(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 3, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 3: Dancing & Dress
As we begin this morning, I want to remind you that if you
were not here July 20th, then get the tape, CD or the
text of that sermon. It was the first part of this series we are
doing on living in both holiness and the freedom we have in
Christ. That sermon lays the foundation on which I am simply
expanding and applying to particular areas.
I also want to remind you that both freedom in Christ and
holiness are not only compatible but are necessary. To pursue
holiness without freedom results in legalism. To pursue freedom
without holiness results in licentiousness. Either of these is
dishonoring to God. Our purpose is to honor Him by understanding
the commands and principles He has given us in His word and apply
then to our lives.
Please also be aware that as I do that this morning on the
particular issues of dancing and dress, you might find yourself
feeling uncomfortable. If so, do not cast aside what I am saying
as just my opinion and continuing on your way. Take the time to
think through the issues involved and then yield yourself to the
Holy Spirit’s conviction so that you might continue your
progress in changing into the image of Christ. That is our goal.
The Christian’s purpose in life is to please our Savior, not
the pastor, not other people, and not yourself. So keep that
question in mind from the beginning. Is what I am doing pleasing
to the Lord Jesus Christ?
A Negative Paper
Not long after Diane and I first came here, I was looking
through some of the church files and came across a paper entitled
"Why A Christian Should Not Dance" written by someone
who had previously taught the youth. I will not reveal his name
because it really does not matter who wrote it, for there are
many that think the same way this man did. These are people who
have a cultural morality that wants to stand strongly against
sin. That is commendable. However, because their moral standards
are based on personal conviction instead of actual Biblical
principle, they teach strict and rigid rules instead of godly
principles that are to be applied in a context. That is legalism.
Then, because they want their rules to sound like they have the
authority of God, they twist the Scriptures to back up their
claim. This paper is a sad example of this.
In fairness to the man who wrote the paper, I think that his
greatest concern was the sensuality and vices associated with
"modern" dance of the last 50 years, since he says that
"the old square dance was bad" and that "the
modern dance is a thousand times worse." However, his
presentation was designed to convince young people that all dance
was evil for he states that "there is no such thing as a
nice, clean dance." The saddest thing about the paper is
that even the few good points he made were surrounded by so much
terrible Bible exegesis and failed logic that those who were
taught the lesson rejected it. How do I know they rejected it?
Because, with one exception, I have seen everyone who was in the
age group that was taught this lesson dancing at weddings.
So, in discussing this topic I will not make rash statements
such as "the dance is always in bad company" or
"drinking and dance always go together" or that it is
"the mother of all lusts." Most of us have participated
in or been to a dance at someplace where there was good company
without any drinking, and most of us understand that lust is born
in our evil hearts (James 1:14,15; Mark 7:21) long before any
dance floor is reached.
I will also not twist the scriptures in an effort to prove
something the Bible does not say. For example, Mark 6:14-29
recounts the story of the death of John the Baptist. While it is
true that Herodias’ daughter danced before Herod resulting
in him granting her anything she wished, it was Herodias that
compelled her to ask for John the Baptist’s head. It was her
sinful desire to destroy the man that pointed the finger at her
adultery that resulted in the murder, not the dance.
Questions to Consider
If you want to know if dancing is right or wrong before the
Lord, then you need to ask the questions proposed in the first
sermon of this series and apply it to the context of the dancing
you are thinking about being involved in. Will it be spiritually
profitable for me? Will it help to build others up in Christ?
Will it hinder me or someone else in our Christian walks? Will it
bring me into bondage? Will it cause me to lose control of my
thoughts or will? Am I using it as a covering for my own evil
desires? Am I violating my conscience? Does it reflect Christ
likeness? Am I considering other believers as more important than
myself? Does it bring glory to God?
Context & Purpose – Joyful & Holy Celebrations
Dancing occurs in a context and for different purposes. It is
often a response of joy. Most parents have seen their young
children spontaneously dance around when they are happy. Exodus
15:20f tells about Miriam leading the women of Israel with
timbrels, dancing and singing after they had escaped Egypt and
Pharaoh’s army lay dead at the bottom of the Red Sea. In 1
Samuel 18:6 we find the women of Israel coming out with
tambourines, dancing and singing over victory of King Saul and
David over the Philistines. In 2 Samuel 6:14-16 we find King
David "dancing before the Lord with all his might" as
the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. David tells us
in Psalm 30:11 that God’s grace turned his mourning into
dancing and loosed him from sackcloth to be girded with gladness.
Some years ago, Steve Green put the words of this Psalm to
music. I know a man who was so afraid of sounding like he would
approve of dancing that he changed the words before he sang the
song in a church service as special music. Think about that for a
moment. This man actually changed the words of Scripture in order
to make it match his personal standard. How arrogant to think
that you can speak for God better that God does Himself. How
tragic to shun something as evil that God even approves of as
part of worshiping Him.
Psalm 149:3,4 calls God’s people to "praise His
name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and
lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify
the afflicted ones with salvation." Psalm 150:4 tells us
that included in the many ways were are to praise the Lord are
"with timbrel and dancing."
Dancing was a normal part of Jewish life that was acceptable
to God. Part of the future prophecies given to Israel is that the
Lord would rebuild her and she would again take up her
tambourines and "go forth to the dances of the
merrymakers" ( Jer. 31:4). Part of the play of children
included dancing (Matt. 11:17). Jesus included dancing in Luke
15:25 as part of positive response of rejoicing at the return of
the prodigal son.
In light of these Scriptures, it is obviously wrong to
conclude that all dancing is wrong. These are all dances meeting
the approval of God. However, it would also be wrong to conclude
from these passages that all dancing is good. The dancing in
these passages are a response of joy for what God had done. The
exception is that of the children playing, but even there they
are only imitating what the adults would do. It should also be
pointed out that many of these passages specifically say that the
women were dancing together, and none of them specifically say
that men and women were dancing together. None of these could be
construed as sensual or romantic in any way.
Perhaps some of you have been to cultural celebrations in
which the men and women dance in separate groups from each other,
or if they do dance as one group, there is nothing sensual or
romantic about it. Such cultural dances as these would be
reflective of the nature of these positive dances presented in
Context & Purpose – Evil Celebrations
But the Bible also presents some negative dances. *In Exodus
32 we find the Israelites involved in grievous sin for they had
created the idol of the golden calf and, as verse 6 tells us,
they had brought to it their "offerings, sat down to eat
and drink, and rose up to play." That "play"
included dancing (vs. 19) in which they were out of control (vs.
25). God judged them for their idolatry and celebration of it
with about 3,000 men of the people being put to death (vs. 28).
*I had mentioned earlier the dance of the daughter of Herodius
(Mark 6:14-29) and how it pleased Herod. From our understanding
of the evil character of Herod, you can be sure that if it
pleased him, it was not pleasing to God. * In 1 Samuel 30 we find
that the Amalekites were so busy eating, drinking and dancing
because of the great spoil they had taken from David’s city
of Ziklag, that David and a small band were able to slaughter
them when they caught up to them.
Dancing, like so many other activities, has to be examined in
light of its purpose and context to determine if it is right or
wrong before the Lord. Cultural dancing such as I described
earlier would not be in violation of any Biblical principles if
done in a good context. It is a response of joy in celebrating
some wonderful event, such as a wedding or a feast day. The
problem is that often dancing is not in a good context and/or it
done in a sensual way that is not God honoring.
Dancing in a place where people are getting drunk is not a
good context. They are already out of control, and even if you
remain in control, they will be seeking to get you to join them
in things that are not right. The wise fear the Lord and turn
away from evil (Prov. 3:7). They also seek to walk with those who
are wise because those who are the companions of fools will
suffer harm (Prov. 13:20), and those who get intoxicated are not
wise (Prov. 20:1).
The purpose of the dance is also very important. Again we find
that the problem with much dancing in our society is that its
purpose is sensuality. Dancing in a manner to attract the
attention of the opposite sex is not godly exercise. Dancing in a
manner as to arouse the sexual interest of someone else is
causing them to stumble. Perhaps a good rule of thumb here would
be to ask yourself if you would dance with your father, mother,
brother or sister in that manner? Would Jesus be smiling or
frowning over your dance. Don’t forget that He is with you
if you are a Christian. Perhaps you may even be innocent in your
motives and are just out to have a good time, but you must also
be aware of the effect of your actions on others. In a real
sense, you are your brother’s keeper. But that brings us to
our next topic – Dress.
People dress with either fashion, comfort, utility or a
mixture of these in mind. Utility clothing would be those
garments designed to make it easier or safer to do whatever it is
you are doing. For example, winter gear can be cumbersome, but
its purpose is to protect you from the cold. A fisherman’s
vest allows him to keep gear in a convenient place while his
bulky waders keep him dry. Running shorts are great for a jogger,
but useless to a construction worker who benefits from durable
pants with pockets and loops. Support hose may not look or feel
great, but they are great blessing for those with problems with
the veins in their feet and legs.
Comfort is a key issue for most of us when we are around the
house by ourselves or just the immediate family. There is no one
to impress, so it doesn’t matter how you look. You might
wear old, nearly worn out and stained clothes that you would not
wear in public because you do not want others to think you are a
slob. If comfort and utility were the only criteria in what we
wear, the fashion industry would die. But fashion is important to
all of us.
Fashion comes into play because we want to project an image to
other people or to ourself about who we are and what we are like.
If you see a guy in stained jeans and an old T-shirt at Home
Depot, you know it’s a guy working on some home repair
project. People at business or professional meetings wear
appropriate business attire because they want the others to
recognize them as a professional too. I wear a suit on Sunday
morning for several reasons. First, this is a formal presentation
of God’s Word and I want to represent my Lord in a proper
manner. Second, I want others to think of me as someone who
seriously cares about what I am doing and is worth listening too.
Third, it is the least offensive outfit I can wear. If I was
standing here wearing shorts, sandals and a L.A. Dodgers T-shirt,
some of you would be offended. Some at the impropriety, some at
the shorts or sandals and some that it was not a Yankess T-shirt.
If I take Diane out to dinner, I put on something she thinks I
look good wearing because I want to please her.
The point is that there is a reason we dress however we do.
The question of whether what we wear is appropriate before God or
not will not be answered by measuring hem lines and the amount of
skin showing, it will be based on our purpose and whether the
style fits within Biblical parameters of modesty. Lets look at
modesty first, and then give further examination to motives.
Most modesty issues will be taken care of by having the proper
motives for how you dress, but even with proper motives, there
are some Biblical guidelines to help. This issue comes down to
revealing more of yourself than is proper. What is the basis for
this issues and how much is too much?
There are those who advocate nudity as a good thing even
saying that since it is the way we are born, then it is natural
and the way that God intended it. Many in the art world,
including professing Christians, claim that the naked human body
is part of God’s wonderful creation and therefore an
appropriate art form. Under these paradigms revealing all or part
of your body is acceptable and just a matter of taste. Frankly, I
would agree with them except that all of mankind has a sin
problem that has perverted what God intended and made nakedness
In Genesis 2 we find the recounting of the story of the
creation of Adam and Eve. At the end of that chapter we find the
statement "and the man and his wife were both naked and
were not ashamed." That is the way God had intended it
and there was no perversion of God’s design in their minds.
But things radically changed in Genesis 3. The serpent deceived
Eve leading to both her and Adam breaking God’s commandment
not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Gen.
3:7 we find that the immediate result of this sinful disobedience
was that "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and
they knew that they were naked; and the sewed fig leaves together
and made themselves loin coverings." In verse 8 we find
that when they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the
garden, they hid themselves from God. The reason, verse 10
reveals, is that they were afraid of God because they were naked.
Why would they be afraid of God seeing them without clothes?
After all, God created them that way and they had not been
ashamed up until this point in time. This was not embarrassment.
You can be embarrassed because you get a run in your stocking or
a stain on your clothes. Shame speaks of guilt. They were afraid
of God because they had lost their innocence and their nakedness
brought an awareness of their guilt before God in breaking His
commandments. The same is still true today. Throughout the rest
of the Bible, shame is attached to nakedness. Even those who
advocate nudity do not walk around naked in public, and it is not
just because of nudity laws. The inherent shamefulness is
demonstrated by the actor or actress who is going to exposes
herself to millions of people on film but does not stand around
the set naked. They keep covered until they do their scene. You
might find an exception to this here or there, but such people
have seared their conscience.
Without going into all the many Scriptural references to
nakedness in the Bible, such as Genesis
9:22-23; Lamentations 1:8;
Leviticus 18:6- 19, etc., "nakedness" refers to the improper
exposure of the male or female private areas, and you know what I
am talking about. Such exposure is absolutely immodest. The only
proper exposure would be between husband and wife (Song of
Solomon, Hebrews 13:4), clinical medical exams, and for those
caring for someone incapable of caring for themselves, such as
parents dressing and cleaning up their young children or a nurse
caring for an invalid. Why is that true?
In the medical clinical situation
and for those caring for invalids or young children, there is not
a sexual connotation for most people. However there must be
safeguards put in place to prevent those who are that depraved
from harming others and punishing them if they do. With very
young children, there are no sexual thoughts, but as they get
older those thoughts will start creeping in. That is why we want
to keep them from improper exposure and protect their innocence
as long as possible. What is innocent nakedness in a mixture of 2
and 3 year olds, is not wise among 6 & 7 year olds and is
shameful among teenagers.
In the case of marriage, passages such as Song of Solomon and
Proverbs 5:15-19 portrays God’s approval of marital love. It
is also important to understand what Paul says in 1 Corinthians
7:3,4 " Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and
likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have
authority over her own body, but the husband [does]; and likewise
also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but
the wife [does.]" When I got married, my body became the
property of Diane and her body became my property. In a real
sense, we belong to each other. (So much for the argument that
abortion is about a woman’s right over her body. She does
not have that right). If you are exposing more of yourself than
is proper, you are violating the rights of your spouse. If you
are single and doing this, then you are compromising the
responsibility of your father to protect you and you are taking
away something that belongs only to your future spouse. Now lets
expand this into the area of motive.
Why do you dress like you do? Ladies, whose attention and
approval are you trying to gain? What does your manner of dress
communicate about your character. Even if you are ignorant of
what you are communicating, you are projecting an image. If you
are dressing in a manner so that you are sexually appealing to a
man, then don’t be surprised at the kind of man that becomes
interested in you.
Proverbs 7 warns godly men about those who are "dressed
as a harlot." The godly man follows the example of Job who
had made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze at the virgin (Job
31:1). What should the godly man be looking for? The woman that
follows the principles given by both Peter and Paul. 1 Peter
3:3,4 admonishes women, "And let not your adornment be
[merely] external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry,
or putting on dresses; but [let it be] the hidden person of the
heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet
spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." Paul
tells women in 1 Timothy 2:9,10, "Likewise, [I want]
women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and
discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly
garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women
making a claim to godliness."
This does not mean that godly women cannot dress in a way that
shows the grace and beauty of womanhood, but it does mean that
you do not dress to flaunt your beauty. What does your manner of
dress reveal about the condition of your heart? A godly
woman’s wardrobe will draw attention to her godly character
which is most clearly revealed in her face. Her desire is to have
the beauty of Jesus Christ shine through her. The ungodly will
dress to draw attention herself and the sexual nature of her
body. Tragically, much of the current fashion styles are of this
nature and many Christians will wear them because they want to
identify with those who are popular in society and be thought of
as fashionable, or even worse, they like the attention they
receive from men. The fashion industry is interested in your
money, not your purity. My own conclusion is that much of the
fashion and entertainment industries work together and that many
of the designers and promoters in those industries also have an
evil agenda to continue to morally corrupt American society.
Which concerns you more: appearing godly or fashionable?
There is one more very important aspect to all of this, and
that is the effect of your manner of dress on men. If you are
either a distraction or worse, a cause of them to stumble over
you in their thoughts, then you may be culpable in their sin. In
case you were not aware of it yet, part of God’s design of
men is that they are naturally visually attracted to women. It
can take a lot of self-control on a man’s part not to let
that part of him lead him into unrighteousness. It takes maturity
to come to the place that Job did in making a covenant with his
eyes not to look. If you dress in a way that brings attention to
your godly character and directs the eyes to focus on your face,
then it makes it easy for us men to keep our eyes where they
belong. If you dress in a way to call attention to other parts of
your body, then you must realize that you are putting a stumbling
block in front of most men. At the very least it shows
selfishness and an unloving spirit. It certainly breaks the
command in Philippians 2:3,4 to be of a humble mind and regard
others as more important than yourself and look out for their
interests. Do men look at your face or something else?
Some years ago we had a woman that dressed in a manner that I
would hesitate to call immodest, but it was provocative enough
that a couple of men were distracted by it. I talked with the men
about how they could keep from being distracted and one of our
deaconesses talked with her to let her know she needed to be a
little more careful. The tragedy was that instead of being
concerned about her negative effect on them, she became
self-centered and upset that men at church might look at her
inappropriately and she left as if that would solve her problem.
What about all the other men who are not Christians that are
trying to keep their minds pure but will leer at any woman who
dresses to be sexually attractive? Ladies, be careful how you
dress because you do have an impact on other people.
We have a modesty check for you that will point out specific
areas to look for before you leave the house. We are not
instituting some sort of dress code. We will not be requiring a
certain style or measuring hem lines, but we do want to help you
pursue holiness in this area as well as all others. We want you
to think before you act and consider carefully why you wear the
clothes that you do. Are you reflecting godliness or the values
of our fallen society?
Let me add that these same principles apply to you men as
well. Why do you wear what you do? What image are you trying to
portray and why? Is your manner of dress respectable and honoring
to God, or is it reflective of our unrighteous and self-centered
One last area I need to cover under this topic is the issue of
how to dress when you come to church. Again, we do not have any
dress code, other than modesty, for there is no Biblical dress
code. Men do not have to wear ties and women do not have to wear
skirts. I want you here and will welcome you whether you come in
a Tuxedo, a sweat suit or anything in between. However, let me
challenge you to think through this area too with the same basic
criteria. The earlier quotes from the apostles Paul and Peter
make it clear that coming together to worship God is not a time
to show off your wealth with jewelry and fancy clothes. However,
neither it is a time to become so casual that the major concern
becomes being comfortable. Simply consider what you are coming
here to do – to corporately worship the creator of the Universe
who is your sovereign Lord. Does your manner of dress match that
purpose. If you are convinced in your own mind that it does, then
great, for the principle of Romans 14 applies and you stand
before God for judgement, not any of us. If you are not
convinced, then give some thoughtful consideration of what will
match that purpose and seek to worship our God with all your
heart, mind, soul, and strength, which includes, yes, even your
manner of dress.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * *
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children –
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "dancing," "dress"
or"clothing" are mentioned in the sermon 2) Discuss
with your parents what is appropriate and inappropriate dancing
and how modesty should reflect in how we dress.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What are some of the reasons that different people dance? Is it
okay for a Christian to dance? If not, why not, if so, under what
circumstances? Why do so many Christians in American society
object to dancing? What are the characteristics of different
types of dancing presented in the Bible? What principles can you
draw from these examples to help you discern what is appropriate
and inappropriate dancing? What types of dancing would you
prohibit your teenage children from doing? What determines
"fashion" in our society? What factors determine what
you will wear and where and when you would wear it? Is modesty
just a question of taste or style? Define modesty in your own
words. Find scriptural support for your definition. What is
immodesty? Generally describe what you would consider modest and
immodest. Why do people dress immodestly? Why should Christians
strive to be modest in their dress? How does your dress reflect
your heart and your relationship with the Lord? What do current
fashions tell us about our society? How would you react if
someone told you that you were dressed immodestly? How would you
tell someone they were dressed immodestly? How much of your flesh
can you reveal before it become shameful? Who does your body
belong to? Why does God provide us food? How does God want you
view your food? Is it sinful to be fat? Support your answer with
Scripture. What is gluttony? What are symptoms of gluttony? Can a
skinny person be a glutton? What should your mind dwell on?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * *
Sermon Notes – August 3, 2003
Holy & Free Part 3 – Dancing & Dress
Dressing for Church