Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
In Romans 12:2, we read: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” What is the “acceptable, and perfect, will of God” when it comes to one’s outward appearance, such as clothing for instance?
It is a question that every Christian should consider. And it is even truer for younger Christians who may at times feel peer pressure or the desire to assert one’s own identity in regard to one’s appearance.
God’s Word gives us much insight on humble dress; however, it is not a fashion book. It does not expressly say how many inches long one’s skirt should be or whether a man should wear a muscle shirt or not. There are times and places certain clothes are more appropriate that others. For example, if a man shows up at the beach in a suit and tie, he would look rather inappropriate and out of place; likewise if a woman showed up at a job interview in a swimsuit. The Bible does not condemn anyone to be well dressed. Esther before appearing to the king “put on her royal apparel” (Esther 5:1-2). There is a time and a place for all forms of dress and fashion and yet God looks to the intentions of the heart such as when God chose David. “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” (1 Samuel 16:7).
It is our heart and minds that we must be watchful of. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). How important are appearances to us and where do we place them on our ladder of importance with regard to God? Do we dress for God, man or ourselves? Why am I interested in a particular way of dressing/fashion? The hidden agendas of our hearts must be considered in all things for: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). … [T]hat we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). As followers of Christ, we are called out of the world and set apart. We are called to be set apart and holy, without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). We must reflect on our inner man (2 Corinthians 4:16) in order to test the desires of our heart for the carnal mind is an enemy of God (Romans 8:7).
Sometimes we want to conform to the world, because it is the easiest and has the appearance of a good time. Nonetheless, Jesus himself stated that we should not worry about what we wear, for that is what the Gentiles seek (or the world) (Matthew 6:31-32). As followers of Christ, we are not of the world, just as Jesus also says in his prayer to the Father: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14-16). We must set our sights on following Christ’s example in the world, where Christ showed us the ultimate example of humility at the cross. The world is never satisfied, is always thirsty for more and more. But when we are truly filled up with the Spirit, we will no longer thirst (as much) for the things of this world. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
So, do revealing clothing and tattoos show humility? Are these fashions acceptable in the eyes of God? We often see lots of revealing clothes and tattooed bodies in our society, often promoted amongst the younger generation although not only exclusive to young people. Today tattoos and other body modifications are big fashion statements, but what does the Bible have to say about it? In ancient Israel, tattooing was clearly a forbidden practice as tattoos were connected to pagan practices abhorrent in God’s eyes (Leviticus 19:28). Is this any different today? Who are people trying to exalt when they are showing off tattoos? Surely, God’s mind hasn’t changed with time. Our bodies do belong to God, they are not our own. “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” wrote the psalmist (Psalm 100:3). A similar saying found in the apostolic scriptures under Paul’ hand is the following: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). In the same manner, society’s accepts certain ways of dress that not too long ago would have been very provocative. Likewise, outfits that were in the past only found among criminals appear to have become acceptable among all classes of society and among all ages.
This should also be kept in mind in regard to the way one chooses to dress. When addressing Timothy, Paul wrote: “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” (I Timothy 2:9). Of course, women are not the only one who should remain modest and sober. In Titus 2:2-6, aged men and women, young women and men alike are asked to remain sober. Paul exhort Timothy to flee “youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22) and encouraged the Philippians to pursue what is “true, pure and of good report” (Philippians 14:8-9). What messages are we sending when we dress in a provocative way and what testimony to God are we bearing then? It is even truer in church gatherings/meetings. Church should be a place exempt of worldly preoccupations.
In church meetings, our preoccupations should not be trying to figure out who has the best outfit or competing with each other as a result. As we saw with Esther, there is nothing wrong in being well-dressed but we should also “be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble surely” (1 Peter 5:5). Furthermore, enticing clothes may be a stumbling block for those not strong enough in the faith. Jesus reminds us to think about our behaviors and how that could negatively affect some among the brethren. “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Let it be a reassurance that in the last days…
“perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
But let the Church of God remain “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).