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Four Biblical Reasons for Christians to Cover Their Nakedness

Some Christians believe that biblical modesty pertains only to putting on costly clothing, and not to a lack of clothing. While the Bible certainly warns against showy, attention-grabbing garb (1 Pet. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:9), God also address a lack of clothing.

An older preacher once told me that, in India, it would be wrong for preachers to tell Christian women to cover their midriffs. Likewise, he said, it is wrong to impose our "American custom" of covering our breasts on topless Christians in Africa. You heard me right. (This in a continent where HIV and AIDS are at all-time epidemic levels.) Another Christian once told me that if you converted a man in Africa, who had a harem of wives, it would be wrong to tell him to divorce all but his first wife (see Rom. 7:2-4; Ezra 10). Both of these men believed that biblical teaching, regarding nakedness and multiple marriages, pertained only to the violation of social móres. In like fashion, some Christians, who would never invite a guest into their home in only their undergarments, will, nevertheless, go to the beach, pool, park, or gym in attire that covers the same amount of flesh as their undergarments. In response to those who teach that nakedness, or a lack of clothing, is not addressed in the Bible, here are four Biblical reasons for Christians to cover their nakedness:

  1. The word "naked" or "nakedness," in the New Testament, can indicate nudity or simply a lack of clothing, which the Bible treats as something that should be remedied — See Matt. 25:36-44; Rom. 8:35; 2 Cor. 5:3; 11:27; Jas. 2:15; Rev. 3:17, 18; 16:15; 17:16.
  2. Displaying physical nakedness (a lack of physical clothing) in public, is viewed as shameful in both the Old Testament (Exo. 20:26; 28:42, 43; Isa. 47:1-3; Lam. 1:8; Nah. 3:5) and in the New Testament, where John says, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Rev. 3:18). The Lord's illustration, comparing (by analogy) the Christian's spiritual depravity with physical "nakedness," would have made absolutely no sense to the Laodicean church, unless there was a premise of "shame" in being physically naked, which would be understood by the Christians there. John's teaching was a spiritual precedent from God. It was not based on a "social móre" because nakedness wasn't considered a "shame" within the pagan Laodicean culture.
  3. Removing clothing to expose the body to the opposite sex incites sexual arousal, which should be reserved for the "marriage bed" (Heb. 13:4; Prov. 5:18-19). The first reference to Solomon's bride having her clothes removed in his presence, was in her dream (S. of Sol. 5:3) only after their wedding ceremony (S. of Sol. 3:11), and not before; although some Christians today feel we can remove our clothing in the presence of the opposite sex when at the beach, pool, park, gym, etc.

    Is it any wonder that surveys find that roughly 90% of adolescent boys go to the beach to see girls unclothed, and 90% of adolescent girls go to the beach to be seen by boys unclothed?

    Is it any wonder that scantily-clad women are a lucrative marketing technique today?

    Is it any wonder that the best-selling book Every Man's Battle (Arterburn et al., 2000) specifically deals with the day-to-day problem many men have, lusting after scantily-clad women in advertisements, billboards, while exercising, driving, in the work place, while watching entertainment and on the internet?

    Is it any wonder that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is the most lucrative issue of the year?

    Is it any wonder that, when women in the world are trying to attract a man, they wear less clothing to get his attention? This was told to me by a former colleague, from another country, as a technique she used to woo her (now) American husband away from his former wife (Prov. 7:10).

  4. Related to the previous point, the "shamefast" woman of 1 Tim. 2:9 does not want to be a stumbling block, inciting lust in men by her apparel, or lack thereof. Many women (or even men) do not realize the result that wearing tight, see-through clothing, or even a lack of clothing produces on the opposite sex. Psychologists, sociologists, Hollywood producers, executive advertising firms, and teenage men will readily admit that women exposing their thighs, backs and breasts induces arousal in men. Yes, this is an uncomfortable subject to discuss with our children and brethren, but it is the way God made us — a fact of life that must not be ignored.
The World and Even Some Erring Believers Get the Point — Do We?

It is possible that for some Christians, who are advanced in years, for whom "the caperberry (i.e., aphrodisiac, JBG) is ineffective" (Eccl. 12:5, NASB), it may be easy to forget how easily the adultery of the heart was committed in their youth: "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). Let's not forget the great battle against adultery of the heart, being fought by (1) young men (or women) with "raging hormones," and/or (2) single Christians who are not married and, thus, may be more-easily tempted to burn with lust ( 1 Cor. 7:8,9). The teaching in this article is not "Victorian tradition," but should be common sense, based on scriptural precedents, stated above. These are principles that even the world and many (otherwise erring) denominational believers understand. Do we?

I'll leave you with a quote from another writer, who seems to get the point:

"Men are very easily aroused sexually. That is why semi-naked women are used in television and magazine advertisements. Parents need to explain to their daughters how easily man is aroused sexually by a woman's body. They need to know, because many of them do not understand what happens to a man. At one church, after I had spoken on the topic of clothing, a young woman came up and told me that she had only been a Christian for six months. She was dating a young Christian man and was perplexed as to why he often told her not to wear certain things. Every time she asked him why, she started to feel embarrassed. She had not realized before that what she wore (or did not wear) could put a stumbling block in a man's way by causing him to commit adultery in his heart. Fathers need to explain to their daughters about how men react to a woman's body. They also need to explain to their sons that although women's clothes, or lack of them, can be a stumbling block to a male, it is not an excuse for them in relation to what their mind does with what they see… We must understand how men are created. Man was designed to be easily aroused sexually and to respond to one woman (his wife). This was, and is, necessary for procreation in marriage. However, sin distorts this, and it is wrong for a man to look lustfully on any woman other than his wife. Therefore, clothing should minimize to the greatest extent any stumbling block laid in a man's way. But a man is no less guilty if he succumbs to the 'second look.' One should not simply accept the fashions of the day. There is a moral basis for clothing; therefore, there are standards." (Ken Ham, The Lie: Evolution, Genesis — The Key to Defending Your Faith. 1987, Master Books, pp. 59-62).