran across posts like this online, she groaned and rolled her eyes to all her friends on facebook about the embarrassing naivete displayed by women who get “so wound up” about modesty. She was aggressive enough about it that lots of ladies who ought to have known better felt kind of stupid about the whole thing and so they chimed in with their agreement. What we all need to do, they agreed on facebook, was to worry less about modesty. Let’s be adults for heaven’s sake.

But then one night something very awkward happened. A very difficult fairy named Be-Sure-Your-Sin-Will-Find-You-Out visited her while she slept and tapped her with her Wand of Consistency. When the girl woke up, she had a thought bubble above her head in which everyone could read every thought which passed through her brain. As she stood in front of her closet deciding what to wear, her roommate saw the thought bubble say, “Ooh – I’m walking past that construction site today. Definitely the tight jeans. And heels. And I’ll wear my hair down. They won’t be able to handle it.”

Well you can imagine how embarrassing this situation was. The girl was so deeply in the habit of thinking this way that she absolutely couldn’t stop herself. And everyone all day long saw every licentious thought which passed through her head. At church everyone saw her comparing herself to the married women and speculating about whether the husbands were struggling with contentment. Everyone saw exactly what was going through her head as she walked past the row of college guys – as she imagined to herself what they were thinking. (AND they all saw her spell “hot” with an “aw” as she pictured to herself what was going through their heads.) Everyone saw her compare herself to every other girl in the room. They all saw the flicker of fear when she noticed a girl prettier than she was.

And suddenly everyone saw that girl exactly the way God had always seen that girl. As Hypocrite Pants. And suddenly all her mature statements about modesty became simply pathetic – obvious and embarrassing covers for her own lust problem. Everyone saw, in horrible clarity, the truth that a lustful man lusts after a woman – but a lustful woman lusts to be lusted after. And everyone saw – as clear as day – that her biggest problem certainly wasn’t the bikini that they had all been worried about. It was her hard heart. And her pride. And her self deception. And her dishonesty. And her lust.

Choose your own adventure: How does it end?
1. The girl broke down and repented. She gave up all her inconsistencies, all her self deception, all her self righteousness, and prayed that God would help her to die to herself every single day. She prayed that God would convict her whenever she started down that path again. She took down all her stupid facebook self-justifications and threw away all her immodest clothes. She prayed that God would help her to be honest with herself, and that she would learn to differentiate between beauty, which God loves, and immodesty, which He hates.
2. The girl pretended the thought bubble wasn’t there and continued on just as before. Only no one would talk to her anymore.

Share on Facebook3Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0

41 thoughts on “Indulge me in a parable . . .

  1. I grew up being Miss Hypocritical pants and know all too well those heart issues. Then once #1 of those choices happened in my life, I very quickly became Mrs. Cranky fun-buster. I pray The Lord gives me graciousness and gives a lot of these young girls insight. This was so well written, thank you for this.

  2. This is an excellent and convicting post. Cuts right to the heart of the matter, because modesty is such a matter of the heart. It takes a great deal of honesty to really face that and name the sin. Thank you!

  3. Its a dangerous society…so many temptations in and out…..and without community…real friendships….stuff goes awry….I hate being exposed…..and this is my beef with God….having to deal with caddiness…especially from older cranky woman who are ready to take a chink out of you…I had my hair creme missing and felt like someone just wants me to look ugly …..but I just want to feel pretty …and I cannot even do that right.

  4. At the heart of the issue is the attraction that exists between men and women, which I believe is a natural good thing that God has created! ie, song of solomon. It is easy once you are married, to focus that attraction on each other, and any variance from the marriage is easily defined as sin. The difficulty is in the teen years when we are young and beautiful and naive and do not know the right response to the attraction we receive from men! The attention is a desirable and lovely thing. I guess what I am saying is, I do not know how to teach my teen daughters how to manage such feelings without making them out to be a sinful thing and also avoiding the traps you illustrate with Miss Hypocritical. I would love to read any tips on this!

  5. I am confused by this parable. Was it sinful of the girl to enjoy the attention she received because she was pretty? That seems to be the ‘sin’ at the crux of this issue. But is it a sin? Don’t we all enjoy attention we receive for being pretty, or baking a wonderful cake or being a really good mum, all things given to us by God? I understand the hypocrisy girl then used to hide the fact that she enjoyed the attention was wrong,.

  6. This makes the assumption to know the heart of a girl who dresses in a way the author doesn’t like. Only the LORD knows the heart. It is his place to know and judge. It is ours to love and show mercy. Even our greatest example, Jesus, ate with sinners, saved an adulterer from stoning. It was the Pharisees who took the other position. If you want to win over the lost on this topic you can not do so through a self-righteous way of writing. You DON’T know the thoughts of a girl who may dress below YOUR standard of modesty, and nor do you need to. It is irrelevant to the eternal picture. Christians are to judgmental and forget themselves that WE TO WHERE LOST. How then can we who have been shown mercy be so merciless?

  7. Golly… The Christian right sure is a sanctimonious lot.
    What young girl doesn’t feel at least a small glow of pride at being called “pretty”? The bible doesn’t mention much about clothing, and what it does mention is vague. If we took what the bible says and became legalistic about it, we’d still be stoning adulterers and avoiding pork.

  8. Matthew,

    Let me guess, you chose #2 as the ending to this adventure. Thanks for speaking up, my wife and I had got a really good chuckle from your comments. In fact, I dare say we got to see your thought bubble!

    Broken vessels, CT & LT

  9. I guess I feel a little defensive here. I think you have nailed it right on. I do believe young women love the attention they get when a man notices them. I don’t feel like she is judging this girl, but more warning her. At my church there are many couples who have been married 50 years or more and let me tell you it was not beauty that carried the marriage, but loveliness from a desire to please God and live a life to glorify him. They all argued, but they all worked it out. What is the point of external beauty it is very fleeting and before you know it you look like the cranky lady and the cranky lady knows what the young girl is doing because she was her.

  10. Well, I don’t speak for everyone, but I am sure glad that I still wear skirts and dresses that don’t bare any ankles, arms, anything below the collarbone, and I SURE don’t wear any pants or makeup. I wouldn’t want anyone to catcall or call me pretty, because then I might be happy about that and then I would have a heart problem. I can’t believe how society has spiraled downwards. It’s awful!

    Thank you for this wonderful post – we need to understand that at the root of ALL lust is women, and more women need to come to grips with this hard truth. We need to go back to TRUE modesty, where everything can be clinically defined, like in the 1800s.

    What? What do you mean modesty has changed? Of course women can’t show ankles! Men might stumble at them.

    What’s Africa got to do with it? They show their BREASTS?? Those strumpets! Well, I don’t think the location, age we live in, or the society that we take part in has anything to do with it.

    Those heathens in the middle East are right about one thing, at least. Burqas are a wonderful idea.

    While we’re at it, we need to be all-inclusive of those poor men who have fetishes. We should cover our feet, so that we don’t victimize more men who have a foot fetish.

  11. “a lustful man lusts after a woman – but a lustful woman lusts to be lusted after.”

    This is such a great statement that it would make Chesterton or Lewis envious.

  12. Wow. Just wow. “And suddenly everyone saw that girl exactly the way God had always seen that girl. As Hypocrite Pants.” This is NOT how God sees that girl. Or anyone. God would look at that girl and see His beautiful creation, made in His loving image. And yes He would hurt for her heart and want her to find her worth and value in Him and because she is His, and not because of her beauty. But He has ALWAYS seen her a perfectly made, valuable daughter, not “hypocrite pants”.

  13. Hi Kathleen – great question! I would totally agree that needing / hurting girls need to be reached out to and loved . . . into repentance. But it is not unloving to name the sin that needs to be repented of. By all means – love them, feed them, reach out to them . . . but also give them the solution to their problem.

    Everything of course also depends on which direction a girl is headed. Is she a sad and hurting girl who needs to be given the good news of the gospel? Is she on her way into the kingdom? Then obviously, you overlook her outfit and you give her what she most desperately needs. That’s a completely different situation than a girl who is in the midst of turning her back on everything her parents and her church have given her. (Which was the situation I was talking about in my post.)

    The biggest point of difference I think is that I don’t believe that girls only end up dressing indecently because they are innocent victims who don’t really know any better. Women are sinners too, who need the blood of Christ. Not only are women sinners, women are sexual sinners. I’m sure the adulterous woman from Proverbs had a really sad past . . . but at some point she embraced the sin herself, and once that has happened, the only thing she can do with it is ask Christ to take it away.

    So short answer – I’m 100% on board with loving a girl into a more mature understanding of this subject. But not every girl is actually that open. Some girls don’t want to hear it because some girls are stuck in their sin.

  14. thankyou Kathleen! That was a lovely response and it had the answers I was looking for! It contained grace and love, and reminded me of the joy of the gospel!

  15. Exactly! I always cringe when I hear young girls told, “you wouldn’t dress that way if you knew what the boys were thinking!” Oh really… tell me more! I’m not sure why older women think that girls will be deterred from dressing immodestly by learning of all the ways the boys will lust after them. Miss Hypocrite Pants seems to demonstrate a much more typical way girls — and grown women! — think. Excellent (and convicting!) post!

  16. Hi Lorean – thanks for the comment! I’d just say that I do think it’s important for us to remember that even Christ – who was here to suffer and die for the sins of his people in the ultimate act of love for sinners – had strong words for those who refused to give up their sin and called it by another name. “Fools and blind . . . brood of vipers . . . whitewashed tombs . . . sons of your father the devil . . .” He also assured us that at the judgement he will say to them, “Depart from me – I never knew you.” Telling someone that doesn’t have to be seen as unloving – any more than it’s unloving to tell someone that a train is bearing down on them and if they don’t move off the tracks they’ll get run over. “Repent and believe” isn’t judgey – it’s good news.

  17. Rebecca, while you are correct that Jesus did not shy away from naming sin and calling to repentance, I’d like to point out that every one of the statements you listed in your comment (ie: depart from me, brood of vipers, etc) was spoken to the religiously legalistic who focused more on rules and recognition than they did on the heart of their faith. I also have to agree with the commenter who said that it God sees ALL of us as people in need of His love and forgiveness, and that labeling the girl in your story as Hypocrite Pants is more than a little simplistic, not to mention not all-together accurate in as much as being how God sees her. I have to agree with another commenter that stories like this, while definitely well written, and yes, some have this problem, is potentially damaging as it puts all attractive young women who present themselves with beauty in the position of being labeled with this stereotype. It also fails to recognize that lusting after being lusted after is something ANY woman (or man) can struggle with, regardless of what they look like. Some of the women I have met who really struggle with this are not at all thin or conventionally attractive.

    And…women do lust after men. I’m not sure you were saying they don’t, but your statement about lust seems to say so.

  18. Hi Alena – thanks for the comment! I think we agree on lots here – I certainly don’t think that it’s only the cutest girls who struggle with this. As far as the hypocrisy goes – that was kind of my point. I was trying to show that there’s more than one way of being a hypocrite – and young Christian kids who have grown up in the church do it all the time. Someone can be consumed with lust (or greed, or desire for recognition, or hate), and yet come up with all kinds of “Scriptural” arguments to justify what is actually just plain, old fashioned sin – exactly the same way the Pharisees did. Also, I do hope that a beautiful godly girl who is seeking to honor God and present herself with real beauty wouldn’t recognize herself in this story! Because of course that’s not wrong.

  19. Thanks for the reply, Bekah! I figured that was where you were going, but double checked anyway. Thanks for not shying away from saying hard words, but also for saying them in such a way that they are not also harsh.

  20. Thank you for this. I see myself in this girl. There will be lots of prayer and repentance on my part in the near future…

  21. Great post! Loved it! And I find it quite laughable how many people are getting all worked up and acting like you can’t have any standard of modesty without transporting women back to the Victorian era, or stuffing us all in Bhurkas. And because you think women should be conscious of how they dress and WHY they dress that way, it apparently makes you judgey-mcjerky face. Give me a break people, grow up and own up! Something tells me the people (women esp) getting really hot under the collar about this are the ones who’s consciences were a little pricked by this article. 😉

  22. “As a matter of fact, she had also managed to fool herself. She carefully avoided ever noticing that her internal self flatly contradicted everything her external self said, and vice versa.”

    This part of the whole issue (and all sin issues, I guess) is so true and probably the hardest to work through. You *have* to let God/your parents/counselors pierce through to your conscience for any change to take place, and that’s difficult when we’re proud. Anyway, thanks so much for this post; those lustful thoughts that in our self-deception we think aren’t really “us” can lead us into a lot of temptation.

  23. Jesus didn’t only call out the legalistic types. He told the woman at the well exactly what kind of sinner she was. And she tried to deflect His comments with a theological argument. I am also amazed that so many people missed the obnoxious conceitedness of the girl in the parable. When my 16 year old daughter read it, getting to the point of the thought bubbles she said “Oh snap!” Most of us would not want our thoughts on any subject to appear over our heads for all to see. But as Bekah pointed out, God sees them all the time. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) “…and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

  24. You rock! This is brilliant. Perhaps, we women wrestle with both of these women in our hearts. Thankful for mercy.

  25. Well, parables were meant to make us think and your parable is making me THINK! I have compassion for Mrs Cranky Pants but also for the girl in your story, who is duplicitous (as we all are in some way), but is also young and in need of discipleship to not only rebuke her but also encourage and train her in the way she should go. This discipleship is about much more than wardrobe choice though. We all want to attract attention: what maturity does is teach us how to handle that desire in a godly and loving way. My further thoughts on this:

  26. Thanks for the thoughtful parable. Perhaps you should end the next one with, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” I hope you are chalking up all the non-sequiturs as corroboration that you struck close to your mark.

  27. Wonderful post, thank you Rebekah! It reminded me personally to not let vanity or the need to feel acceptable/attractive become more important then God!

  28. Josie, DScully et al. – Isn’t the difference between taking pleasure in being attractive and taking pleasure in looking “hot” pretty clear?

  29. Rebekah,

    All I can say is: amazing. It almost brought me to tears. Here is why:
    On my own blog, I wrote a few posts about modesty (The Day I Wore Yoga Pants: 5 Myths of Modesty). These were posts that were from my heart, and I was transparent about what modesty means biblically, trying to be honest about how this is a struggle for many women seeking God. I received many encouraging responses, but also much hate mail as well. These words were ALL hurled:

    “For pity’s sake – the verse about modesty is NOT about cleavage. Grow up people! Paul was actually speaking about ostentation which is really a heart attitude more than anything.”

    “The Bible has ONE verse on modesty. Count em – ONE. Would everyone please stop panicking about bikinis? Let’s be mature people – please.”

    “The Bible never tells us what modesty actually means – and these things are obviously societily determined. Latching onto a particular dress code simply creates a legalism which is far more deadly than legs.”

    “Lust is definitely a problem, but it’s really the man’s duty to guard his heart and be righteous. We women can’t be responsible for a man’s thought life. That’s really between him and God.”

    To read them in your post was a comfort. Someone else gets it. You get it. And most of all – you get kudos for writing this! Well, well done!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *