It Is Not Yoga Pants That Defiles a Man

Apparently, the “purity talk” culture has a new villain—those evil yoga pants.

You know how the line of reasoning goes within evangelical circles: Ladies, men are different (i.e. helpless Neanderthals who can’t control themselves in the face of visual stimulation) so in order to help your brothers and not cause them to stumble, you shouldn’t wear yoga pants. Same talk, different article of clothing.

The problem, however, is that you don’t hear that talk from Jesus; you hear it within the religious talk Jesus contested. Religions are notorious for external regulations because within religion evil is external. Therefore the answer to evil is always legislation that guards us from external defilements.

This was Jesus’ continual frustration with the religious leaders of His day. They were very pious, but their piety ignored their truest evil. In one particularly contentious moment, they were deriding Jesus for not following their endless rules, and Jesus plainly said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Now Jesus was talking about the dietary restrictions of the older covenant, but the principle He is establishing is that nothing external (be it food or yoga pants) can defile a person. Instead, what defiles a person is from within.

And that misunderstanding is still plaguing God’s people to this very day. It’s much easier to say the problem is the cinema, bar, internet, money, universities, government, etc. These worldly things are the problem and need to be avoided. But Jesus would say that our truest problem lies within, which manifests itself through the misuse of worldly things. 

So let’s apply Christ’s teachings to yoga pants. (I can’t believe I just typed that)

First to the men…

If we approach this like every other religion, then the problem is all these women running around in yoga pants causing men to stumble. Solution? We need women to stop wearing yoga pants. In this way, we unwittingly ask women to bear the burden of our chastity.  

But this external answer ignores the truer internal problem. According to Jesus, the problem is not the yoga pants; the problem is the internal lusts of disordered sexuality. Solution? Self-denial, deep repentance, disciplines of virtue, healing of sexuality, and all the other things involved in picking up the cross and following Jesus. This is the only hope of becoming a man who can actually inhabit a sexually broken culture (trust me, yoga pants are the least of our problems) while at the same time honoring the Lord Jesus.

Now to the women…

If we approach this like every other religion, then the conversation will always turn into what is and isn’t appropriate, what does and doesn’t cause men to stumble. But this is also an external answer that ignores the truer internal problem.

How about we move away from purity talks into deeper discipleship. I think Christian women need less conversations about what they can and can’t wear and more conversations about disordered longing for attention even if that attention is perverse. About the impact of shame and insecurity and the way that shapes how they present themselves. 

Women need discipleship that unveils a new category of feminine—not the bland uniform of fundamentalism that suppresses femininity, nor the cheap lewdness of culture that prostitutes femininity, a category that unleashes femininity and celebrates a woman’s unique beauty through style and fashion.

It is not yoga pants that defiles a man. It is not wearing yoga pants that defiles a woman. In fact, there is nothing outside us that can defile us, for our defilement comes from within. 

With the notable exception the 80’s leotards. Even Jesus would call those a defilement.


- Rev. Robert Cunningham