Living the Gospel at the Beach and Pool (Part 2): Women and Modesty

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Ladies first…Last week, I stated that the primary area of temptation at the beach for women revolves around the issue of modesty. Now, I realize that I am charting into some choppy waters when it comes to such a discussion because of the “grayness” of this issue. What many would have thought was the attire of harlots a few decades ago is now acceptable in many Christian circles. Let me just say that I will not be proposing a certain type of swimsuit for ladies in this blog post (not because I don’t have an opinion on it), but I will instead propose some questions on the basis of which each couple should make their decision concerning acceptable types of swimwear.

The reason this issue is so difficult to deal with is because the Bible does not give us a modesty checklist or specific guidelines on what is considered modest. For example, 1 Timothy 2:9–10 simply commands “modest apparel” and offers a few qualifications:

…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”

The broad qualifications given in these verses are important: propriety, moderation, and good works. Indeed, these qualities should be sought after by all women in their attire (propriety and moderation) and lifestyle (good works). Yet, the question could still be asked: What does a swimsuit marked by propriety look like? What one woman thinks might meet this standard might not line up with what another woman thinks. Such subjectivity brings me to a very important question women should ask in their choice of attire: Does it cause a [Christian] man to lust? In my opinion, this should be one of the key principles in a Christian woman’s choice of swimwear.

In Romans 14, Paul, writing on the issue of Christian liberty, outlines some very helpful principles. For example, he states in Romans 14:13:

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

Then, again in v. 21:

“It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”

In v. 15, he anchors the issue of Christian liberty in love:

“Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.”

Ladies, what is at stake in your choice of swimwear is far more important than a tan line (which quickly fades). What is at stake is your obedience to Christ’s love commandment in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

The question every woman should ask before putting on their swimsuit (or any attire) is: Am I showing love to my brothers in Christ by this choice of attire? If it causes them to lust, then the answer to this question is probably no.

Now, I know that there are enough perverts in this world to fill North America and that many men are so driven by lust that they will find a way to lust regardless, but this does not dismiss the fact that certain portions of a woman’s body when exposed present a greater temptation for men to lust, even men who are seeking to walk by the Spirit and to avoid lust. These are the portions that should be covered at all times, even at the beach or pool. A man’s sinful desires do not magically turn off at the beach/pool; in fact, they are usually more pronounced there than anywhere else. A very practical way to find out these “high risk” areas of a woman’s body is to ask (better: have your husband ask) several godly men what portions of a woman’s body, when exposed, make them struggle with lust. To be sure, not everyone will agree (thus highlighting the subjectivity of the issue), but it should give you a good idea.

One last thing…of equal importance in this matter is the issue of lost men and a Christian woman’s responsibility to be a light to them. To put it a little more bluntly: will you be a light (Matt 5:16) to the men of this world by pointing them to Christ with your modesty or will you simply be another link in Satan’s chain that drags these men into the pit of hell? As dangerous and unloving as it is to make a brother in Christ stumble, how much more to make a lost man, who is enslaved to sin, stumble?

Many people whom I have encountered treat this as a light issue because there are so many opinions. This is not an issue that we should treat lightly and it is worthy of much thought and biblical wisdom. Wherever you land on the modesty spectrum, make it your goal to err on the side of caution rather than on the side of error. In my next post, I will present a few more specific questions for couples to ask regarding this issue.

6 Responses to "Living the Gospel at the Beach and Pool (Part 2): Women and Modesty"
  1. As a woman, being a Christian, I believe you should wear a bathing suit in modesty. But even if you were to wear a one piece bathing suit and it didn’t reveal a lot,I believe men in general would still find a way to lust. Lusting in my opinion happens in your heart first before it registers through your eyes. You can look at a woman and look at her body and then look away before you have time to lust after her. If you have any lust I believe it should only be for your wife.You can look but why would you want to touch when your wife looks better than those women at the beach to you anyway. Even if a woman wore a one-piece bathing suit,a man could still find a way of lusting. I believe its up to the man if he wants to lust after a woman or lust only for his mate. It’s
    the same way with the woman.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for your comment. I do agree with you that “men in general” will find a way to lust, but “men in general” are not whom I have in mind when I speak of a woman causing a brother to stumble. A woman’s criteria should be godly men who are filled with the Spirit. There are many godly men who go to the beach/pool with every intention of not lusting. I will speak more about the nature of lusting in a later post, but at this point, I am trying to argue that women have a responsibility to love their brothers by covering up provocative areas of their own body.

  3. I totally agree that a man walking by the Spirit has responsibility to not be lusting after another woman, but I also totally agree that God has created men intentionally to desire after a woman’s body. Obviously God wants a man to desire after his wife’s body ONLY and not somebody else. In regards to the 1st comment left by a reader, I look at it similar to someone trying to lose weight. You can have all the greatest intentions of really wanting to eat healthy & live a healthy lifestyle, but if someone drops off a delicious chocolate cake at your house and you have to look at, I am sure you will begin to crave that chocolate cake – no matter how healthy you desire to be. At least I would! I think the same is true for any man at the beach wanting to only feast his eyes on his wife, but you can’t help but see [a woman’s body] hanging out everywhere. Men have a responsibility for their eyes & heart and likewise women have a responsibility to not be a stumbling block to a fellow believer. Save your [body] for your hubby!!

  4. Good post 🙂 When looking at the time period in which Timothy was written we must take into consideration what the fashions were. Plaited hair with gold woven in, lots of gold jewelry(nose rings, earrings) were the fashion. I think the purpose was to tell the women not to follow the fashion of the day. We, as Christians, are not to follow along with every fad and fashion that the world puts out today. We are to be a people set apart for the Lord. We are to show modesty in every way….not just dress, but also in conversation and actions. While every family will have their own idea of what modesty looks like, I think common sense would give some sort of guideline. I see many Christians in this day and age that are *picking and choosing* what parts of the Bible they want to follow because they want the Bible to fit to their lifestyle instead of molding themselves to the Word of God. I think a good question that women can ask themselves when they go somewhere like a pool would be, “Would I want Jesus Christ to come and see me in this getup?” Thanks for sharing. love to see men standing up for this. :)–S

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