Bible Answers: Does the Bible Say Anything About How Women Should Dress?
(Ver 1.1) Here is a very common question that I received from two different women recently. So I thought I would answer them both in one short Bible lesson. This is a potentially controversial subject. Many men try to dominate women to tell them what to do while ignoring their own inadequacies. I do not want to ever place myself into a position of superiority that comes across that I am better than anyone else. That is why I try to give people balanced answers from the Bible and I do not try to spin the verses into saying something that they do not say. We all need to simply read the Bible and learn to follow what God says regardless of what we think is right or what others are doing around us. However, many Christians will continue to do as they please today simply ignoring the Bible to satisfy their own pleasures. Pride is a negative part of the fallen human nature that motivates Christians to say “Life is all about me”. Christians need to begin to understand that this new life of Christianity is no longer focused on the “me” but should be now directed to focus on Christ and others. Baby Christians are only immature self-centered me types. Mature Christians are able to place the needs of others ahead of their own needs. I’ve just started the answer to this question with the subject of pride and I will end it with the same subject but in the middle I will address why this is such an important part of how and why we dress the way that we do.
For the answer of women’s dress I could go with either of two extremes or I could take a more middle of the road approach and that is what I will suggest that we all do. Let’s talk briefly about the extreme positions of dress first. One extreme is a law based dress code where religions like Islam command women to cover everything except for their eyes. That is a very stupid solution for a very stupid problem. Because men were created to like women undressed men have created rules of law that they think help them to keep themselves more pure. They feel if a woman cannot be seen then she is no longer a temptation for me. That is partially good logic but mostly a wrong approach to solving it. Law based dress is one extreme and I do not agree with it at all. Therefore I will give no rules in this lesson for dressing. The law was introduced by God but law was never given by God to fix the problem; it was only presented to prove to all men that there was a better solution that was needed. No one in history except for Jesus was ever able to keep all of the law. Therefore we need to learn law is not our solution and that it only points us to a new and better way that was coming. Not very many people have learned this truth but I stand by it firmly. Stop passing idiotic laws and find the better new way to live in Christ Jesus.
The other extreme position is anything goes or I should rather say everything goes. The antithesis of covering everything up on a woman is to uncover everything. That is just another extreme example that falls into the identical level of error as the first extreme. Being a male, I cannot begin to understand why any woman would willingly participate in either extreme. I could theorize that a woman who likes to show off her skin could feel like she gained distinction, notoriety, fame or special attention by participating. It is a normal human desire to be wanted and accepted and some people will do very foolish things to achieve it. Modern peer pressure is a major contributing factor for people falling into error. If everyone is doing something wrong it suddenly appears like you are the one that is a fool for not doing it. If you would like to leave a comment and help me understand why someone would follow either of these two extremes from a female perspective I would appreciate hearing your point of view.
To me based upon what I know of the Bible a woman’s choice for wearing less and showing off more skin is her way of telling everyone that “life is all about her” without having any consideration for anyone else on the planet or for God. I think that it screams the more people who are attracted to her, the more popular she feels like she becomes. But that is a very selfish and self-centered approach for the way of dressing. There are probably other ways to look at it and you are still free to tell me why you think either extreme exists today. No matter what we think in this world, there will always be one extreme or the other. One group of women will approach dress based upon the rules of law that attempts to alleviate the temptation factor for human desire. This will gain them acceptance in one group while being labeled religious fanatics by the other group. The other opposite dress extreme will be “I’m very desirable and I’m just here to tempt you”. These women will be labeled whores by the strict law based group and scorned for their ways while being accepted by the loose moral crowd. There is a level of acceptance and rejection in both extremes. But clearly both of these are very wrong motivations for dress. Where is the correct balance between two erroneous extremes?
What we could have learned from these extremes is that what people do reflects their motivations either known or unknown to other people. Most people in the world only look at the outside actions of the person and typically ignore the motivations that caused them to do it. That approach of analysis is very shallow and is the opposite of what God teaches us that He looks at. I think we need to examine motivations more closely for what people do rather than try to judge what they did and this might help us to solve their dress problems. You can read about this concept in the Old Testament:
1Sa 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Clearly God informs us that the inward parts of the man or woman are more important than the outward perceived portions of that person. That means God cares more about your spiritual conditions like your motives, your desires, your hurts, your feelings, your emotions and your thoughts than He does about your actions or dress. Now, you could jump to the wrong conclusion from that and conclude God does not care how we dress or if we dress and that is just ignorant foolishness. No, what God is saying is if you have right intents on the inside, you will do right actions on the outside. If you have wrong things going on in the inside parts these will manifest on the outside. These truths teach us so much. It also helps us to know bad actions can be solved with right internal corrections. Therefore I’m not going to tell you how to dress so much as I am going to try to change how you think about dressing.
Christians first need to realize that they are a spirit living in a body and not just a body living on the earth. Refocus your attention on spiritual things and the outwards things will automatically take care of themselves. What are your motives for how you dress today? Evaluate your intents first and if it is just for your benefit, pleasure or to draw attention to you, you have the wrong focused incentives. Become the other person sitting in church by you before you put something on to go to church. If the wife of another man sees you in that little apparel will it draw attention to you in a positive way or a negative way? Is what you are wearing to church something that is loving and kind that honors your sister’s feelings and will not bring temptation to her husband? We need to all learn the WWLD approach for dressing. What is that you ask? That is just a variation of WWJD and it says “What Would Love Do?” If I love my Christian family would anyone be offended by this sleeveless or low cut short dress? If you think someone could be offended and you still wear it then you were not motivated to do what Love would do and that is a major problem. Let’s take a look at some Bible verses to help us learn to think differently about dressing:
1Pe 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
1Pe 3:4 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.
Here is God presenting you a refocused approach to dressing. God through Peter writes directly about women dressing. God very clearly says that your focus should be on the more important internal things and not on the inferior external things. That goes against what most women do, doesn’t it? If you are spending more time on fixing your hair and dressing than you spend in prayer and Bible reading then you are out of balance and lack correct focus. God declares let your attention be upon the hidden man of the heart and that is simply your eternal spirit. God directs us again to refocus our attention on spiritual things rather than emphasizing natural things. If both males and females did this there would be no issues in the world concerning improper dress or behavior. However since the majority of the world is not saved and are not focused internally the external will continue to dominate them and their behavior. That is another interesting point to remember. Before you put something on to wear, ask yourself is this what the people in the unsaved world wear? Then ask yourself am I supposed to follow their example or are they supposed to follow my example? Who is leading who? Who determines your dress standards? Is it Vogue fashion magazine, Sports Illustrated or is it the Bible?
There are two ways to learn how to dress in the Bible and I just gave you one way called the direct instruction. The other way is to learn from indirect instruction. These are verses that do not directly mention how you should dress but still apply to Christian behavior, character and moral values. Take a close look at this next verse and see if you can tell how it applies to dress.
- 1Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
What does God claim is not from Him? We know God created our flesh, but according to Him, He did not create the lust that is derived from its existence. Why is there such a great lust problem in the world today? It is primarily because of the great frequency for the display of human flesh. You cannot go anywhere today that someone is not nearly naked either in public or on a billboard selling some product. In this verse who is God saying that you are like if you are showing your flesh or are the one looking at other’s flesh? Is it from God or from the world? I think you can clearly see that is not what God desires. Let’s look at another verse that is also indirectly about dress:
- 2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
You see God says that we have been saved from the world and therefore we should not conform to their ways. If you are participating in the lust of someone’s flesh or you make yourself are the target for this lust then you have not yet escaped the world and still reside in its bondage. Do you think it matters to God how you dress based upon this information? Let me give you another verse that indirectly applies to how we dress that is rarely used to teach on the subject:
- Php 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
How can you be a light to the world if you act and look exactly like they do? Do you think your words take priority over your looks? I believe that it is impossible for your words to be heard if your looks and your actions are the same as theirs? People are just not that stupid. Based upon how you dress, you will either be called a Christian or a hypocrite by the unsaved world. If you say “I’m a Christian” but still do not present them any evidence for being different, then you are just a hypocrite. One unsaved man that talked with me recently said “If I wanted to go to church on Sunday, I’d go to the bars on Saturday night and meet with them all there”. He was claiming that all Christians were hypocrites that put on a false act on Sunday for God but lived like the devil the rest of the week. You need to ask yourself “How does the world dress?” Then make sure that you are NOT dressing like them. Let me confirm this with one more verse from the Bible:
- 2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Here is another verse that is indirectly about how you dress. This verse is very clear but you probably do not understand what it says because you have not researched the Greek word definitions. This verse says for us as Christian believers to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. What does that mean? A yoke is a common bond together. What do we have in common with non-Christians? Two oxen are yoked together to pull a plow in unison. This means that they both are in a common bondage together so that what one does the other must also do. God informs us not to be bound together with unsaved people in the world because we are not their equal. If Christian music stars look like the world’s rock stars then they are being yoked together in common bondage. The same applies to a Christian’s manner of dress to look like the world’s manner of dress. If you are dressing like Lady Ga Ga or Madonna then you are yoked together with them and that is not good company to be associated with.
What do you think all of this verse means? Let me give you another word that is a key to understanding this verse. It says what “fellowship” has righteousness with unrighteousness? Look this word up and you will see that it means to have “intercourse”. Intercourse is defined as willing participation of a sexual nature. That is a very strong sexual relationship you could be having with the world. This is not speaking physically but rather spiritually when you think like the world does. This Greek word literally means to participate with the world’s ways of thinking. Go back and read the Old Testament prophets and you will see that this is what natural Israel was guilty of again and again. They would become influenced by the world’s idols and then would do what God said not to do. There thoughts were taken away from God’s word to what the people in the world were thinking and they easily fell into sin by doing this. This is verse contains far reaching information and it involves dressing like the world, acting like the world, thinking like the world and I could go on and on. God is telling the church not to look like the people in the world. Let me end this Bible study with one more direct verse on dressing:
- 1Ti 2:9 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;
- 1Ti 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
There is one term given here that denotes a correct Christian middle of the road approach for dress. God says to women let what you wear consist of “modest” apparel. Uh oh? Even in churches today I see women not following this guideline. What is the opposite of modesty? I believe you understand that it is a state of immodesty. What does being modest or immodest mean and what are the root causes for both? One online dictionary defined “modest” dress to be a state where the person is covered. That definition implies that immodest dress is a state of a person to be uncovered or nude. I think that speaks volumes to how you should dress according to the Bible. I have already touched on motivation as a factor for why people dress appropriately or inappropriately undress for others to view their bodies. One contributing factor for modesty is humility and one contributing factor for immodesty is pride. Women who generally want to show off their bodies to others are very proud of themselves for some unknown satanic reason.
Practically everything that I said today can apply to both men and women. Both need to judge their motivations for how they dress. I primarily addressed the question from a woman’s viewpoint since they were the only ones brave enough to ask the question. I could have spent more time on the contributing lust of the flesh factor for men that drives some women to want this kind of attention but that was not the question. Your humility and your refocused attention to the real you on the inside of your body should help to guide you to the appropriate ways to dress on the outside. Follow the guideline of modest behavior for dress and it will cause you to appear different than the people in the world. Your devoted consideration for “What Would LOVE Do?” will also help you to not become a stumbling block for others of your same sex or a temptation for those of the opposite sex. Setting Godly examples to follow for younger women and girls is what is desperately needed in the world today. The peer pressure today to take your clothes off is everywhere. We are all still here in the world but you can still make the decision to not be like the world. Always be led by the Spirit of God and His written Holy Word. Thank you for your questions and I hope this helped someone to have some new wisdom for a modified way to think about dressing. God Bless!