Some of us come from a background where clothing was the #1 barometer of spirituality. Then, when we leave that, the pendulum swings fast to the opposite. This blog offers a healthy, moderate take on the subject of clothing and gender separation.
One concrete expression of dedicating one’s body for divine purposes is the clothing one wears. This seemingly mundane matter actually receives more attention in Scripture than one might expect; indeed, it is an important aspect of human embodiment. When God created Adam and Eve, they were “naked and unashamed” (Gen. 2:25). Their fall into sin, however, introduced a sense of shame and led them to a futile attempt to solve their predicament (Gen. 3:7-11). In his mercy, God provided appropriate clothing to cover human nakedness (Gen. 3:21). Thus, clothing is a post-fall necessity to deal with sin and shame.
Embrace Your Gender
Though definitely a cultural matter and thus varying widely, the clothing of the body is addressed by certain principles in Scripture. The prohibition against cross-dressing—“a woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Duet. 22:5)—underscores the givenness of gender and rebukes anyone who refuses to embrace the gender with which they were created. Such rejection of their God-given maleness or femaleness is a heinous sin before their Creator. Accordingly, clothes should reflect a man’s creation as a man and his acceptance of his maleness; similarly, they should reflect a woman’s creation as a woman and her acceptance of her femaleness. Two passages directly address women’s clothing: Paul desires “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Tim. 2:9), and Peter commands: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:3-4). Clearly, cultural perspectives are operative in these instructions (for example, there is nothing inherently wrong with braided hair, but this hairstyle communicates something evil in some cultures), but rather than overlooking these passages, Christians can learn from their principles.
5 Scriptural Principles For What You Wear
- Understand that clothes communicate something about those who select and wear them. Christians should dress sensibly, being conscious of their selection in clothing.
- Avoid ostentatious clothes that draw attention to one’s status of wealth and privilege.
- Dress modestly, not sensually, avoiding seductive clothes that draw attention to one’s sexuality.
- Dress properly, using good judgment and avoiding clothes that associate the wearer with rebellion and evil.
- Spend wisely and fittingly on clothes, guarding against purchasing so as to overtax one’s budget and considering what is appropriate in light of personal, family, church, and world needs.
Clearly, these principles apply as much to men as to women. Even the clothes Christians wear should confirm their profession of the gospel.