The Shame of Nakedness

By Steve Wallace

Shame is a strong motivating force in people’s lives. In constrains people not to seek to lofty a position lest they be seen by others to be unworthy of it and are made to feel ashamed (Luke 14:8-9). It can cause a person to be responsible and hardworking because he would be ashamed to beg (Luke 16:3). It can motivate Christians to live like the world wants them to live. Hence, the Bible counsels: “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Pet. 4:16).

There are things we as Christians should be ashamed of and things we should not be ashamed of. However, as we will note in our lesson today, people can become confused with regards to things they should or should not be ashamed of. So it is with nakedness.

The Bible teaches nakedness to be a cause for shame (Rev. 3:18; 16:15). By contrast, before our first parents sinned “they were both naked . . . and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). As we will note, ever since our first parents sinned, the Bible has associated nakedness with shame.

As we will note, this subject has to do with how we are to dress. A lot of people do not seem to care about how they dress, but as I hope we will all see, the Lord does care. A proper sense of shame will affect how we dress. However, we need to recognize that our sense of shame can be affected by other things and fail to operate properly.

The Danger of Acquired Callousness

1. Failure to blush when we should blush. This failure was an indicator of how callous ancient Judah had become (Jer. 6:16). Normally, when we know something is wrong but do it anyhow we feel shame. However, through continued sinning and because those around us see nothing wrong with a certain sin, we can sin and not be ashamed. This can happen with regards to nakedness. While not being a regular reader of Ann Landers, the following letter to her caught my eye under the headline, “Grinning and baring it is an honorable profession:”

Dear Ann Landers,

You have printed letters from doctors, lawyers, nurses, secretaries, auto mechanics and schoolteachers, but I can’t recall ever seeing a letter from a stripper. It could be that I am the first. . . . When I entertain at a bachelor party, I explain the rules up front: no touching, no dirty language, no photos or videos, and no making dates for later. I do my number and give them their money’s worth and there are no encores. . . . . Those who think stripping is obscene should go to the beach and check out the latest swim wear. They’ll see four inches of fabric held together with a string. I feel no need to apologize for my profession. It takes talent and poise to grin and bare it. — Just a working girl (The Stars and Stripes, 10/8/95)

Our point is clear: One can get to the point where he or she is naked and not be ashamed when one should be. It can still get worse.

2. “Glory in shame” (Phil. 3:19). An example of this in our day is non-Christians who brag about drunkenness or fornication. Another good example is when a woman decides to dress provocatively to “impress” men (Prov. 11:22).

Surely all Christians can see the danger of such shamelessness as we have described herein. When we speak of the shame of nakedness we must first understand what the Bible means by the word.

Nakedness in Scripture

1. The meaning of the word in Scripture. In the New Testament it is defined, “1. naked, stripped, bare. . . . 2. without an outer garment. . . . 3. poorly dressed. . . . 4. uncovered, bare. . . .” (Arndt and Gingrich, 167-168). The meaning in the Old Testament is, “Naked . . . but naked is also used for — (a) ragged, badly clad. . . . (b) used of one who, having taken off his mantle, goes only clad in his tunic” (Gesenius, 653). In Genesis 2:25 the word refers to nudity.

However, in Genesis 3:7-10 it can be seen that one can be naked in spite of the fact that he or she is wearing clothes. The word “apron” in v. 7 means, “girdle, loin covering, belt” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon [BDB], 292).

In light of these facts, when is a person considered naked in the sight of God? When should one feel the shame of nakedness? Adam and Eve were not totally naked and yet they felt the shame of nakedness.

2. When God covered nakedness. In Exodus 28:42, God commanded “breeches” to be made to cover nakedness. The word is defined as follows:

1. Drawers (BDB, 488).

2. Trousers or drawers. This noun occurs. . . . five times in Ex and Lev and once in Ezk 44:18. Trousers were ordered by God in the interests of decorum . . . (Theological Wordbook of the O.T. [TH.W.O.T], I:445).

3. Exodus 28:42, unto the thighs — i.e., to the bottom of the thighs where they adjoin the knee (G. Rawlinson, Pulpit Commentary, I:293).

4. Priests called to officiate at the high altar . . . above the eyes of the watching multitude wore a cloth covering hips and thighs, made of fine linen like the rest of their garments (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible [ZPE], I:652).

In Genesis 3:21 God made “coats” to clothe Adam and Eve. The word is given the following meanings:

1. A tunic . . . generally with sleeves, coming down to the knees, rarely to the ankles (Gesenius, 420).

2. Tunic, a long shirt-like garment, usually of linen (TH.W.O.T., I:459).

3. The tunics worn by Adam and Eve were of animal skins (Gen. 3:21). . . . The tunic worn by the priests had long sleeves, and it extended down to the ankles, and was fastened about the loins by a girdle (Exod 29:5, 8, 9; 39:27). . . . Joseph’s “coat of many colors” (Gen. 37:3, KJV) or “long robe with sleeves” (RSV) was lit. a tunic reaching to the feet. . . .

Slaves, laborers, and prisoners wore a more abbreviated style tunic (sometime only to their knees and without sleeves) as appear on the Behistune Rock. In the Assyrian relief depicting the siege and capture of Lachish by Sennacherib (701 B.C.), there are Jewish captives (male and female) wearing long, dress-like tunics which reach almost to the ankles (ZPE, I:896).

As one reviews what we have learned under this point about nakedness in Scripture and the clothing God made, he should expect that when the thighs are uncovered a person is considered naked. This is what one finds in Isaiah 47:1-3. This is significant when one considers that nakedness is shameful from Genesis to Revelation.

Keeping Ourselves from Such Shame Today

1. Entertainment and recreation. It must be asked whether movies and TV which portray nakedness are fit- ting for Christians to watch. The meaning of nakedness should influence one’s attitude towards going to beaches or swimming pools where members of the opposite sex are present in the swim wear common to our day. The above words of Ann Lander’s stripper about modern swim wear (she might be a little more unbiased in her view of such clothing than some brethren!) ought to make us realize we should not go to places where such attire is worn.

2. Dress with sense of shame. There are simply items Christians should not wear when in public where the opposite sex can see them. Our clothing ought to reflect the difference in the clothing made by God versus that made by man. Coupling the meaning of nakedness with the Bible’s teaching on modesty (1 Tim. 2:9) should take such things as halter tops, shorts above the knee, low neckline tops and backless dresses out of the Christian’s wardrobe. “How little clothing can I get by with” is a dangerous game for God-fearing people to play.


Let us all think seriously about the clothing we wear and dress with a sense of shame and modesty. What we wear is part of our walk with God.