It's summer. It's hot. There's water to swim in or sun to soak up. Everyone else is sporting the cutest 2-piece suits. Is it okay for a Christian girl to put on a bikini for such occasions? Or is she doomed to wear a full body wetsuit whenever she enters the pool? How much is too much when it comes to skin exposure? Okay, that's a lot of questions. The topic of to-wear-or-not-to-wear a bikini comes down to three things you have to consider:
Christian females have been struggling with the challenge of being modest for what seems like forever. The Bible tells us not draw attention to ourselves, but we also (very naturally) deeply desire to be and look pretty. Yet 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says girls should "dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."
Just to be clear here, the author is not saying that you can't ever wear braids or jewelry or nice clothes; what he's saying is that you should not wear those things in order to get attention. Dressing with the intention to turn heads is definitely the wrong motivation for wanting to look pretty.
In the Bible, both guys and girls are told to aim for physical, emotional, and spiritual purity: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (That's from 1 Timothy 4:12—our namesake's verse for 412teens!) After all, our bodies actually belong to God, and He expects that we will use them for His glory and not selfish reasons (Romans 12:1).
So if we are called to be pure and modest, we have to ask ourselves, "Is wearing a bikini going to help me be modest and pure? Can a bikini-clad body be used for God’s glory?" The answer is not automatically "no," but it does give us some things to think about...
Because our actions are often the physical playing out of our thoughts, God wants us to have self-control over what goes on in our minds. So much sin can happen in the darkness of our brainwaves, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can control ourselves and maybe even help others control their thoughts too. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 talk about how we have a responsibility to other Christians to only be helpful—not hurtful—to their spiritual walk. If we do something to deliberately damage or weaken someone else's faith, then we've totally ignored God's command to be helpful and encouraging (Romans 14:19).
By dressing provocatively or showing a lot of skin to turn heads, it's possible that you could cause a man to look at your body lustfully, which would be a sin for him (Matthew 5:27-29). That's not to say that the guy has no responsibility whatsoever to control his own thoughts, but it certainly isn't very helpful to intentionally tempt and tease, is it? To be clear, YES, guys are responsible for their own thoughts—a girl can't control a man's mind (contrary to popular belief)—but it is also a girl's responsibility to stop herself from tempting him on purpose.
If a girl has no intention to cause temptations or draw attention to herself, then it might be perfectly fine for her to wear a bikini. A lot depends on the situation and location and the people around her. Just a bunch of the girls in a friend's hot tub? Probably fine! Swimming in the community or home pool (without the intention of getting neighbors to gawk and stalk)? Totally okay, so long as you are respectful if someone present has an issue with your swimwear. (For example, if two-piece swimwear is not allowed at the community pool or if your parents say bikinis are off limits.)
Remember, girls, we have a responsibility to be modest by not drawing attention to ourselves but instead putting the focus back on God. We are also responsible for helping and encouraging our fellow Christian friends by not intentionally tempting them to have impure thoughts or even thoughts of jealousy. "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Also See: What does the Bible say about modesty?
Bikinis are not inherently bad. This is really a question of modesty and intent. If a girl has no intention to cause temptations or draw attention to herself, then it might be perfectly fine for her to wear a bikini. A lot depends on the situation and location and the people nearby. Both guys and girls are told to aim for physical, emotional, and spiritual purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Our bodies actually belong to God, and He expects that we will use them for His glory and not selfish reasons (Romans 12:1). If we are called to be pure and modest, we have to ask "Is wearing this going to help me be modest and pure? Can this outfit be used for God’s glory?"
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.