When you become a Christian, everything takes on a new
2 Corinthians 5:17
The mature Christian considers what the Bible has to say
about every activity in life and conforms to it. This is not as easy for young Christians and
teenagers who are easily lead by popular trends or typical behavior among their
Dancing is one of those activities to which a Christian
needs to give serious thought. Questions
will naturally arise:
What exactly is dancing?
Is anything wrong with dancing?
Are certain kinds of dancing acceptable to God?
Is all dancing sinful?
Should I attend a dance?
We will try to answer these concerns as logically and
scripturally as possible. We will also
be frank and open about what will prove to be a somewhat sensitive subject. It is not our goal to shock or embarrass
anyone, but we need to be clear and direct about what the Bible calls sin.
You may have heard sermons about this subject with all kinds
of reasoning on the matter. For this
study, our approach will be the same as for all issues in Christian
morality. This lesson will clearly state
the subject at hand, present Bible principles at play, and challenge the reader
to make the proper spiritual application in daily life. Human reasoning, conjecture, prejudice, and
stereotyping should not be allowed to cloud our thinking on the matter.
According to Merriam-Webster, the noun and verb forms of
"dance" are "a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements
usually performed to music; to move or seem to move up and down or about in a
quick or lively manner." That
covers a pretty broad range of activities.
With a definition this general, dancing could include:
Children playing leap-frog or musical chairs
Ice skating and roller skating
Gymnastics and other athletic activities
Aerobic exercise routines
Square dancing and line dancing
Ethnic dances, such as clogging or polka
Ballroom dancing, such as a waltz or tango
Modern dance, such as the twist or the jitterbug
Theatrical dancing, such as choreography,
ballet, or tap dancing
Like painting, sculpture, or music, dancing has become an
art form used for the expression of feelings and emotions. Cultures and societies have used dance to
express joy, jubilation, and victory. It
has been used to arouse people both to love and to war or to seek the favor of
gods. It is even sometimes used for mere
entertainment and exercise.
These things are not sinful on their own (with the exception
of seeking to please a false god). There
is nothing wrong with expressing your feelings, having fun, or exercising in a
number of different ways. We would have
no scriptural basis to make a blanket statement that all or a certain kind of
dancing as listed above is wrong in every circumstance. Our study will ultimately show that any
sinfulness of dancing will be derived not from a specific scriptural decree for
the prohibition of dancing in some form but on the basis of the principles of
Let's turn our attention now to the Bible.
In The Bible
The Bible makes several specific references to dancing and
some indications of dance-like behavior.
We'll take a look at some of these now.
At the defeat of the
Egyptians, Miriam and the women dance and play timbrels while praising God.
When Aaron makes the
golden calf, the people dance around it with a lack of self control.
Dances were used in
ancient marriage rituals.
2 Samuel 6:14
David dances in
worship at the return of the Ark Of The Covenant
Psalm 149, 150
Dance in worship is
There is a time to
Matthew 11:16, 17
Jesus makes an
application from the dances of little children at play.
The dancing of
Herodius' daughter was so provocative, Herod makes a rash and tragic vow.
Acts 3:8; 14:10
When healed, those
who once were lame went about leaping and rejoicing.
Our observation of the references sited in scripture shows
us that sometimes dancing is associated with wholesomeness and sometimes it is
associated with wickedness. Note the
Dancing is seen in the Bible as sometimes a
means of expressing joy or simply having fun.
Dancing is seen in Old Testament worship and
praise to God.
Dancing is seen in the Bible as sometimes a part
of uncontrolled behavior, as in the idolatry in Exodus 32.
Dancing is seen as being provocative and a part
of vileness and deceit, as when Herod lost his composure through the compelling
dances of the girl in Mark 6.
So how are we to know when dancing is sinful? For this answer, let's turn again to biblical
instruction concerning lust.
Sin Of Lasciviousness
In our study of morality, we have many times used the works
of the flesh as a starting point. Let's
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which
are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred,
contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions,
heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell
you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice
such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Once again, we focus on the word
"lasciviousness." It's a big
word and not one you hear on the radio every day. We've considered its meaning before; let's
look a little deeper. The original word
in Greek is ASELGEIA and is translated as follows in Galatians 5:
"lewdness" (New King James)
"sensuality" (New American Standard)
"debauchery" (New International)
"licentiousness" (Revised Standard)
"lasciviousness" (King James)
Literally meaning "without restraint," J. H.
Thayer defines this as unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness,
wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence, and continues to describe
it as "wanton acts or manners as filthy words, indecent bodily movements,
unchaste handling of males and females, etc." Moreover, English synonyms are as follows:
Lustful = "usually intense or unbridled
Lewd = "sexually unchaste or
Licentious = "lacking legal or moral
restraints; especially disregarding sexual restraints"
Lasciviousness is condemned in scripture as that which
defiles a man.
1 Peter 4:2, 3
Anything which excites the lust of the flesh whether by
words, bodily movements, or unchaste touching is therefore considered
Note that, by definition, the sin of lasciviousness would
condemn any form of dancing that would involve either of these two
Indecent bodily movements
Lasciviousness is applicable to
any form of dance that, outside the bonds of marriage, would provoke lustful
thoughts by bodily movements. This will
include any dancing that draws visual attention to those body parts pertaining
to sexuality. This condemns the typical
popular fast dance that involves swirling and gyrating the hips, buttocks, and
pelvis and shaking the breasts.
Unchaste handling of males and females
Lasciviousness is applicable to
any form of dance that, outside the bonds of marriage, would involve touching
body areas that are sensitive to sexual stimulation. This will include any dancing that brings
couples too close or touching in full frontal contact. This condemns the typical popular slow dance
that involves a full body embrace for long time with swaying and rubbing the
These are basically the very kinds of modern dancing that
are typically engaged at many high school proms, sock hops, holiday parties,
discotheques, and nightspots. The sin of
lasciviousness rules out this kind of dancing, and the faithful Christian will
Lasciviousness enters into not only popular modern nightclub
dancing but can actually enter any of the styles or forms of dancing previously
listed. For example, the hokey pokey of
childhood games is innocent enough when a foot, elbow, or head-bone is the body
part "shaken all about." When
the dance calls for the "tail-bone" to be shaken all about, it
crosses the line. We may think it's cute
and harmless for children to do this, but we are effectively teaching them this
kind of bodily movement in dance is okay for them when they get older.
Dancing can send a very powerful message and hold a strong
influence upon us. We have seen in
scripture where dancing aided the loss of self-control, lowered inhibitions,
and resulted in irreverent behavior (Exodus 32:25). Scripture has also shown us that dancing can
cloud our thinking and provoke us to do things we would not normally do if we
were not otherwise distracted by desires of the flesh (Mark 6:22). It is very easy for young couples struggling
to remain pure while unmarried to engage in unlawful sexual activity after
being so strongly stimulated with dance.
The Sin Of Lust
Though we may not actively participate in lascivious
dancing, we may still sin by watching others do so. This is lust.
In the original New Testament language, the word is EPITHUMIA and
defined by Thayer as desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden,
lust. Lust is a passive sin: just a look
and an unlawful, unwholesome desire. The
problem is that lust, unchecked, will always look for a way to move into
action, fulfilling the unlawful desire.
The arousal of lust within us is clearly condemned in
scripture. Be certain of this: if
scripture condemns it, it is sin:
Romans 13:13, 14
Ephesians 2:2, 3
2 Timothy 2:22
Guilt By Participation Or By Association
The question usually comes to a high school teenager:
"Should I go to the prom?"
This question has effectively already been answered. What are you going to do at the prom? If you will go to engage in dancing that our
study has shown causes lust, you will sin.
If you will go and watch others dancing lustfully, you will sin.
Granted, all such events have different situations. Perhaps the event includes a dinner and a
time for conversation. These are
certainly wholesome activities. Perhaps
also when the dancing occurs, the setting will allow you to distance yourself
from it. On the other hand, maybe
not. If inappropriate dancing is basically
all that is going on and you are surrounded by it, you need to ask yourself
what you're doing there.
The Christian life is lived in the middle of a sinful
society; sin is all around us every day.
We can simply walk down the street in public and be among people
cursing, drinking, and dressing immodestly.
We would have to live as hermits to avoid all such association. However, know that there is a difference
between incidental association and deliberately and unnecessarily placing
yourself in the midst of sinful activity.
For a similar example, I may go to a restaurant that serves
liquor. However, the establishment not
only serves liquor but also food, and not everyone there is drinking. No one will doubt my conviction as a
Christian if I eat there, even though some around me are drinking. Conversely, consider going to a bar where
basically all they serve is liquor and people are there for that purpose
alone. A faithful Christian would be out
of place there, even if he abstained from drinking.
Though we cannot control what other people around us are
doing, God still calls us to be an example.
So are there any kinds of modern dances that are acceptable
for Christians? The answer is a simple
and qualified "yes:" any dance that does not involve lasciviousness
or any other enticement to sin. This
would include the following:
Dancing in privacy that arouses sexual desire
between lawfully married couples,
Dancing that involves steps and turns without
lewd movement, unchaste touching, or indecent exposure,
Dancing that involves arm and head motions that
do not cause lust,
Dancing for physical exercise that does not
involve licentious behavior.
This may include a good number of modern dance forms, such as
clogging, line dancing, square dancing, polka, gymnastics, and some ballroom
dances. However, before casting yourself
into these activities, consider these dangers:
Dangers and pitfalls
Dancing often presents a temptation for inappropriate
dress. For example ballet and gymnastics
are typically performed today wearing apparel that is indecent due to tightness
to reveal detail of bodily form or scantiness to be inadequately covered. Take the moral stand that, if you choose to
become involved in these art forms that are otherwise not lascivious, you will
always do so dressed decently as a Christian should.
Dancing that only involves harmless stepping with innocent
arm and head movements is perhaps safe enough when engaged only with diligent
Christians. However, for example,
consider what can happen if engaged in otherwise clean line dancing with others
not so diligent. It takes only a little
extra bodily movement for them to turn it into something lustful, and then,
there you are in the middle of it. Be
careful not to set yourself up for a bad situation.
Some ballroom dances are not lustful in nature. The waltz, for example, performed with
discretion, is such an example. However,
if dancing with someone other than your spouse, it so very easily becomes more
than you bargain for, if the stance becomes too close or the hand position
becomes too familiar. If you cannot keep
this in propriety, it can become sin in an instant. It would be better to stay away from needless
temptation. The rumba, on the other
hand, is one of the most sexually provocative dances; there's no wholesome way
to perform it except by a lawfully married couple in private.
Used To Justify Lewd Dancing
"Dancing may arouse other people, but I
don't react that way."
Someone may say this to justify going to a dance just to
watch. To begin, the sincerity of such a
statement could be legitimately called into question. We need to be completely honest with
ourselves. Do not deceive yourself into
thinking you are so strong morally that immoral behavior does not affect
you. The very fact that it doesn't
indicates a problem. Even if you are not
caused to lust when watching lewd dancing, you're watching others sin, and that
should bother you. If you derive any
enjoyment from the sins of others, you have sinned, yourself.
"I can't control what other people
This demonstrates a selfish and inconsiderate attitude that
always assumes the problem is someone else's.
Just because we can't force a person to think right, that is no reason
to encourage them to think wrong. We
have a responsibility not to contribute to another's moral corruption; we must
not be a stumbling block.
Matthew 18:6, 7
"Nothing is wrong with it if it is closely
supervised and done in moderation."
Sin supervised is still sin; sin does not become less sinful
if regulated. God does not make
allowances for us to sin with moderation.
Can we practice sin as long as we don't go overboard? This is absurd.
"Dancing to me is just a way of getting
If you wish to dance for exercise, it is completely possible
to do so without lewdness. There are
many alternative forms of exercise that do not excite the lusts of the flesh in
yourself or others.
"Dancing is approved in scripture."
You will never find lasciviousness and fleshly lust approved
in scripture. When Jephthah returned
home from war, his daughter met him dancing for joy. The text would suggest the dance she performed
was neither lewd or lustful. This is the
kind of dancing approved in scripture.
"Everyone does it."
From the outset, we established that what everyone else in
world is doing is not our standard for moral behavior. Those of us claiming to be godly will take a
stand against lewd dancing, even if it makes us appear to be oddballs of
We can be sure of two things concerning lust:
It is wrong to have fleshly lusts in our hearts.
It is wrong to conduct ourselves in any way as
to excite fleshly lusts in others.
We can be sure of two things concerning lewd dancing:
Observing it causes fleshly lust in our hearts.
Performing it excites fleshly lusts in others.
The conclusion is obvious: lewd dancing is sinful.
Dancing is as natural a behavior as walking and
talking. In fact, a small child who is not
yet even able to speak or walk on his own will twitch his legs and wave his
arms when he hears music. This does not
justify lascivious behavior. God always
expects us to keep all natural urges under control and gives us legitimate and
wholesome outlets for them all.
Thoughts And Questions For Discussion
two aspects of the meaning of lasciviousness apply directly to some dancing
all dancing sinful in all circumstances?
List some dances in circumstances that do not involve sin. Explain why.
all dancing appropriate behavior for Christians in all circumstances? List some dances in circumstances that do
involve sin. Explain why.
were two occasions in scripture where dancing influenced people to do wrong? What were the motivating influences in each
not involved in lewd dancing himself, what is the danger for a Christian to
simply watch others dance lewdly?
you think a Christian should attend a high school prom? Explain your response.
possible dangers are there in participating in wholesome dancing?