Last updated on October 10th, 2019
An interesting title isn’t it. But it’s true. Women can wear leggings, and we can all avoid staring at their butts. A couple stories I read on the web caught my eye that gave me a desire to address this topic in a post. One story was a woman who wrote an opinion on a Christian site that stated she would no longer wear leggings so not to tempt men to lust. A lot of women highly criticized the piece for its implication of women being at fault for man’s lust. Another story awhile ago that brought attention to the issue of leggings is a US representative from Montana proposed a bill that would ban yoga pants in public under indeceny laws. Let’s try to look at the issue from an objective standpoint, and see what we can find in Scripture.
What does Jesus say?
Mat 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
There are interesting things about this passage worth pondering. This appears to be the first place where lust is ever mentioned in the New Testament. Secondly, it’s the ONLY place that Jesus ever discusses lust. So if this is the only time Jesus ever shares His thought on this topic, it must hold a lot of weight to what the heart of the issue is. So Jesus starts off by reminding the presumably Jewish people around him about the commandment not to commit adultery, and then He ties looking at a woman with lust as akin to committing adultery.
Let’s review some Greek. It’s important in understanding Scripture to look up the meaning of the words in the Greek that it was translated from to add more understanding of what’s being said. Lust in the Greek is epithymia, which means desire, craving, or longing for what is forbidden. Adultery in the Greek is moicheuō, which means unlawlful intercourse with another’s wife. So in Jesus tying these two together, it appears what he’s stating of looking lustfully at a woman is that it’s looking with a desire for unlawful intercourse with her. Does she have to be another man’s wife for it to be sin? Interesting question that I have a conclusion on, but I’ll let you ponder that one for fun and give my conclusion in the comments if someone offers a response to that.
There’s often much ambiguity in Christian circles of what exactly is looking with lust, but through the Greek, looking at someone with a desire for unlawful intercourse is how Jesus seems to define it. It appears more than just eyes slipping to certain body parts; otherwise we’d all be in trouble.The larger point that I want to offer for suggestion is that the responsibility of lusting not occurring according to Jesus is primarily placed on the individual. He goes so far as to tell individuals to tear their eye out and cut their right hand off if necessary. This was likely just for stressing the seriousness of the issue, given we have no written accounts of anyone actually needing to follow through with those actions. But it stresses the point of the onus on the individual being responsible for lust not occurring.
But what about modesty?
1 Timothy 2:9 “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,” While the primary responsibility falls on the individual, perhaps it can be said there is a secondary responsibility within the body of Christ of women dressing modestly. After all, Paul does instruct Timothy to tell them to do that. Though something else to keep in mind perhaps, while this verse is referenced often by people with regards to lust, this particular verse doesn’t appear to be talking about lust at all. As the passage continues, Paul is telling Timothy that the purpose of the woman’s modesty of dress is to properly reflect making claim to Godliness. To put in another way, it’s to show their genuine reverence for God. So maybe this is more an act of obedience rather than an act specifically directed at preventing individual lust.
One could question then, well what is modesty? If we observe the verse again, Paul puts proper clothing modestly and discretely in contrast with costly garments. So perhaps what Paul is instructing Timothy to instruct of the women, is to dress with simplicity, and not with the excessiveness of gold or pearls or specially made hair. Perhaps in other words, women are being instructed not to draw attention to themselves. Maybe one could say that circles back around to not wearing other certain things as well, but I leave that for you to make your own conclusions. Hopefully with whatever we say or do, it is done with the intention of the glory of God.
One last thing to keep in mind again, Jesus didn’t seem to put any responsibility on the women’s choices of dress, but instead fully on the individual. It kind of interestingly seems to parallel back to the story of Adam and Eve. It was not Eve who was instructed to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was Adam (Gen 2:16-17), before Eve was created. And when Adam ate from it, God was really only asking him whether he had eaten from the tree as He had commanded him not to (Gen 3:11). Makes you wonder what would have happened if Adam never ate from the tree. As always, questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them below, and I would greatly appreciate if you shared this post, because if it helped you, it can help someone. Peace to all those who are in Christ.