The Scriptures Decree Modesty In Dress
By Norman Simpson
In ancient times, as well as throughout many countries today, one could be identified by his dress. Similarly, many people’s dress, as well as their conduct and practices, identify them as Christians.
We, of the Church of God in this “evening light,” base our practices and beliefs upon the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.”
In baptism, we practice immersion. An account of Jesus’ baptism is clearly given in the latter part of the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel. When He went up straightway out of the water, the heavens were opened unto Him and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The God of heaven put His approval upon the baptism of His Son in water. Jesus said it was needful for Him to be baptized, “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Jesus said to His disciples, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Just as we adhere closely to the Scriptures in matters pertaining to salvation, we also adhere closely to the Scriptural standard in such a matter of Christian conduct as dress.
The New Testament gives several statements pertaining to women’s dress-in the epistle of Paul to Timothy, and the one to Peter. “I will, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 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; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10.) “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear, whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1-5.)
Paul admonishes women to dress according to certain principles: modesty, shamefacedness, thriftiness, and godliness. We interpret modesty to mean decent and respectable. The Christian woman seeks to emulate all the fine virtues of Christian womanhood, so she carefully, prayerfully, selects her attire to conform to the standard which does not expose her body to the public. Modesty implies a reserve about one’s self, a freedom from the desire to be noticed or to attract attention.
Further, it implies the absence of anything which would incite lust, desire, or impure thoughts. A modest woman is pure, or chaste, in heart and mind, and this purity, or chastity, manifests itself in her
manner and in her dress. She is reserved in manner (the Bible calls it (“shamefacedness”), rather than bold and brazen, and her attire brings to mind the virtues and purity of Christ, rather than the attributes of the female form and its implications. The Christian woman deliberately chooses the clothing that will dignify her womanhood without provoking the stares of the opposite sex. She has dedicated herself to the cause of Christ. This manner of dedication avoids superfluous, expensive clothing, and permits only the convenient use of a non-gold wrist watch, but needs no ring to designate her wedlock. The great needs of Christian evangelism and charitable assistance to the needy demand that she deny herself the exorbitance of expensive fads in order that she might practice the Christian virtue of concern for others. Her manner of dressing stems from a heart-felt desire for virtuous, holy, living. Her hair is to be fixed simply, without undue attention and elaborateness, in keeping with 1 Corinthians 11:15, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering,” and 1 Timothy 2:9, “Not with broided [ornamented] hair,” and 1 Peter 3:3, “. . . let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting [entwining with ornamentation] the hair.”
Contrary to this picture of Scriptural womanhood, we have the twentieth century female who tries by every conceivable means, it seems, to flirt with the hazards of indecency. Costumes and apparel which are inclined toward nudity are sought after. The results are demonstrated in a wanton display of semi-nude parades on our public streets. Many public authorities agree that this concentration on body exposure has contributed greatly to the serious problem of immorality which threatens the basic foundation of our home and families. It has also been a cause in inviting serious sexual atrocities. The modern woman also makes a hobby of fashion crazes and style shows. She sets up a contest with her neighbors to see who can own the most expensive jewelry, and who can wear the latest styled clothes, and who travels the farthest to buy the latest creation.
The Scriptures teach a great difference between femininity and masculinity as to dress. In the law given to Moses it was stated: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5). The desire to emulate men in dress has also seriously affected the fine and noble characteristics of womanhood. Often it takes a second glance to determine the sex of a person, due to the distorted and strange garb many women are wearing, and the close proximity of their entire attire to that of a man. This is called an “abomination” by the Scriptures. Perhaps some may say that this Old Testament law has been changed due to the inception of the “Grace” Dispensation introduced by Jesus Christ. Let me point out that when the Apostle Paul wished to impress Christian women of the first century about the conduct of womanhood, he used Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as his example: “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning . . . , but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price, for after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sarah
obeyed Abraham. . . .” (1 Peter 3:3-6). We are not out of order in
using a Scripture which was written in the Law.
We can well go back over the years and learn a spiritual lesson that sharply rebukes customs and practices of our day. Holy women of old concentrated on adorning their spiritual lives by developing character in the heart. This is to be the Christian woman’s major concentration in beautifying herself. Thus, the Apostle Peter used the great dedication of women of another age to impress the women of the first century with the need of adorning themselves with “a meek and quiet spirit.” Even though many of the fair sex may utter dissenting opinion, we are within reasonable and scriptural rights in insisting that Christian women today need the influential and Holy Ghost-inspired advice of the Apostles.
Here are the guidelines for being Christian examples in dress: 1) Modesty; (2) Thriftiness; (3) Godliness; (4) Inward adorning; (5) Shamefacedness and sobriety.
It does not appear that the subject of male attire assumes either the significance or the importance of that pertaining to a woman. However, in many instances, it may be said that what is good for the woman is good for the man.
The trend to indecent exposure is even having an influence on male attire. Comfort seems to be the overall objective, instead of a cautious, considerate thought for decorum and dignity. The matter of comfort can be achieved without some of the ridiculous, outlandish costumes now being displayed on our busy avenues. Such things as short-sleeved, transparent shirts and styles which are too form-fitting, and which tend toward femininity should be avoided. However, there are no rules in the New Testament laid down specifically for men. Apparently, the clothing issue was not a controversy then. We can safely assume that what we would insist upon as a fair practice for Christian women, should be a reasonable measurement for men along the lines of moderation and decency. Holy Spirit guidance will lead all honest souls to dress modestly, according to the principles laid down in the Scriptures.