First of all let me say! I am one of the biggest proponents of women dressing modestly out of love and respect for men and thinking of others more highly than themselves. It glorifies God when we have that kind of mindset.
However, I really believe that the church as a whole needs to change how we teach the issue of modesty.
Here's why: all too often our churches are continuously using use the Romans 14:19 verse to make women feel like they are the reason why a man "stumbles." when infact Jesus himself in Matthew 5:28 says
"But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
He Places the responsibility alone on the man. Further more I like what Rachel Held Evans says in her article " “Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means”," She says
"“…nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty."
So in the teaching of modesty within the church instead of teaching it based on the verses that directly reference clothing most churches teach it based on the Romans 14:19 and say something such as "You have to be very careful with how you dress because you could inadvertently cause a brother to sin." And then we elevate that teaching over the teaching in Mathew 5:28. And quickly we have just placed the responsibility of a man, onto a woman.
Now again, I am one of the biggest proponents of seeking the good of others more than myself and I had a discussion about that very thing over the modesty issue with some women that felt like they shouldn't have to care for a man. So I'm not saying we shouldn't teach our women anything about it. But I am saying that we shouldn't be making our women feel like if their skirt blows the wrong way in the wind, or the top of their blouses accidentally falls open while she is bending, or if she forgets her cover up and needs to nurse her baby in public...that she is responsible for a man that looks at her and thinks an impure thought because God never gives that responsibility to the woman.
Further more I think our churches also use the Romans 14:19 verse the majority of the time when referencing men and their struggles with impure thoughts. So my question is why is this verse only used when it comes to men and impure thoughts and not to address helping others with different sin issues? Why are our churches giving modesty talks, invoking dress codes, building "nursing" rooms, all in the name of trying to help the weaker brother with his impure thoughts - but not putting into place "Health foods only at the church pot luck dinner" to help those that struggle with idolatry to food?
I can only guess the reason being is because the church can not possibly cover all the areas of idol worship that people have and if they tried the church would continually become more of a list of rules to follow and less about following Jesus. So if this is the case then why is the church still addressing the modesty issue as if a man's sexual thoughts are the only important sin issue there is?
And my last question is this...why do we call our men the weaker brother? Why does the "church" in general constantly reference men as the weaker brother? When Peter says in
1 Peter 3:7
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel,"
So according to God men and men alone are responsible for their lustful thoughts, and women are actually the ones to be considered weaker. But yet our churches use the Romans 14:19 verse to twist all of that around. Instead of telling a man that has complained about a woman that wears a shirt too tight "She is the weaker vessel and God calls us men to protect them so lets talk about the real reason why you are struggling with your impure thought." i.e a mans idolatry of sex. We go up to the woman and tell her she needs to wear loser outfits because the weaker brother is having impure thoughts about her. Something seems very backwards about that?
And instead of just focusing on the verses in 1 Corinthians and challenging our women that out of love lets consider our men not because we are responsible for their thoughts but because we love them and desire to make their battle easier. We draw it a step farther and say "and if you don't you are sinning?"
Again, i do not think women should just wear whatever they want to wear because they feel like it. And I think that out of love, consideration, and showing preference for others more than ourselves that women should be considerate of how they dress. But not so that she doesn't cause a man to stumble because no matter how she dresses a man and a man alone is responsible for what he thinks.
But I think the church as a whole needs to rethink how we are treating our women as the "weaker vessel" that God says that we are. I think men in the church are starting to own up to their responsibility and most men that I would talk to now about it would say "of course I'm responsible, but it sure does help me not to have to think about it." But us women in the church seem to constantly give other women the worst judgement. And it hurts a woman's spiritual well being every time we do so.
Just like I have to battle, and battle, my food idolatry, no one but a man has to battle his own sex idolatry, and just like I am always grateful when a friend that knows of my struggles with food serves a healthier "desert" in mind just for me, so does a man appreciate it when a woman dresses herself in a way that doesn't tempt him into a battle. But just like no one makes me eat the cake, cookies, and drink the soda just because it's presented at a church potluck dinner...no one but the man allows himself to think an impure thought about a woman even when her dress isn't the best.
I love a good discussion