About a month ago a blogger by the name of Veronica Partridge dared to share her convictions on wearing yoga pants and leggings. She writes,
“For the past several months, I have been having a conviction weighing heavy on my heart. I tried ignoring it for as long as I could until one day a conversation came up amongst myself and a few others (both men and women). The conversation was about leggings and how when women wear them it creates a stronger attraction for a man to look at a woman’s body and may cause them to think lustful thoughts. God really changed my heart in the midst of that conversation and instead of ignoring my convictions, I figured it was time I start listening to them and take action.”
She goes on to describe a discussion with her husband, and her personal decision to “no longer wear thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings in public.” Her motivation for this was to avoid tempting her fellow brothers in Christ. An honorable goal, right? As you may imagine, the backlash was unrelenting. We would expect such outrage at efforts of modesty and propriety from progressives or non-believers, but unfortunately Mrs. Partridge has also faced hateful comments from some who should be leading the charge in praising her for her conviction regarding temptation, and her role in it. Take the popular conservative radio hosts, Chicks on the Right, for example.
Daisy, one of the Chicks, summarized the blog like this, “Basically, yoga pants and leggings are sinful, y’all.” She later explains how yoga pants are divine, and she’s a Christian, so it’s all okay. Well, if she says so, right?!? The Chicks’ blatant mis-characterization of the blog is only made worse by their shaming of a fellow sister in Christ for her efforts to help her brothers in the most common form of sin to men; sexual lust.
First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful and appreciative of any woman who understands the effect that form-fitting clothing has on the men around her, and is willing to be more than a cultural stereotype in choosing her outfits. Secondly, it should be made perfectly clear, and Mrs. Partridge does as much in her blog, that the choice in clothing attire is entirely the woman’s to make. Nobody here or anyone else this side of the Atlantic is trying to make laws about what women can and cannot wear. But if you’re making a claim to godliness (1 Tim. 2:9f), there are things you need to know. Allow me for a moment to add some scriptural strength behind Mrs. Partridge’s personal convictions, if I may be so bold.
The Biblical Case for Modesty
The Woman’s Role
It seems that nowadays using ‘modesty’ and ‘women’ in the same sentence is a one-way ticket to ridicule, mockery and being labeled a knuckle-dragging patriarchal hypocrite. I would seriously hope that this type of reaction would be exclusive to those outside the body of Christ. Surely Christians can remain united in such a simple thing as keeping our attire modest and decent rather than championing the latest staple of the sexual revolution. We should appreciate the fact that God’s word calls his daughters to a higher standard…
“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.” -1 Timothy 2:9,10
If we were all being honest and not looking for an angle to simply do what we want in rebellion, this verse explains itself just fine. But that’s not the case, so let’s break down a few words. You’ll notice that Paul addresses two things here; the mindset and the attire. Because the clothing you choose is a reflection of where your mind/heart is, lets focus in on the mindset.
Other translations render verse 9, “…dress modestly, with decency and propriety…”, or “…proper clothing, modestly and discreetly…”. We have three words here we can break down a bit.
- ‘Modest’ apparel has the general meaning of respectable or honorable. That is, respect and honor for yourself.
- ‘Decency’, or ‘shamefacedness’ as some translations render it, here denotes a state of mind or attitude necessary for one to be concerned about modesty. So if your mind isn’t right then you aren’t going to care about modesty.
- Finally, ‘propriety’ carries with it the general meaning of good judgment, moderation, self-control and habitual inner self-government.
While Paul does mention specific clothing items, his primary concern is with having the right heart/mind to be concerned about modesty, which is “proper for women professing godliness.” Lenora Hammond put it perfectly in her 2004 article on ChristianAction.org titled, “Modesty-The Undressing of our Youth”
“Christian modesty is the inner self-government, rooted in a proper understanding of one’s self before God, which outwardly displays itself in humility and purity from a genuine love for Jesus Christ.”
Ladies, like it or not the Bible has something to say about the way you dress, and more importantly where your heart is that leads to what you wear. So you can seek to please God in transforming yourself to His will for you (Rom. 12:2), or you can roll with the idea that yoga pants are divine. The choice is yours.
The Man’s Role
Fellas, we need to face a simple fact; it is not in the least bit fair to ask our sisters in Christ to bear the burden of our temptations if we are not willing to address them ourselves. As much as I want women to understand (and I think many women understand it perfectly well) the power they have on their side of this discussion, I want my fellow men to understand that the real power lies in our own hearts.
Mrs. Partridge says that women wearing things like yoga pants or leggings, “may cause them [men] to think lustful thoughts.” Allow me to make a slight adjustment here. Instead of ‘may’ in the sentence above, just insert ‘most definitely does’. I’ll stay shy of claiming this is a hard and fast rule for all men everywhere, but if the way I hear men talk about women, and the wandering eyes as women walk by, and my own personal struggles with this are any indication, men lusting after women is about as constant as gravity.
This is something I’ve discussed with my wife. She knows I do and will probably always struggle with this. It’s a battle that, with God’s help, I can achieve some small victories. If you’re conscious at all of your lustful temptations, you’ve probably had plenty of moments when you’ve had to make yourself look in other directions. Guys, that’s a great thing! It shows you’re striving to be like Job and make a covenant with your eyes not to look at a woman lustfully (Job 31:1). It shows we take Jesus seriously when he says, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “ (Mt. 5:28). That’s no small deal. It shows we’re “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt. 3:8). And in those times we’re feeling particularly weak in this regard, we should always remember the power of prayer. There is incredible strength to be drawn from it if we, at our weakest, are turning to God to draw that strength.
So yes, yoga pants and leggings do magnify what is already a natural temptation for lots and lots of men, and Christian men are no exception. Is it a sin for women to wear them? I’m not going that far. Nobody should. Mrs. Partridge didn’t and she still got hammered in comments so I’m prepared for that here too. But it is a sin for me to look on you with lust in my heart. It’s something I have to fight against, and I often fail. So if you could find it in your heart to help me make this battle just a little easier in some way, the guys and I would be very thankful.