Revive Our Hearts Radio

My Brother's Keeper

Leslie Basham: Voddie Baucham is pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, so he's seen what immodesty can do in a local congregation.

Voddie Baucham: I think modesty's a tremendous issue. Unfortunately, we've been jaded. We see immodesty so much that we don't recognize it anymore. The envelope has been pushed so far that there are things that we're willing to accept that we never would have in another time or another era. So usually when we talk about modesty, we're talking about modesty relative to the culture, not from a biblical perspective, not from the standpoint of the purpose of a woman's modesty and the purpose of a woman presenting herself in a way that is honoring to her Lord and also to her husband.

I think modesty is really important, but I think modesty oftentimes, again, we get to the practical, pragmatic issues—how short is too short?—as opposed to the fundamental, theological, and philosophical questions of, to whom does your body belong? What is the purpose for your body? And what do you communicate by the way that you adorn your body?

Leslie: Today Nancy Leigh DeMoss will show us how to encourage the men around us through developing a heart of modesty. You're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, April 23.

Am I my brother's keeper? It's a question we should each ask in relation to our clothing. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is continuing in the series, Modesty: Does God Really Care What I Wear?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As I was preparing for this series, I sent an email to a number of my women friends, some younger, some older, some married, some single, and I said, “Just share with me your thoughts about modesty, about clothing issues.” I invited them to share with me any personal illustrations of how their lives had been affected by this whole issue. I got a very touching response from a friend who's a wife and a mom.

She began her response by saying this:

Five years ago I learned about my husband's failures with his thought life which led to an affair with a woman at work who dressed very sensually. My heart was broken.

Now, I'm going to come back before we finish today and tell you the rest of that story, but let's just take that much for the moment. Let me ask you this question. Who was responsible for this affair and for the implications in my friend's marriage? Who was responsible? Was my friend's husband responsible for his sexual failure? Let me hear an answer.

Audience: Yes!

Nancy: Absolutely! No question about it. He was completely, totally, 100% responsible for his sinful choices and responses to that woman at work.

However, let me ask you this question. Was the woman at work who dressed sensually—did she have any responsibility in this affair?

Audience: Yes!

Nancy: Absolutely! Richard Baxter was a Puritan pastor back in, I think, the 17th century, who gave what I think is a profound word picture that applies to this whole area of modesty and clothing. In this context, he's talking about how women sin when their clothing ensnares the minds of the men around them, even though they may not have intended to be a snare.

He said if they did not do their best to avoid being a snare, that they are somewhat responsible, and here's what he goes on to say. He says,

And though it may be their [that is the men's] sin and vanity that is the cause, it is nevertheless your sin [speaking to women] to be the unnecessary occasion for their sin.

[He says to women], You must not lay a stumbling block in their way nor blow up the fire of their lust. You must walk among sinful persons, which all men are [and all women are—and here's the word picture], as you would do with a candle among straw or gunpowder or else you may see the flame which you did not foresee when it is too late to quench it.

Now, that word picture has really stuck in my mind. He said to women, as you live in this world—and this is hundreds of years ago. He was saying to women, "You need to walk on this planet, in the course of your everyday life, as if you were holding a candle in your hand and you were walking into a room filled with straw or gunpowder."

How careful would you be? He said if you weren't careful, you would find out that there was a flame that you had not foreseen when it was too late to quench it.

Now, let's look at a different situation, one that comes out of the Scripture, 2 Samuel chapter 11, illustrating this principle, as does the principle of my friend whose husband became sexually involved with a woman in the workplace. Second Samuel 11 tells us the story of David and Bathsheba. You're familiar with it, but let me just read a couple of verses.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful (verse 2). 

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) [verse 4] 

Now, what this means in plain English is that she had just been through her monthly cycle, and she was going through the ritual purification that was required for Old Testament Jews. So she would be free to have sexual relationships with her husband at that point.

David looks down from his roof. He sees this woman who's bathing in this ritual purification. He sees that she's beautiful. He sends messengers. He brings her to the palace. She comes, and he is sexually intimate with Bathsheba who is another man's wife.

Now in this case, we don't know for sure how responsible Bathsheba was. We don't know how she responded to David's advances.

I read a commentary this morning on this subject that was interesting to me. It said, “Bathsheba, knowing the proximity of her courtyard to the palace, probably harbored ulterior designs toward the king, yet David's submission to her charms is inexcusable. She was assured of her ritual purity. He had intercourse with her. The bathing itself may have been for the purpose of ritual purification and would therefore not only advertise Bathsheba's charms, but would serve as a notice to the king that she was available to him.”

Now, we don't know if all that was in her mind, but let me ask this question just based on what we do know. Who was responsible for David's sin? Was David responsible? Absolutely! No question, 100%.

David's sin in this case is obvious, but the sin of the woman involved is not so obvious. We don't know what her motives were. We don't know if she was aware of what she was doing. We don't know if she went to David's palace willingly or under coercion.

One commentary I read this morning suggested the fact that when says, “she came to him,” suggests that she did not go there against her will, but we don't know that. What we do know is that she was careless, that if nothing else, she unintentionally exposed her body to a man who was not her husband and that when she did, she became a cause of David's great sin, and not only of David's sin, but ultimately of the murder of her husband and the death of her child.

Bathsheba did not necessarily intend to cause this evil. She did not necessarily foresee the evil, and yet in some sense, she was the cause of the evil, if only through carelessness.

One writer said, “David's sin was clearly his fault, but Bathsheba's carelessness certainly fueled the fires of his lust. Bathsheba failed to govern her modesty, and David failed to govern his eyes.” Candle, gunpowder—put them together, and what do you have? An explosion.

You see, she could not be responsible for governing David's eyes. You cannot be responsible for governing the eyes of the men around you, but ladies, we can be responsible and—here's the challenge—we are responsible for governing our modesty.

So how much responsibility do we have as women? Well, the Scripture teaches us that we are responsible for one another's well-being. Romans chapter 14, verse 13 says it this way, “Therefore let us . . . resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way,” (NKJV).

Wouldn't that be a great resolution for all of us as Christian women to have? You know what? It's not an option.

The apostle Paul says to the Romans, “Let us resolve this.” Let us be determined about this, and it does take a determined effort. It takes a conviction. Let us resolve this, “I will not put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in my brother's way.”

It's a principle of deference. What does deference mean? It means the "willingness to limit our liberty for the sake of others who are weak," others who may be caused to stumble or to fall.

Listen, there's nothing necessarily, inherently sinful about certain articles or items of clothing and just cloth, fabric, whatever. It's not inherently sinful. What makes it sinful for us as women to wear is if in so doing we are taking our candle and throwing it into the gunpowder, causing an explosion, if we're putting a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

Let me go back to my friend who learned five years ago that her husband had had an affair with a woman at work who dressed sensually. She said, “My heart was broken,” and I want to go on and read to you the way that this woman responded to that heartbreaking situation. She said,

At the time, I would have considered myself a modern, Christian woman who for the most part was very modest. [However, after learning about her husband's affair, she said,] I immediately began to see the clothes in my own closet with new eyes. With tears streaming down my face, I began pulling every immodest item out of my closet.

I suddenly saw things that were too tight, too short, and too low cut. I wanted to get rid of anything that could cause another woman's husband to fall into that same pit. I carried bags of clothes to the trashcan and spent the next day buying modest skirts and feminine tops that would honor God but still look stylish.

I had never noticed those kinds of clothes before because I was not looking for them. I was looking for things that promote the world's philosophy. Unfortunately, my husband's coworker had bought into a lie, and so had I.

Our marriage has been restored [I know this couple, and it is really true], but I often cringe as I sit in church and see the way some women still choose to dress. [Candle, gunpowder.]

When I talk to teen girls I challenge them to dress for Jesus and to look into the mirror and ask, "God, is this alright with You?" I also plead with them not to make my husband or my sons fall morally because of their pride.

Please ask the women you speak with to consider how they would feel if it was their husband, their brother, or their pastor. Please ask them to help protect my husband and my sons by dressing modestly.

“Therefore let us . . . resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.” And Lord, that is the resolution of my heart. By Your Spirit and Your power and Your grace, I want to resolve afresh this moment never to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in the path of anyone else for whom You died.

Show us, Lord. Help us to be willing to take, if needed, drastic measures, as my friend did, to be the kind of women who help and lift up and encourage and strengthen the men around us rather than in any way pulling them down. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Have you been putting a stumbling block in front of the men you know through the way you dress? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been calling each of us to a heart of modesty.

It's important to get this issue right. Nancy's booklet, The Look, will take you through many Scriptures. You can interact with the issue she's been talking about on the radio. Slow down. Ponder your heart and your wardrobe and ask God if you need to make any changes.

When you donate any amounts to Revive Our Hearts, we'll send you the booklet, The Look. Donate by calling 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

A listener wrote us with a question during the series on modesty. Here's what she said,

I have been following in this series, and I've found it to be very eye-opening. However, I do have a question. When you say my body is my husband's, which the Scripture says, and I do believe, does that mean asking him if I look modest?

What if my husband prefers that I dress in a way that might be viewed as immodest, even in public? In your book, Lies Women Believe, you talk about not being frumpy, and you encourage women to practice caring for their personal appearance in order to please their husbands. I guess I'm learning that the heart of the matter is the issue here and not just the outward appearance.

With God's help, I'm addressing the heart issues involved in my sometimes-immodest dress, but I really need help with the practical side of this issue. I find myself saying, "Well, if my husband thinks it's okay to wear, even in public, then it isn't immodest, and therefore it's fine." Thanks. Your ministry is really helping me. Please continue to share your heart.

We asked some friends of Revive Our Hearts to weigh in on this issue. What do you do if your husband wants you to wear something you think might be immodest? This is pastor's wife, Kim Wagner.

Kim Wagner: You know, Holly, I think a lot of women may struggle with that question because husbands—they want their wives to look good, and they may have a different perspective of modesty. I was in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday with my husband and our son and a group from our church. We were all at a large table together, and I watched as a young man, probably in his 20s, walked in with what appeared to be perhaps his wife or his girlfriend.

He looked very proud to be bringing her into that restaurant, but she was dressed in a very tight, very revealing dress. I watched as the men's heads turned and followed her. Now, I don't know that she ever intended to cause that kind of disruption in their lives, but the sad fact is that we as women have a responsibility, yes, to honor our husbands, but more than that to honor God.

If we are believers, we're to clothe ourselves in Christ and give no opportunity for the Evil One, for him not to have any place in our lives. We need to think about, I am dressing today, one, as a representative of Christ, but also I care about my brothers in Christ and also men out in the world, young men, old men, that will encounter me, that I will not cause them to stumble. I understand the woman wanting to honor her husband's desires, but I think she could make a godly appeal to him.

Holly Elliff: Our husbands may not always have the mind of Christ in the area of modesty, and so, just like First Peter says, this is not just about what you put on. It's about an attitude. It's about a heart that says, “My inner desire is to please the Lord,” but for women who are married, part of that pleasing the Lord is also pleasing our husbands.

There are moments when that can happen at home. It doesn't mean that we have to be in public in clothes that would be harmful to someone else or would be distracting to other men, and so there really is a balance there, especially if your husband is not a believer or if your husband does not have the same discernment about what you wear.

Kim, a minute ago, you mentioned that it's always okay to go to your husband, make a godly appeal, have a discussion, ask some questions. What do you think that would look like for somebody who's in that circumstance where maybe their husband is wanting them to wear something they're not comfortable with. How would that woman go about that?

Kim: I think it's different for the wife of a believer than a non-believer, a little bit different, not completely. But as you mentioned, 1 Peter 3, I think for a woman that's married to a believer, she could first go to him and appeal on the basis of Scripture.

Always begin your appeal with an affirmation of him, your husband, and his character. Say, “I appreciate you so much. I appreciate the fact that you find me attractive, but I really don't want other men to view me in that same way. I want to save certain things for only your eyes.” Just lay it out to him honestly and humbly that, “I'm not sure that I am comfortable in wearing this outfit.”

I have a friend, a very good friend. Both of them strong believers, and she talked to me one day about, “My husband likes for me to wear these short skirts.” She said, “I don't have a problem at all wearing them in front of him or around the house, but he likes when I wear them out on dates with him.” Now, this is a mother of four boys.

We talked about that, and she did. She laid out a godly appeal to him. He was a godly man, and he responded well.

Now, an unbeliever will not understand so much our standards or God's standards of holiness and modesty, but again, it begins in the heart. She appeals to him out of a heart of humility, conviction, love for Christ, love for him. Even if he's a non-believer, she can try and communicate to him in ways, not that she is bringing up Scripture to beat him over the head with it, but she just tries to influence his way of thinking that he has a different perspective.

Holly: Kim, I think, too, as we appeal to our husbands, especially if they are unbelievers, it really is helpful to be creative in our thinking. So if there's a dress that we feel might be inappropriate, and your husband loves it, then you might go to him and say, “You know what? I got this new scarf that I want to wear with this dress. What do you think about this?”

Just find a way to make that thing work. If it's a shorter skirt, you might wear black tights. Be creative, going to the Lord and saying, “Lord, how can I talk to my husband about this in a way that is winsome, in a way that does not demean him or make him feel foolish or stupid but in a way that expresses my heart, in a way that says, “Lord, what can I do to work with him on this instead of having him feel like I'm working against him?”

Kim: It will help if, I believe, if women will pray about this before they ever approach him. Ask God to begin to change his heart, his mind. So she's gone to God in prayer. She's prayerfully entering into this conversation and to maybe approach it from the perspective that I want to wear this in front of you and you alone. You are special to me. I want to preserve this look for only you.

Holly: Right, and I think that would be flattering to most men in a good way because our husbands do need to believe that they are special for us. I think the concept of not drawing away another man's attention to ourselves is really important, and you mentioned that a minute ago. I just think our husbands can understand that because they know what it looks like, what it feels like to be drawn away by a woman who's inappropriately dressed.

Leslie: To help you think through issues like the one our listener raised, I hope you'll get a copy of, The Look, a booklet from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We'll send it when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or by calling 1-800-569-5959.

So today, after finding out how our clothing affects men, maybe you're thinking something like this.

Nancy: I think one of the most common thoughts that women have today when it comes to this matter of clothing is, “I can't help it if guys struggle morally because of what I wear. It's up to the guys to control their minds, and I shouldn't have to change the way I dress just because they can't control themselves.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will address that Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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