What We Profess With Our Dress

Woman Standing in a Field

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Paul talked about women wearing clothing that is “proper for women making a claim to godliness.” The King James Version contains this phrase: “women professing godliness.” The point is that our clothing makes a statement. We should ask ourselves: Are we making the right statement with our clothing?

These verses are specifically directed toward women. There is a reason for this – women are much more likely to cause harm with their improper dress. It is not that men can dress however they want without any thought to “godliness.” The principles in this passage – as well as the others we will be considering in this article – apply to both men and women. In this article, we will notice some of the things that we should profess with our dress.

Godliness

God wants us to be godly. This simply means that we are to be like God. The gospel of His grace instructs us to “deny ungodliness” and to “live…godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Godliness is connected in this verse with living sensibly (soberly, KJV) and righteously, as opposed to being drunk or wicked.

How do we profess godliness in our dress? Obviously, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), so He will not be clothed as we are in the flesh. To dress in such a way as to profess godliness, we must first have the proper character. Our character must then be apparent in our clothing choices. Let us notice four character traits that we ought to demonstrate in our dress.

Humility

God wants us to be humble. Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with this statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Peter wrote, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). We must recognize our place before God (Psalm 8:4) and what our place ought to be before others (Philippians 2:3-4). Humility in dress is particularly about demonstrating humility toward others.

Humility in dress – Paul warned against dressing in such a way as to make one seem better than others. He told Timothy, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments” (1 Timothy 2:9). One’s adornment must focus on “the hidden person of the heart” (1 Peter 3:3-4), not making a show of how much richer one is than others. We need to remember that wealth does not make one better than someone else. Solomon wrote, “The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). We should be mindful of the fact that we are all equal before God, no matter how wealthy we are or how expensive the clothes are that we can afford. In the end, when our souls are required in death, wealth will not matter since it will be left to someone else (Luke 12:20). We are warned “not to be conceited or to fix [our] hope on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Timothy 6:17).

We must evaluate our dress to be sure it reflects humility, rather than arrogance.

Self-Respect

God expects us to have a degree of self-respect. Humility does not mean self-deprecation. Remember that you were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Also remember that Christ died for you (John 3:16; 15:13). Others will judge you based upon the way that you dress. Do not be influenced by this! Paul explained how unconcerned he was with the judgment of others: “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Paul’s point was that ultimately, all that matters is what God thinks of us, not what we or others think. The Lord is the “one…Judge…who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12). Therefore, we should have enough self-respect that we are not dependent upon others having a favorable opinion of us.

Self-respect in dress – Remember that you do not have to please anyone with your dress – only God. Those who dress as the world will be judged. In the following passage, God revealed to Zephaniah one of the reasons why Judah was going to be punished: “Then it will come about on that day of the Lord’s sacrifice that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments” (Zephaniah 1:8). This passage says nothing about how covered or exposed one was while wearing these garments. That is beside the point. The problem was that they were looking to be like the world in all things – including their dress. We are not to be “conformed to this world, but…transformed” (Romans 12:2).

We must evaluate our dress to be sure it reflects self-respect, rather than a dependence upon the approval of others by conforming to the world’s standards.

Shamefacedness

God expects us to have a sense of shame. This indicates that one has a conscience that is working properly according to God’s law. A lack of shame is a sign that one has been “seared in [his] own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). The Lord said of His people, “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be cast down” (Jeremiah 6:15). Without a working conscience – which is indicated by a sense of shame – we cannot hope to please God as we will feel no guilt for sin.

Shamefacedness in dress – We must have a sense of shame when we are not adequately clothed (naked). In the Bible, nakedness is not the same as nudity. The Old Testament is helpful in defining nakedness. One can be partially clothed, yet naked. Adam and Eve, despite the loin coverings they made from fig leaves, knew that they were still “naked” (Genesis 3:7-10). The priests’ garments were to cover the thigh so that they might “cover their nakedness” (Exodus 28:42, KJV). Uncovering the thigh was considered nakedness (Isaiah 47:2-3). This nakedness ought to cause shame, just as it did with Adam who was “afraid because [he] was naked; so [he] hid” from God (Genesis 3:10). This sense of shame ought to make us want to cover up adequately. How did God cover Adam and Eve? He “made garments of skin for [them], and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). How much did these divinely-provided garments cover? The word indicates a garment that would cover from the shoulders down. How far down? We can infer that they would have covered at least to the knee since the exposing of the thigh was considered nakedness (Exodus 28:42; Isaiah 47:2-3).

We must evaluate our dress to be sure it reflects shamefacedness, rather than a lack of shame for exposing parts of our body that the Lord expects us to keep covered.

Love

God wants us to love others. Paul told the brethren in Colossae: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14). He told the brethren in Corinth: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). He also wrote, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). Our clothing choices should reflect love also.

Love in dress – The world often equates love with lust and sex. This would allow immodesty in dress in the sense of not wearing clothes that adequately cover one’s body. This is the opposite of love. We can show love for our brethren in our dress by not placing a stumbling block before them. Though anyone might be guilty of this, it is particularly important that women consider this point. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Yes, a man is responsible to keep his thoughts pure no matter what the women around him might be wearing, but women ought to love others enough so as to not dress in a way that would invite lust. We should also show love for our spouse (or future spouse) in our dress. Our bodies are for them alone (1 Corinthians 7:4). Therefore, the parts of our bodies that should be reserved solely for them should not be on display for all the world to see.

We must evaluate our dress to be sure it reflects love, rather than a disregard of others.

Conclusion

Our clothing says something about us. We need to evaluate what we wear to be sure it professes godliness, rather than worldliness.


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