In today's culture, it is socially acceptable for a woman to go to a public beach wearing less then she would if she had on underwear. Bikinis are very small bathing suits that show almost all of a woman's nakedness. The question is whether or not a Christian woman, let alone any woman, should display her body in such a way that modesty disappears.
Please understand that we are not advocating being prudes who don't want people to have fun. That isn't it. We understand that it is not practical to wear full body outfits at the beach. It is embarrassing and ridiculous. Nevertheless, the simple fact is that the woman's body is naturally beautiful and sensuous. Women learn this as they grow up and discover that boys (young men) will be attracted to them and will do all sorts of antics to earn a young woman's attention and favor. Many young women find this appealing and often take advantage of their power over males by displaying their bodies. Therefore, some young (and older) women will purposely dress in seductive ways so as to further their sense of attractiveness and control. The males are drawn to this and are easily enticed.
Is it right for a woman, especially a Christian woman, to use her body in such a way? The answer is obviously no. The woman needs to be careful not to ensnare men, and she needs to be careful to be modest. But, the problem here is subjectivity. What is modest to one person is not to another. Where one Christian woman will not wear a bikini, another will. What, then, are we to conclude is appropriate?
The answer lies in Scripture. 1 Tim. 2:9-10 says, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness." The Biblical pattern for the dress of a woman is modesty. Now, the context of these verses is dealing with fancy adornment, that is, it is dealing with a woman spending lavish amounts of money on clothing. This draws attention to herself and demonstrates she is overly concerned with appearance. Note what two commentaries state:
- "These terms stress not so much the absence of sexual suggestiveness, though it is included, but rather an appearance that is simple, moderate, judicious, and free from ostentation."1
- "Those that profess godliness should, in their dress, as well as other things, act as becomes their profession; instead of laying out their money on fine clothes, they must lay it out in works of piety and charity, which are properly called good works."2
The emphasis is that a Christian woman should be more concerned with displaying her godly character than her skin. If her goal is to impress a man with her godliness, then she is being holy and sanctified. On the other hand, if she believes she is trying to display herself in order to entice a man, then she is not being modest. Nevertheless, the point of modesty includes refraining from flaunting one's body. Young men are especially susceptible to the beauty of young women, and it should be the goal of Christian women to not be a stumbling block.
Don't forget, bikinis were never an issue in New Testament times because no woman would ever display herself in such a way back then. It wasn't until the last few decades that such public displays have become acceptable.
I am married to an attractive woman with a nice figure. When we go to the beach, she wears a one-piece bathing suit. Her desire is to not to display her body in such a way as to draw attention to it. She wants to enjoy the sun in the wind, but she also desires to be modest. I think that a one-piece bathing suit is a good compromise and shows reasonable judgment.
When dealing with this subjective issue of modesty, a Christian woman should ask herself what her motives are for wearing such a thing and if she believes that what she is wearing would draw lust out of a man or not (it most probably will whether she believes it or not) and if she is seeking the will of the Lord in her appearance. Of course, she cannot be responsible for every male, especially since she can be wearing a tent, and some guy would be lusting. But that isn't the point. Rather, her responsibility is before the Lord and to use her body in a godly and sanctified way since her beauty is a gift from God. Her obligation is to God first. Therefore, she should pray and ask God what would be appropriate for modesty and then seek to draw men not with the flesh but with godliness.