Why do we wear clothes? Those in the North may be stating the obvious, “You may cover up to avoid frostbite.” But seriously, what is the big deal about modesty? There are no commands in Scripture for the New Testament believer regarding how high, low, or tight clothing should or shouldn’t be. While this has caused many issues and some tension especially between generations, I believe this “lack of limits” has actually given Christians a higher standard to strive for.
God wants a greater principle than have I covered that which is required, He wants to use our clothes as a picture of our relationship with Him. How we dress probably says more about who we serve than any other area of life. After all, clothes are the first thing people see when we met each other.
Your clothes are a walking billboard advertising who is in control.
Before diving into a few principles God has laid forth, it is important that we answer the question, “Why do we wear clothes?” *
The first pair of clothes was actually a human invention. In Genesis 3:7 after Adam and Eve sinned, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. Why did they feel the need to cover up? They were covering up their sinfulness. Who were they covering up from? They were not only covering up from God in their jungle camo, but they felt the need to hide their sinfulness from each other.
Their clothes were an acknowledgment of their sinfulness. After God talked with them in the Garden, they were still clothed in their own attempt at covering sin. God then killed an animal to cover up their true problem of sinfulness. The very fact that mankind is in need of spiritual covering should be foremost in any discussion of clothing and modesty.
Clothes are a tangible picture of my need for spiritual covering.
After understanding mankind’s need of a Savior and spiritual clothing, we as Christians are commanded to follow certain principles of clothing. These principles show that we have been covered by Christ.
The first principle to consider is that of being clothed in meekness. I Peter 3:4 explains how we are to show our allegiance to God by adorning ourselves in meekness. The word ‘meekness’ was used in Greek literature to refer to a horse who had been broken. Interestingly, nothing changes physically about a horse when it is broken. It still has the same strength and power, but the power is able to be guided and used for the benefit of the master. When God commands us to be clothed in meekness, He is telling us that our clothing is to be under His rulership, and everyone who sees what we wear should easily understand, that person is controlled by God.
My attire should show everyone that I am submitted to God. This submission has two aspects. First, does my attire show I am submitted to God regarding what I should keep covered? Without going into details, men and women have divinely given and distinct body parts. We must dress accordingly. For women it would mean that meekness would not draw attention to distinctly feminine body parts, and men should not draw excessive attention to manly parts. It seems that the unbelieving world understands the innate attraction better than most Christians as shown by the advertising industry.
The second aspect regarding submission to God that must be considered is, “Am I trying to deny what God made me?” Many people dress in a way that is not honoring to God based on a sense of false modesty and are denying what God made them to be. Men with feminine hairstyles, women with overly baggy clothes, limp wristed men, and women with manly hairstyles… All deny a spirit of submission to who God made them to be. (These examples are given simply to illustrate a point not horses to ride into battle.) In this world of gender confusion, our clothing should reflect the idea that Christian’s are not confused. In denying the gender difference in our attire, we are denying the God who made the difference
There is a difference between advertising, and accepting who God made you to be.
Advertising shows off what God created. Accepting seeks to use the body for its intended purpose. As Christians, we lost the cultural sex battle. I believe the battle was not lost because the world kept advertising their sexual liberation, but because Christians did not call out the counterfeit by giving a better example.
In the same way, I feel Post-Millennial Christianity is losing the modesty battle by not pointing to a proper acceptance of our place and God ordained differences. As a general rule, people should not have to wonder what gender you are by your clothing.
Normally the women are the ones getting hounded regarding modesty. I think men share more of the blame by not applying principles of modesty to our wardrobe. As men, do we dress with the primary motivation of bringing glory and honor to God? Do we spend time honoring the women who have chosen to dress modestly in a pagan culture? Or do we subtly tell our modest sisters in Christ to get lost by spending more time and attention on those who come to worship in yoga pants and tight shirts?
Another aspect that must be considered is, “What does the culture say?” The culture should never define a Christian, yet it does give a context for conversation. Jesus wore a dress (seamless robe), but there were no cultural connotations attached to robe wearing. A man wearing a dress today would make a different statement. What is the culture pushing with skinny jeans, tattoos, or muscle shirts?
Today’s Christians have the prevailing mentality that we convert the world by looking like the world. We show them that we can love Jesus and be in love with the same designers, rock artists, and Hollywood hairstyles. We let them know that being a Christian has all the same side benefits as being an unbeliever, but with a better fire insurance policy.
Am I trying to tell people that in Jesus I can be just like them, or because of Jesus I can be delivered from what they struggle with?
I realize that the modesty conversation cannot be contained to a few hundred words. I am simply wanting to bring out some ideas for discussion regarding the supremacy of Christ even in something as mundane or flashy as our wardrobe (I Cor 10:31).
Here are a few questions that I have found helpful in dressing to the glory of God:
What do my clothes say about my relationship with God? (Primarily His set apartness I Peter 1:15)
Who does this outfit reveal I am submitted to? (Satan or Christ)
Does this outfit deny who God created me to be?
Does this outfit align myself with any worldly groups or ideas?
Does this outfit show I am more excited about my eternal body then this temporal one?
Is this outfit more about my pleasure or my holiness?
Is this outfit determined by people around me or the character of God?
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding the supremacy of Christ in dress.
* Special thanks to God for Dr. Andrew Hudson who first posed this question to a student body in chapel.