You’ve heard this a million times. Women should dress modestly so as not to tempt the boys to lust. Romans 14 is quoted in support of this claim, at least in part. It’s an often misunderstood passage, especially when it’s not read in it’s full context. A full reading of the text would straighten out many erroneous interpretations! You’ll have to read it on your own to see for yourself!
This short video aims to challenge the assertion that someone’s dress causes others to commit grave sins. It also points out a few of the often overlooked verses in Romans 14:
I used to look at this passage and think the weaker brother was the other person. Surely they are on the other side of an issue thinking, you are the weaker brother. No one thinks of themselves as weak. I thought the point is to accept one another, whether you are the weak or the strong one. We all think ourselves to be strong. Regardless, the instruction to both the weak and the strong is to accept each other. Well, I was wrong!
The weaker brother here is the one who’s conscience does not allow himself to eat food sacrificed to idols. The stronger brother is the one who has the freedom to do so, knowing that idols are not real and there is only one God, and in their freedom they are free to eat anything and answer to God with a clear conscience. The weak and strong are clearly defined. We tend to harp on the stronger brother (or sister) for being a stumbling block to the weaker, in many instances where we should not. For more on this, you can see what my friend, Matthew Neal on his Biblical Naturist blog, has done in a series called “You can’t do that!“
We gloss over the even more lengthy instruction to the weaker brother to not pass judgment on the stronger brother who has more freedom. We also forget that these are disputable matters. Any opposing view, belief, or even conviction gets thrown out under the stumbling block excuse. Yes, stumbling blocks become an excuse to stunt growth and keep the weak in faith… weak!
Much has also been written on this passage at www.figleafforum.com. With a free account, you can access the archive and search “stumbling block” or any other phrase to research on your own.
In Fig Leaf Forum, Issue 097, Stumbling Over The Issue Of Stumbling Blocks , Jeffrey S. Bowman says:
We must remember that stumbling is not to simply disagree with the actions of the person. Also, if someone “stumbles” over truth, are they really “stumbling”? Not as I understand it. Should we be silent on the truth because it might offend? I don’t think so. A disagreement of opinion is a totally different issue with a totally different approach.
In both texts Paul discusses the topics of eating meat offered to idols. He in essence says it doesn’t matter to God if you eat or not. In 1 Corinthians he even goes so far as to say there are no such things as ‘gods.’ They are made up in the minds of the people, so eating meat offered to them is no big deal. However, not everyone has such knowledge. In both places Paul defends the right to eat (or not). This is an often unacknowledged point of the texts.
…Paul would have been violating his own command if it meant not discussing meat eating with “non-eaters.” He potentially offended the non-eaters by discussing it and then telling them that the meat eating doesn’t matter, but truth is more important than cultural misunderstanding. However, he would not have eaten the meat in front of them. This is the point of not causing your brother to stumble.
In Fig Leaf Forum, Issue 099, Unexamined Stumbling Blocks, Steve of Colorado Springs CO writes:
Christians often equate all stumbling blocks with evil, but they err when they do this. Jesus Himself was prophesied in Isaiah 8.14 (and quoted by Paul in Romans 9.32-33) to be the biggest stumbling block the world had ever seen, for He tripped up a whole nation: “They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be put to shame.'” Our Lord Himself is the stumbling stone in this text, and He was placed there by His Father.
…So what do you think this implies for us? If you believe that we also will be stumbling blocks in the paths of highly religious, legalistic tares in the Church, just as our Lord was in His day, you are right! In fact, the more we look like Christ—that is, the more righteously we live—the more this will be true. Legalistic tares in the Church will hate us as much as they hated our Lord.
In this article I quoted the great Charles Spurgeon on his take about smoking cigars to the glory of God, which may sound funny, but read his thoughts on Christian liberty and see if you agree! Romans 14:23 (ESV) is a great way to summarize the whole issue: “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
When it comes to so called modesty, this reigning philosophy actually does great harm. It places blame on girls for not covering enough of their bodies instead of making boys responsible for their own thoughts. As I’ve stated in other blogs the Duggars teach this religiously and it has not prevented tragedy.
Matthew West put out a satirical music video claiming “Modest is Hottest!” which backfired to the point he had to take it down. Victims of purity culture trauma and folks like myself who no longer like to designate anyone as “hot” as it is an objectifying term, saw through the well-done “light hearted” funny video and didn’t appreciate it. I have a great sense of humor. But I also have seen the futility of thinking that modest dress will curb anyone’s lust (which comes from their heart.) Churchleaders.com documented how this attempt at a silly little video fell so flat. It’s baffling still to me, how so many didn’t even see how his video could be anything but funny! I like Matthew West just fine, but I hope he learns from this misstep. It’s one prime and recent example among many as to why this commonly held belief is fundamentally flawed. There is a better way, and a time to grow up…
See all “Objections” series blogs and videos here.