By Bill Collett
As we look about us in the world today, it becomes evident that something needs to be said about the physical appearance of many professing to be the children of God. Although Paul teaches us (Rom. 12:1) that we are not to be conformed to this world, many “so-called” Christians have become so as daily their appearance reflects a rejection of what the scripture teaches concerning “modest dress.”
The strong moral fiber of the American woman is under attack today as never before. There seems to be an upsurge in downgrading. Television tells her that “she’s come a long way baby.” She now has the right to smoke in the public the same as the man. She can walk to the local bar and order a whiskey sour just as freely as the man. She is being informed today that. it is only just and right for her children to be cared for by a hireling so that she can stand toe-to-toe and compete with man in the business world. She no longer has to shrink back when men start to tell crude or filthy jokes and stories. Today, because of her freedom, she can listen, laugh and even tell a “heart stopper” herself.
The movie industry tells her that the more free she is with her body, the more modern, mature and sophisticated she is. Even many church or religious bodies are encouraging her to rebel against the repression of society who suggests that her place is in the home keeping house, bearing children, and loving her husband. Truly, the woman that is caught up in the modern influence has “come a long way baby.” The question is, “Which way?”
No where or in no way is the strong moral fiber of American womanhood put more to the test than through the modern fashions of the day. The fashion designer tells her the more she is willing to reveal, the more attractive she is to the eye of the public. But what about the eyes of God? How does the Christian woman dress in order to please God?
Let us lay a foundation of godly principles upon which our subject can rest.
First, from the introduction of sin into the world, nudity has been a symbol of shame. Nudity was not a symbol of shame in the beginning. For notice with reference to Adam and Eve in the garden the scripture says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not shamed” (Gen. 2:25). However, when sin was introduced into the world, nudity became a symbol of shame (Gen. 3:10; 21). Nudity is also used symbolically to represent the shame of one who is separated from God (Isa. 47:3; Rev. 3:18).
Second, being properly clothed has always represented uprightness and purity (Rev. 3:4-5; 7:13-15). In the scriptures, one who is properly clothed is one who is in his “right” mind and uses good common sense. A good case in point is the demon-possessed man in Luke 8:26-35, who did not wear clothing. After Jesus cast the demon out, notice what verse 35 says about him. “And the people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were frightened.”
Third, clothing down through the ages often reflects the character of the wearer (Ex. 28:40-43; Pr. 7:10). “A psychiatrist is thought to be concerned only with the ‘inside’ of people but the ‘outside’ tells us a lot too-unconscious factors guide your choice of clothing as surely as though you were following a blueprint and you wear what satisfies your true feelings about your self-whether you consciously know it or not. Just as a painting reveals the artist’s state of mind, your appearance can reveal yours and send out a message to everyone who sees you. Your state of mind may change from day to day, or year to year, and your clothes will reflect it. This phenomenon has proved most helpful to me as a psychoanalyst in understanding the person I’m trying to help” (“Why you dress the way you do,” an article in This Week Magazine, May 27, 1962 by Dr. Alexandra Symonds).
It has also been proven that proper attire also improves character and behavior. “Children are keenly aware of their appearance. It is surprising how often their behavior matches their dress-a boy in a new suit behaves like a new boy-parents should consider the results they wish to achieve when they purchase their children’s school clothes-children tend to act out the parts for which they are dressed. Boys who let their hair grow long or wear dirty jeans, are, too often, disciplinary problems. Neat haircuts and reasonably clean clothes result in fewer disciplinary problems and more learning-dressed as good school citizens, they proceed to play the part (Article in The Houston Post, August 09, 1965, by Leslie J. Nason, Ed. Un. of California).
The God of heaven does not leave the Christian woman floundering in a world of doubt as to the type of clothing that she is to wear. The scripture gives her certain guidelines that enable her to know the attire that pleases God (1 Tim. 2:9, 10). Brother E. M. Zerr in his commentary has this to say on these verses: “Apparel is from ‘Katastole’ which Thayer defines, ‘a garment let down, dress, attire.’ It is evident that modest or proper apparel means a woman’s clothing should not be such as would expose her body in a way to suggest evil thoughts.”
Notice the difference in instruction of the scriptures. To men, Jesus said, “But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt. 5:27). To women, Paul wrote, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing . . .” (1 Ti. 2:9). Why the difference in instruction? When we understand that man is stimulated sexually by sight, and woman by touch, we understand the difference in instruction.
Parents should explain the difference in sexual stimulation between men and women to their children as they reach the age of understanding so they will not ignorantly lure. The Christian’s attitude toward dress should not be, “To what extent can I go?”, but “How can I best dress so as to be recognized as a servant of God?”
Truth Magazine XIX: 46, p. 731
October 2, 1975