God Pleasing Dress


     The Bible is presented to us as making the man of God "perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3: 17). In the same expression, Paul wrote that the scripture is given by "inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (vs. 16). It is truly amazing the scope of subjects that are addressed in the Bible. The Bible teaches that clothing originated with God (Gen. 3: 7, 21). Clothing makes a statement, as we shall see and is of great importance. In the case of the Levitical Priesthood, their attire reflected the dignity of their office (Ex. 28: 2, 4 ff.).

     Dress reveals things about the person. I realize that in this day, there is relatively little importance placed on clothes. However, that does not change the teaching of the Bible. I am also aware of the argument advanced regarding I Samuel 16: 7. The Lord said to Samuel regarding David, "…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." From this statement some have erroneously concluded that God does not care how man dresses.

     Dress may suggest whether a person is rich or poor (Jas. 2: 2). Clothing can reveal sorrow (2 Sam. 3: 31). Certain clothing can identify one's belonging to a particular group, such as a gang or life style (cp. Zeph. 1: 8). A male or female can be announced by distinctive apparel (Deut. 22: 5). Prisoners can be detected by their dress (Jere. 52: 33). Certain clothing may reveal particular activity, such as having attended a wedding (Matt. 22: 1 ff.). The quality of dress can reveal how well a mother has provided for her family (Prov. 31: 21, 22). Clothing can also announce a harlot (Prov. 7: 10). You see, those who believe the Bible is silent relative to dress have not really considered what the Bible says about clothing.

     The matter of daily dress. Different scriptures govern the daily dress of a Christian. One primary scripture is I Peter 3: 1-4. Peter taught, "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold or of putting on of apparel" (vs. 3). It is obvious that Peter is not simply condemning the use of gold and certain hair arrangements. We know this because he continues to include "or of putting on of apparel." Peter's next statement suggests the meaning: "But let it be the hidden man of the heart…" (vs. 4). In other words, we are not to place the primary emphasis on the outward, the dress, but on the inward, the "hidden man of the heart." In addition to focusing on priority, Peter also teaches that clothing is not to be gaudy, tawdry, or ostentatious (cp. Rev. 17: 4). Many Eastern women would spend much time and money to present themselves outwardly, but would have little or no concern regarding the real person, their spirits. We need to look into the mirror of God's word and adorn ourselves spiritually (Jas. 1: 25 ff.)

     Dress in worship. We dress accordingly for different purposes and functions (Gen. 41: 14; Matt. 22: 11-13). Public worship should be no exception. The priests of old wore clothing that reflected the gravity and solemnity of the occasion (Ex. 28: 2 ff., I Pet. 2: 9). I Timothy 2 beginning in verse eight seems to particularly address public worship (see addendum). Paul addresses the attire of women thus: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…" (vs. 9). The descriptive terms used are very helpful in determining the teaching and requisites.

     "Adorn" (kosmeo) means "primarily to arrange, to put in order" (W.E. Vine is quoted on all these terms). "Modest" (kosmios) means orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest." "Apparel" (katastole) suggests "to send or let down, to lower (kata, down, and stello, to send). "Shamefacedness" (aidos) is defined as, "a sense of shame, modesty." Last of all, "sobriety" (sophrosune) means "soundness of mind, sound judgment." The composite description of the dress is the dress is to be put in order, well-arranged, decent and modest, dress is to be let down (more later) there is to be a sense of shame to guide in our dress, and good, sound judgment to guide the choice of our dress.

     Dress in general. Keep in mind that it appears that one reason God clothed Adam and Eve was to provide not only adequate clothing, but clothing that covered their bodies as opposed to the "aprons" they had made for themselves (Gen. 3: 7; 21, the "coats" or tunics God made evidently came down at least to their knees). Keep in mind also that God included Adam (some seem to think that proper dress only applies to the female). The specified attire for the priests was designed to cover their "nakedness" (Ex. 28: 42). This God specified clothing covered their "thighs" (the exposing of the thighs was called nakedness).

     Dress or the lack thereof on the part of Bethsheba played a major role in the temptation and fall of David (2 Sam. 11: 2, 3). Jesus taught, "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5: 28). Seductive and revealing dress can certainly be conducive to such "adultery in the heart" and those so clad will also be held responsible.

     In general, clothing that is not gaudy, appropriate for the occasion, distinguishes the genders, does not take priority over the spiritual development, shows a sense of shame and good judgment, is well arranged, and comes to about the knee is the dress taught in the Bible.

     In closing, clothes do not make the person, but they often reveal the person!  (For additional material, click on "An Exposition of James 2: 1-10.")  (Also of interest is, "An Exchange on I Timothy 2: 9 and Situation Ethics")

     Addendum: When Paul wrote, "I will therefore that men pray….," he did not use anthropos, the general word for man that is inclusive of women, but aner, which has the meaning of men as opposed to women. In regards to aner in I Timothy 2: 8, A. T. Robertson wrote, "the men in contrast to 'women' in 9….The point here is that only men should lead in public prayer…" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, pg. 568, 569).