In a recent installment of his "Ask Pastor John" podcast, John Piper addresses the issues of dressing immodestly with the specific goal of getting attention. Prompted by a female listener "consumed" with her physical appearance and how pretty others think she is, Piper gives a thoughtful message on how to cultivate beauty in your heart and your faith in God.
To start, Pastor John suggests first examining, and resolving, what you are feasting your own eyes on. "If you are spending hour after hour watching television, movies, videos," he says, "there’s little hope that you will be set free from the bondage of wanting to look sexy." Guarding your eyes, not unlike Jesus' prescription for committing adultery in your heart, is a major step. We must "find the streams that are feeding the river of sensual desire, and cut them off."
"It may not be possible to avoid every sin-awakening sight in our culture, but it is possible to keep dozens of them out of your eye. It is possible to set before you worthy things, holy things, beautiful things," Piper explains, citing Philippians 4:8. "Surely, Paul said that because of the principle 'garbage in, garbage out,' or 'sexy in, sexy out.'”
As for the listener's difficulty buying "modest" clothing because "revealing clothing is sexier", Pastor John explains that "of course revealing clothing is sexier. Then, the question is, why would you want to offer your sexiness to every passerby?"
"I doubt that the desire for a husband is the root issue," Piper says, "but let me say something about that since she raised it. That’s obviously a big issue for her. The guy you are attracting by sexiness is not the guy you want to marry. I’m going to repeat it: the guy you are attracting by sexiness is not the guy you want to marry." After all, Jesus is telling the "guy you want to marry" to pluck out his own eye rather than looking at you when you dress to be "sexy".
After asking if it's "okay to be crass" on the issue, Piper bluntly explains that "there’s more power in sexiness if your aim is to hook a man in his groin and not his godliness. Of course. This is not rocket science. That’s not the way you want to find a husband. Please, it’s not."
The listener, Piper explains, comes closest to the true root of the problem when she says, “I continuously look for compliments, and when I do get one, my ego is fed. When I don’t get one, my ego craves attention.”
"Now that’s right, and it’s not unique to women," Piper says. "John Piper is as vulnerable to that as anybody. It is utterly and deeply human. It is very near the core of what makes us fallen sinners. The Pharisees, Jesus said, lived for the approval and praise of other people, and he called it one of the most deadly dispositions in the world."
Instead of looking to outside approval and compliments, we can look to Scripture, particularly Romans 2:28–29 explains the inward nature of true faith: “His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:29).
In fact, 1 Peter 3:3-5 gives us the clearest instruction of how our inward faith directly affects our outward appearance: “Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves..."