“Ma’am, I am going to have to ask you to go home and change your clothes so I can live a moral life.” Who would say that? I hope no one. But, if a man believes a woman is to fault for his impure thoughts, is this not a logical statement?
So is a woman responsible for how a man looks at her? No. Yes! And again no. This is a delicate topic and one which is very loaded on either side.
If women are to blame for men’s lustful thoughts, I am going to have a busy day at the shopping mall asking all those women to cover up so that I do not stumble. Should we say women are to blame for men who lust after their bodies? No.
Wait, so does it matter how women dress? Yes. They should dress modestly.
Really now, which is it?
Jesus said that “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, . . . All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23). If a man commits adultery with a woman, can he blame her? No. Even if she seduced him, the desire came from his own evil heart. A man named Joseph turned down the sexual advances of his boss’s wife (Genesis 39:7-12).
Take ownership, sir. Don’t blame her.
Jesus also said, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). He did not say, “except for cases where she wears a skimpy outfit and he cannot control his imagination.” No. The man must take responsibility for his own heart regardless of how a woman presents herself.
Where is the scripture condemning Bathsheba for David’s lust? If I could counsel King David and Bathsheba, I would have told both of them to change their ways. She should find a more private area to bathe and he shouldn’t stand on his roof and look into other people’s backyards! However, the fact that he allowed lust to arise within himself was totally his own fault. Every man has the right and the option to turn his head, to not look, to keep his eyes looking only to what is good and acceptable.
Shem and Japheth turned their heads away (Genesis 9:23). So do godly men today. You live in a sinful world. Temptation is everywhere. You become guilty of sin when you act out the evil desires inside you. You are not guilty just because someone tries to lure you any more than a fish is caught just because someone baits a hook. You can swim away!
A word to the weak
Now, I should stick a disclaimer in here somewhere that there are those who are recovering from sex addictions or are otherwise weak in the faith. They need to be extra careful to avoid any such temptations. I would not want someone to think I am saying to throw caution to the wind. Blame? Yes, throw that out. Stop blaming someone for your own weakness. Caution? It is your friend. Always be careful.
However, you cannot go through life always fearful, always weak. At some point you have to grow in faith enough to overcome temptation. This is the power of deliverance that comes through the Spirit of God. It is not mind-over-matter or just trying harder. When the Son sets you free, you are truly free in thought and action.
Can a child of God not be a medical professional? In healthcare industries, one will encounter situations where you have to “keep it professional.” Would it be a sin to work in these venues where immodesty is unavoidable at times?
Can you only work, eat, and shop in special areas so you are never tempted? Is it even possible to find a place on this planet where no woman ever wears suggestive clothing? Can the Lord never call you to minister to indigenous tribes who barely wear clothes? If not, then no missionary could ever reach primitive people without losing his or her soul to lust.
I also should speak to women.
Clothing designer Donna Karen said the way women dress makes them to blame for Harvey Weinstein’s behavior. She’s right. And she’s wrong. She is right that women need to take responsibility for how they present themselves. She is wrong to think that anything a woman might do should take the blame for a sex-addict’s behavior.
Are we going to blame every child who gets molested? Every teenager who gets raped? No. In court, the judgment should fall on the criminal, no matter how enticing the victim was. Even more irritating is that Karen has designed clothing that suggests the wrong thing!
Yes, a woman should dress with loose-fitting clothes (I Timothy 2:9). Yes, her body should be covered, not showing curves or a lot of skin. However, even the most modest clothing will not stop a lustful imagination. Lust is fantasy, not fact.
Lust is formed by the imagination. Therefore, scanty clothing stirs the passions more than no clothing. A very active lustful imagination will see through clothes of any kind. To the pure, all things are pure. To the perverted, everything is temptation.
My message is two-fold
- Dress modestly. God called you to live modestly and not draw attention to yourself. You do not want to be the trigger for a nonbeliever or a weak believer to lust after you.
- Don’t be weak. Don’t give yourself an excuse to lust after someone’s body. Don’t justify unchecked imaginations and fantasies. Don’t blame others for your sin.
Yes, both men and women have lust issues. Yes, modesty is for both men and women. Yes, you can live with a pure heart in a pornagraphic, sex-addicted culture. The Spirit in you is holy and does not desire those things. You died to your old lust when you joined Christ in baptism (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:3-5). All that matters is a new creature, which means being a new creation that is not bound by those old desires (study and memorize Galatians 5:22-25; 6:14-15).