What If I Make You Stumble? A Plea for a Change of Clothing
Love. Such a trite word in the English language. We all want love, need love, like to give it away. What is love? Love is death to self. OK…slow down. Maybe I don’t want to love. Friend, you are not alone. In God’s word Christ tells us that all of the Scripture can be narrowed down to “Love God and love others.”(Matt. 22:36-40) This love described is God’s agape love poured out through the hearts of believers back to Him and out to others. (Romans 5:5) Christ manifested this love in dying for us and we are called to live, walk and love like Christ. Well…. that is death to self.
So why am I talking about self-sacrificing love in a post about not causing others to stumble? Well, it begs the question: How do you love others?Are you loving others when you do things that cause them to stumble?
Let me guess…you’re living your daily life, taking care of others and your possessions, spending time with family and friends, serving the church, maybe working hard on your heart for God. If you start getting concerned about what other people think when they watch you-and that they MIGHT stumble-isn’t that a fear of man? You might be asking, “Jill-why are you telling me to be concerned about how others respond to me, aren’t I not supposed to be overly concerned about pleasing people?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:6-7, “but whoever causes one of these little ones (weak Christians) who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”
What does it mean to cause another person to stumble? We get a picture in our minds of stubbing your toe. It hurts pretty bad, it might cause you lingering pain and you walk funny or it may trip you over completely and cause great harm. We are forbidden in Scripture from causing another person to sin, fail spiritually or weaken their faith. Jesus says it’s better for someone to be irrevocably drowned with a giant stone then to cause another person to sin. WHY are we forbidden? The law of love!
Romans 14:13-21 “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to LOVE. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.”
It is important to understand the cultural context Paul was speaking into. Some believers bought meat and ate it with thankfulness, likely rejoicing in the great price they got behind the false temple after pagan sacrifice. They knew the pagan worship was false and that the meat was good. Their conscience had no trouble. On the other hand, weak believers couldn’t get past the meat’s tainted history at the false temple-no matter the great deal. To them the meat was part of a pagan act of worship and it troubled their consciences to eat it.
Paul warns us though in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”
“Christian liberties” are areas in the Christian life where God didn’t say “thus sayeth the Lord.” We often call these grey areas. What are some of these areas? Music. Clothing. Makeup. Skirt length. Movies. TV. Do you LOVE someone enough to give up something wonderful like meat? Or chocolate? Or your music when they’re around? Or not watch that movie? Do you LOVE yourself or others more? Do you tear down the work of Christ with your ungodly words or immodest clothing? The Bible DOESN’T specify how long your skirt should be, how high your neckline, or how thick your makeup. However, the Bible DOES give us some guidelines regarding areas like modesty, drinking, flirting and lust, though.
Let’s take a look at modesty. How can an Excellent Wife in Training (and her daughters) not cause people to stumble due to her wardrobe?
1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”
Martha Peace and Kent Keller explain in their book: Modesty: More than Just a Change of Clothing that modesty is:
“An inner attitude of the heart motivated by LOVE for God that seeks His glory through purity and humility; it often reveals itself in words, actions, expressions and clothes.”
If the Bible doesn’t say how long or short your shirt or skirt should be, how can you decide? You don’t want to cause people to look at your body and be distracted from Christ. Ladies, it’s best to leave a little mystery. Leave the curves of your body for your husband or future husband someday. (Proverbs 31:12). If your lack of clothing leaves nothing to the imagination, you might as well not be wearing anything. Kent Keller says: “Even if you’re not trying to seduce some cute guy you know, immodesty is still an invitation to sexual immorality, whether you MEAN it that way or not. Immodesty WILL capture the interest of those who are interested in immorality.”(Emphasis mine)
What part of your body should people pay attention to? Your heart, your mind, your soul, and your words reveal the real you. The rest is just our temporal frame. How can you check yourself that you won’t unduly cause people to pay attention to your body instead of your heart and words?
Ask yourself these questions about your clothing choices:
Can others see up my clothes?
Can others overly see through my clothes?
Can others see down into my clothes?
What is my motivation for wearing this? To draw attention?
Is my body sufficiently clothed to draw attention to my inner man or just my outer body?
Would this clothing be sufficient if I was up on a stage?
Could I give someone the gospel or my testimony while wearing this outfit or swimsuit?
We are warned: do not be the source of causing others to sin if YOU can help it! Are you loving yourself or others when you dress?
Let’s take a moment to discuss men. You have likely been advised not to cause men to stumble in what you wear; that it can cause them to be tempted to lust in their heart. I’ve heard many women and girls say “It’s not my fault what guys do. They should learn to control themselves.” All of this is true. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that the sons of God should seek to possess. But…..is it kind and loving to constantly put temptation to sin right in front of a person’s eyes? No. We’ve already pointed that out.
Consider 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
How are we to treat each other? As family. And how do we treat our family? With LOVE. What was LOVE again? Right-dying to self. So how should you treat men in the way you dress?
As brothers that you LOVE.
Will you still be selfish and dress how you want when you know it hurts someone by causing them to stumble? This is the heart question isn’t it? Are you going to LOVE YOU or LOVE your brother in Christ? You as a woman really have no idea what it’s like for men when they turn and see too much of your body. Just because you don’t understand why men are attracted to legs and other female parts doesn’t mean you can ignore the truth of it. In the book Modesty, Pastor Keller describes the immediate lust temptation in men as being hit by a baseball bat out of nowhere. A man looks up at the pool, sees you barely wearing anything and BAM, temptation to lust. Is it kind and LOVING to just say “get self control?” I’ve heard women say this. That’s like putting a donut in front of someone on a diet. “Just get self control. I can’t be blamed for your struggle.”
That’s our point here today. God’s word is clear that we are not to cause others to stumble. We know that lust is sin and we know God calls us to modesty. Now I’m not calling you to wear a head-to-toe burka so we can only see your eyes. That’s not where our culture is at, is it? But the Lord God who created your beautiful body is calling you to not use your body to draw attention away from Him or to cause others to stumble when they see it. When people see and interact with you what are they to see? The parts of you that draw the eyes of others, or Jesus Christ and His dying to self LOVE in you.
If a lack of clothing draws attention to you, then it can be a distraction from Christ. And if you are distracting from Christ, are you not causing someone to trip away from God?
Does it cause unbelievers to see that you’re just like the world?
Could your lack of modesty be hurting your Christian witness and evangelism?
Does it cause Christians to be distracted from eternal things?
We need to think “How much can I get away with” LESS, and “what do I need to give up for the sake of others” MORE.
Am I showing LOVE for God by being SEPARATE from the world?
When you are a woman who strives after God, you will find yourself battling with sin every day. You will have to daily put your spiritual armor on and battle against worldliness, temptations, lack of love, and self love. Biblical love MUST compel you. Biblical love is the ONLY thing that can compel you to give up certain liberties for others and to even care for others in the first place. Is your life all about you? Is your life about having fun, doing what you want every day until you die? Or is it possible, that a life laid down to Christ and given away for the sake of others, is truly living?
Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
This is true living. This is “love for God and love for others” living. This is “eyes on eternity” living.