Is it sinful to dress sexy in public?

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Rev. John Holt

The Rev. John Holt

Ask the Expert by John Holt

It certainly can be sinful to dress sexy. An obvious example might be prostitutes dressing in such a way as to attract business to be paid for fornication. That seems clearly wrong. (However, before we get to blaming prostitutes, remember, they are most often victims themselves, having been tricked, abused, kidnapped or threatened into the “business.”)

Most of us think of sin as morally wrong. In the original language of the New Testament, the word most often translated as “sin” comes from the Greek word hamartia, whose root means “missing the mark or goal.” Hence, it implies missing the goal of doing what God desires. Also there is the concept of a person’s intent — what is in the heart. God cares about our hearts. He loves us so!

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The dictionary defines “sexy” as: “arousing or intended to excite sexual desire; erotic; lascivious.”  One might say to “dress sexy,” then, intends to arouse lust or excite sexual desire in people.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5.28)

Is it missing the goal of doing what God would want, if someone dresses in such a way as to encourage lustful looks and lustful hearts? Does it make a difference if the person dresses with premeditated intent, or negligently, just because it’s the popular style?

Some places in Islamic culture, they take modesty for women to the ’nth degree. When we visited Egypt, we saw many women completely covered in black burqas, and in close to 100-degree temperatures! Modesty for women is highly valued in that culture.

In some Christian cultures, such as the Amish, modesty and plainness in clothing are highly esteemed and a strong tradition.

God designed our bodies and sexuality to be enjoyed and celebrated within marriage. Sex is a great and a powerful blessing. Desire between husband and wife is wonderful and joyous! Modesty and kindness are excellent virtues.

How about for the everyday person? Is it a sin to dress sexy in public? It is a matter of the heart and the actions. A person can dress stylishly, modestly and attractively without being too sexy. I think it is important for people, both those selecting clothing and those viewing others, to examine their hearts.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; … and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139.23-24

John Holt is the lead pastor at First Lutheran Church of Albert Lea.