Although Scripture does not give us explicit instructions or layout a specific dress code, it most certainly does provide us with basic principles that must be taken into account when we choose what to wear. Well-meaning, but ignorant Christians, attempting to codify these principles always run into trouble.
There was a time when Christians knew there was to be a difference in our manner of dress from that of the world. Christians believed the wisdom of I Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with godly fear and sobriety.” Christian women dressed modestly, attractively, and femininely and they were treated with respect! This is NOT true today. Young women (even little girls) admire, emulate and pattern their lives and dress after popular culture and Hollywood stars! And we wonder why respect for women is gone!
So what is “modest apparel?” What do Paul’s words in I Timothy mean literally? In context, Paul was actually concerned about distractions during church service. Satan was working hard to distract and cause disorder – even using a women’s beauty to distract men. Paul emphasized in I Timothy 2:9-19, in I Peter 3:3-4, and in Titus 2:5 the necessity of modesty and purity in a woman’s life - including dress. Basically, Paul is telling us that (1) Women are beautiful; and (2) Calling attention to that beauty by dressing provocatively such to appeal to the senses of men is wrong. Especially in church! A good thing to remember is if it is mentioned more than once in the Bible, then the Holy Spirit felt it needed to be repeated
Of course, women in the First Century could follow the general dress style of the culture without much change, but Twenty First Century Christian women absolutely cannot follow today’s popular dress standards. Most Christian women today dress the same as other women in society. Most do not even realize that the Bible has very much to say about how we should dress. There’s simply not room here to offer every passage as a convincing argument.
Read Isaiah 3:16-24. In Isaiah’s culture, the women adorned themselves with ankle chains, rings, bells, etc. They dressed so as to call attention to themselves – trying to charm and attract men. Don’t we do pretty much the same thing in our culture today? We just don’t opt for the ankle chains as much as we do other ways to dress provocatively! The point is: it’s lascivious in nature and God abhors it and Scripture tells us that He will judge it!
The church, particularly the older women, need to encourage younger woman to look away from the world’s patterns of dress – not in a legalistic way, but in a way that encourages them to follow biblical standards for dress. Taste in dress among Christian women varies greatly. But if we allow the basic principles presented to us in God’s Word to guide us, we can bring glory to Him.
At the risk of sounding very old-fashion, there is a principle portrayed in a beautiful old hymn, “Give of Your Best to The Master.” The song suggests a standard which needs to be revived today.
- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
(This article originally appeared in Windows -The monthly church-news & ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)