The Law, Money and Modesty

By Frank Jamerson

Paul wrote the Romans that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). He had earlier written, in the same epistle, that they had “died to the law through the body (death) of Christ” (Rom. 7:4). In spite of the fact that the Bible clearly teaches that we are under the covenant dedicated with the blood of Christ and not the one dedicated by the blood of animals, many continue to have problems with bringing over things dedicated with the blood of animals as law.

The Old Testament teaches that men were to give a tenth (tithe). Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20), and the law of Moses commanded that a tithe be given to the Levites (Num. 18:21-24). Can we learn something from these examples about God’s will for us? I think so. But can we teach tithing as a part of the law of Christ? Certainly not. The law dedicated by the blood of Christ does not give a percentage. We are to give as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1, 2), and as we purpose in our hearts (2 Cor. 9:7). Does fact that God did not give a specific percentage mean that we should not give liber- ally? Again, no! But it does mean that we should not bind the law of Moses as our standard of giving.

Another problem that has arisen among some is women wearing pants. The law of Moses said, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God”(Deut. 22:5). When the pantsuits first came out, some opposed them on the basis that the law dedicated by the blood of animals revealed God’s intention about such and is still binding on us.

The inconsistency of this is glaringly obvious when they do not bind verse eleven of the same chapter. “You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together.” How do we decide that verse five is binding today but not verse eleven?

Is there anything that can be learned from the instruction of Moses? Maybe so, but we need to remember that one who binds part of the old law “is a debtor to keep the whole law” (Gal. 5:3). The New Testament teaches that women should conform to the customs of the day, so long as they do not conflict with God’s law. Paul told the women in Corinth not to shear or shave their heads because “long hair is a glory” to them. He also forbade them removing their veils, because that would have been shameful conduct in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:2-16). The men in Corinth wore togas, which looked like a modern day dress or robe. Does this mean that we should put on the “toga of a man,” as Paul did? No, the Lord did not give specific attire to men and women, but he gave principles that regulate our attire.

Another problem has arisen over what is “modest apparel.” Some contend that the “tunics of skin” that God made for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21) were garments that came to the knee. Also, the priests were to wear “linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs” (Exod. 28:42). Does this prove that Christians must have linen trousers to the knees? If so, Paul dressed immodestly when he put on the toga of a man. A toga was different from trousers. Further- more, when it was customary for women to wear garments to the ankle, Christian women would have been immodest to have worn a garment just to the knees. What does the New Testament say about women’s attire? “In like manner that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good work” (1 Tim. 1:9, 10). “Do not let your beauty be the outward adorning of arranging the hair, or wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4). We may wish the God had given a specific length, height and tightness of the skirt, but he did not, and to teach the Old Law as God’s standard is the same mistake as teaching the Old Law on giving.

Does this mean that ladies may wear their skirts half way up their thigh? If we cannot draw a line on the leg where immodesty begins, does that mean that God has no standard? If some Pharisee would just tell them exactly what is modest they would appreciate it. But God gave no such instructions through the covenant dedicated with the blood of Christ. He did not say how much the hair can be arranged, how much gold you may wear and how expensive your clothing may be, but he did say it should manifest “a gentle and quite spirit.” I’m convinced that if Christians understand the principles of godliness and have a heart that is transformed, the externals will take care of themselves. The godly person will be neither ostentatious nor skimpy in dress. The principles taught in the Old Law were written for our learning, but we must remember that it was not dedicated by the blood of Christ. To bind even parts of the Old Law is to “become estranged form Christ” (Gal. 5:4).