What Shall I Wear?
Whether a person has few clothes or many, he often finds, himself asking, "What shall I wear?" Usually, when this question is asked, it indicates a problem of minor importance. The choice is usually only one of taste in style or color. Of a much more serious nature, however, and relating to a moral and spiritual problem, the question should be asked by each of God's saints, "What shall I wear?"
The God of Heaven is concerned with what we wear. There are many passages in the Bible which tell us of the divine interest in the clothes we wear, and which set forth the reasons for this interest.
From the very beginning, clothing has played a vital part in man's relationship to God. When Adam and Eve had sinned against God and through that sin came to know the shame of doing wrong, they were also ashamed of the fact that they were naked. Hiding themselves, they made garments of fig leaves with which to cover their bodies from one another and from God. God's attitude toward their clothing is to be seen in the fact that he improved upon the extent and quality of their clothing by making garments of skin with which to clothe them. He wanted their bodies clothed.
The Bible also recognizes the strong connection between the clothing one wears and the physical appeal between men and women. In the law given to the people of Israel, God said, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deut. 22.5). This passage makes no effort to describe any particular differences of style which might distinguish between men's and women's clothes across the world and throughout the ages, but it does give strong emphasis to the sexual significance of clothing. This law forbade in Israel the use of clothing to express the perverted sexual aberrations and clothing fetishism practiced by many even today.
In a sense it is true that "the clothes do not make the man." And it is certainly true that a man is not to be more highly esteemed simply because he has the means to dress in fine and expensive suits. This is condemned in James 2:1-5. On the other hand, a person shows respect for himself (or lack of it) and the business he is upon by the attention he gives to being dressed appropriately. The priests of Israel were required to wear a special garb when functioning as priests of God. Their clothing was of the most expensive material and very finely made. They were to be scrupulously clean when worn by the priests in divine service. Many persons today show their lack of respect for themselves and the society around them by the sloppy and uncouth manner of their dressing.
In the New Testament, too, there is considerable attention given to the importance of what one wears. Wives are taught that their greatest attractiveness to their husbands can only be achieved by a chaste manner of life in which they do not depend upon outward appearance alone for their adornment (I Peter 3:1-4). Women, however, are instructed that the manner of their dress is important to the possession of that chastity. "I desire . . . that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment: but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works" (I Timothy 2:8-10).
The Christian must be careful in what he wears. One cannot be a godly person without respecting the will of God in the way he clothes himself. The Christian is aware that he has a moral duty to clothe and cover his body from the gaze of others, and that it is a shame not to do so. He is also aware of the need for moderation or modesty in the fashion of his clothes. In addition to this, he must dress with shamefastness (shamefacedness), or bashfulness, thus avoiding the general trend of the world toward more and more nakedness. The Christian will not invent excuses for violating God's will in these matters. He will not use swimming or sunbathing as an occasion of public nakedness. It will not change his decency simply that "everyone is doing it," or that "no one thinks anything about it," or "but, it's so hot . . ."
For the most part, within these general limitations set by divine regulation, and with these moral principles kept before us, God has left us free to choose the styles and fashions of the clothes that we shall wear. There is no need for the Christian to appear either shabby or old-fashioned. It is nearly always possible to select clothes that are both fashionable and at the same time in keeping with the will of God.
When the question arises, "What shall I wear?" the Christian will answer it in harmony with the God-given principles given in the Bible. As a saint of God, he is concerned, not only with his appearance, but also with his soul's salvation.
Truth Magazine IX: 1, pp. 14-15