There's a saying that has been quoted often in the church and even outside of it, "leave it to the imagination." What we've been referring to is for men, to let them imagine what our bodies look like instead of dressing in a way that exposes them. But is this biblical? Does this even work? Lately, I've been sharing the error in well-known quotes on my Instagram and this is one of them. Let's see why this isn't any better than actually exposing our bodies.
The imagination by definition is the part of the mind that imagines things, the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. When we use this quote, we are saying that a woman should cover her body and allow the man to imagine what she really looks like. We are saying that we should not allow him to see it all as a first impression. I agree that we should not allow men to see our private and sensual parts upfront and outside of marital boundaries, but I disagree that we should do this for the man's imagination.
First and foremost, women should desire to cover themselves appropriately because God's word says we should. We should desire to please our Father if, in fact, He is our Father. Secondly, we should desire to be modest and appropriate in public as an act of love, decency, and respect for our neighbors.
But one thing we can't control is men and their imagination.
We can choose to be dressed as nuns and still a man will imagine what he wants. We shouldn't want to leave it to his imagination because imagination can be sinful. Plus, no one is oblivious to female anatomy, so there isn't much to "imagine". But what this quote insinuates is that he should be left to his own lustful thoughts, "don't help his lust". Regardless of what we wear, men will lust! It is their choice.
How can a man help himself out of this imagination? He must look into the law of liberty. It may seem like an oxymoron, he is free to think as he pleases, but a man who cares to please the Lord should desire to free his mind from sin. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:28, "But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Leaving it to the imagination is committing adultery? Yep. A man looking at a woman to desire her sexually, clothed or unclothed, is sinful. Sin starts in our mind first, it begins with desire. James 1:14, "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
So we are not dressing modestly to leave it to his imagination, the Lord knows how sinful and terrible our imaginations are. I think modesty turns people off because of the extreme teaching of women being responsible for men's actions. Both are responsible for their obedience to God and there should be more teachings on men being held accountable. Purity culture has "church hurt" many, but that doesn't cancel God's truth for both genders.
Finally, men, I will leave you with this scripture from Job 31, "I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman." Your eyes, your desires, and your imagination is something you will answer to God for. You won't be able to blame the immodest and most seductive woman. I also encourage you to read Proverbs 7 about how to escape from her grasp if you are caught in the net of seduction.
And women, sorry that it seems like it's all our fault and I'm sorry if I've made it seem that way previously. I know we'd rather not hear it, but we will answer to God for our actions too. God bless you!