Do Women Have to Show They are Christians with Their Clothing?
- Debbie W. Wilson Writer
- 2017 10 Aug
The woman’s long black dress flapped in the wind as she strode toward us revealing a split that ran from her left ankle to her rib cage. Underneath, her slender figure and black bikini bottoms winked at us. Shocking? No, she strolled a beach.
In Israel, a young woman in a long white dress caught my eye at a historic sight. Her sheer lacy overdress also revealed a slender figure and black undergarments. In this setting her outfit screamed, “Notice me.”
Heavy long dresses and veils clearly identified the Muslim women on my visit to Jerusalem. Long black coats, prayer shawls, and black hats identified the men from the strict Hasidic Jewish sect.
Do women have to show they are Christian with their clothing? If so, what does that look like?
In addressing this topic, Paul wrote, “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes” (1 Timothy 2:9 NLT).
Modest, decent, and appropriate…
The Need for Modesty
In Little Women, Big God I wrote, “God created women to appeal to men, but using sexual attraction against a man is ugly. Designer Jessica Rey cites research where Princeton performed brain scans on men looking at women dressed in various levels of covering. The scans showed that when some men look at a scantily dressed woman, the part of their brains that deals with thoughts, feelings, and intentions shuts down. Analysts from National Geographic concluded that bikinis cause male brains to see women as objects or as something to be used, not as people to connect with.”
In Genesis 38, Tamar covered herself with a veil when she seduced her father-in-law. That sounds modest. “But she was dressed in temple prostitute attire. Temple prostitutes wore veils to create the illusion that the sexual act was taking place with the goddess being worshipped. Just as red lights have been used to signify areas of prostitution, Tamar’s veil identified her as a temple prostitute.”
To avoid sending the wrong message, Christ’s followers must dress not only with appropriate modesty but also with suitable awareness of our culture’s interpretation of symbols.
While our culture calls moral standards outdated, God values sexual purity. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity,… because these are improper for God’s holy people… For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Eph. 5:3, 8).
Did you catch the reason we seek purity? God calls us holy! We are children of light. God gave us new natures that, like Jesus, want to please Him. If we see ourselves as He sees us our dress will reflect it. If we don’t see ourselves that way, we need to learn about our identity in Christ.
Modesty doesn’t mean drabness. Look at the beautiful colors and patterns God chose for rainbows, flowers, fish, feathers, and fur. Dull and boring doesn’t convey godliness.
Love and Respect
Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. Love guides us even in what to wear. Modesty shows respect for:
- Myself—as God’s child (Phil. 2:15).
- God—as His ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20).
- Others—by not being offensive, seductive, or distracting (Phil. 2:3).
Dressing seductively invites the wrong kind of attention. God’s children aren’t needy.
Some women hope a frumpy exterior will make them invisible to men. Accepting femininity, instead of denying or flaunting it, shows respect to the Creator of genders.
Clothes for Every Believer
Too often we focus on externals while the Bible focuses on the heart. We sometimes use the term habit to describe clothing associated with an action. A nun’s habit and a riding habit tell something about those wearing them. Choosing the right attitude should come before selecting the perfect outfit.
“For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NIV).
The religious teachers in Jesus’ day created many rules. Yet their human laws didn’t make them holy. They crucified God’s Son while keeping their laws!
Paul said this about man-made rules, “If you have died with Christ to the world’s way of doing things, why do you let others tell you how to live? It’s as though you were still under the world’s influence. People will tell you, ‘Don’t handle this! Don’t taste or touch that!’ All of these things deal with objects that are only used up anyway. These things look like wisdom with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body. But they have no value for holding back the constant desires of your corrupt nature” (Colossians 2:20-23 GW).
Love Sets the Limit
The Bible says where the Spirit of the Lord is, there’s liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). It also says not to let our freedom cause our brother for whom Christ died to stumble (Romans 14:13-20). God gives us freedom to express our unique personalities, but makes clear it is better not to wear anything that will cause a brother to fall. Love produces freedom that protects.
Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc