Immodesty in Dress: Who is to Blame?

Moral standards are being lowered all around us. One obvious area is in the type of dress people wear. Clothing generally has become shorter, tighter, and lower-cut. The problem of immodest dress has affected members of the Lord’s church as well. Some are either so bold or so ignorant that they even dress immodestly to the assembly of the saints. Who is to blame for this rising problem among God’s people?

Society certainly has an influence. Whatever trends we see in society will eventually be seen in the church. But Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed” (Romans 12:2). We must not dress like the world. It is not enough to simply dress “better” than the world because the world is not our standard. God’s word is our standard. We must not allow ourselves to be affected by the world around us.

Ultimately, the responsibility for one’s sin rests with that person. We will each give an account before God (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will not have to answer for anyone’s sins but our own (Ezekiel 18:20). The one who dresses immodestly – whether out of deliberate defiance or ignorance – is responsible for his own sin. We must each study to be sure we understand God’s will on the issue and then live (and dress) accordingly.

However, there are also others that may share in the blame for this sin. The Bible teaches that one may be guilty when another sins if he does not warn that person of the serious consequences of his actions (Ezekiel 3:18). Who else may be contributing to this moral epidemic?

The home is where teaching about modesty should begin. Parents have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). Children are to be brought up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This must include teaching about what constitutes modest apparel. Unfortunately, many parents are shirking their responsibility. They allow their children to dress in whatever way they want. But the wishes of a child and the influence of the world does not excuse parents from instructing their child “in the way he should go.” Parents who do not “train up” their children to dress modestly are neglecting an important aspect of their lives and contributing to the problem of immodesty.

Gospel preachers are obligated to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Because Paul did this, he was able to declare that he was “innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26). Preaching the “whole counsel of God” includes preaching against immodesty. Of course, sometimes brethren will not listen. The preacher cannot be blamed for this. But he must not be tempted to remain silent because people may ignore the message. He is “innocent” if he preaches “the whole counsel of God,” not if he remains silent because he thinks people will not listen. While some preachers are to be commended for their continued willingness to preach on this subject, some have given up the fight. This subject is unpopular in many places. Those preachers who remain silent share in the blame for this problem.

Elders are instructed: “Shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). This carries with it the responsibility to make sure the church is being fed (taught) all it needs. If a congregation is not taught about immodesty, the fault for this is shared with the elders. Yes, a preacher must preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and stands condemned if he refuses to do so. But if a subject needs to be addressed – whether it be immodesty or anything else – the elders need to make sure that it is taught. They are to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) so they can address the topic themselves. Or they can have the preacher deal with the subject. If a gospel preacher will not preach on this, the elders do not need to keep him around. They should instead find someone who is willing to “preach the word…in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

The fellow Christians of the one who dresses immodestly can also share in the blame. We are to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called, ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). If we see one of our brothers or sisters in sin, whether it has to do with immodest apparel or anything else, we have the responsibility to try and correct that person. James wrote, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). If one of our brethren needs correction, let us approach him out of love for his soul and try to show him what God desires.

What Can Be Done About It?

While it would be nice to be able to change society so that it no longer has a negative influence towards immodesty, reality tells us this will not happen. Christians are to try to influence those around them as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). But this will impact individuals, not society as a whole. Any large-scale change in the morals of society, if it happens at all, will occur gradually over many years. While we can hope that our society will reverse its current course toward further ungodliness, we cannot wait for it to happen. We must serve God faithfully no matter where we are.

So what can we do to help deal with the problem of immodest dress? First and foremost, each one of us must take responsibility for ourselves and “examine” ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to make sure we measure up to God’s standard. It is not enough simply to not dress as immodestly as those in the world. We should not just look to our Christian friends and assume that if we dress like them we will be alright. After all, immodesty is a growing problem among God’s people. We cannot justify our dress by the world or by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must look to the word of God and what it teaches.

We can also help each other. Just as we can encourage one another to live pleasing to God (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13), we can encourage and teach one another about the need to dress modestly and what it means to do so. Pointing the finger of blame will do no good if we do not fulfill our responsibility. Parents must teach their children. Preachers must preach the whole truth. Elders must shepherd the flock in righteousness. Christians must encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Do not be one who shares the blame for the problem of immodesty among God’s people. Do what God’s word requires of you in whatever role you may have. Hopefully in this way, you can help eliminate this problem in the church.

When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on the Gospel, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Road Trip.