This lecture was presented to a ladies’ session at the Singapore Four Seas Lectureship in 2015.

In Scripture, there is no uniform for women. Therefore, there is a lot of room for creativity and freedom within the commands to be modest, pure, and feminine.

Culture is an important consideration - what is modest in Singapore or the USA might not be modest in India - yet, our personal convictions about clothing must be grounded in the Word of God, not in our culture or the latest fashion.

If you knew you would die tomorrow, what would be on your mind today? On the night before Jesus was crucified, He shared what was on his mind with the apostles, through his prayer that is recorded in the book of John.

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. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:15-17).

Jesus was concerned about the people he was getting ready to leave behind, and in verse 20 he says that he was not only concerned for the apostles, but for all who would believe. Why would he be concerned about going away and leaving them? He knew the kind of world they were living in! But Jesus’ death itself is one of the ways that God heard Jesus prayer, and provided a way to protect us from the evil of the world:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Yes, we live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, but Jesus has made a way for us to live soberly, righteously and godly - being a peculiar kind of people. Are we trying to be this people? If we are, then how should we behave?

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).

The word conversation is the Greek word politeuomai, which means, to behave as a citizen (Strong, 59). Our conversation is our behavior, and should be becoming to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to be becoming? Have you ever heard the expression, “That dress is becoming on you?” When people say that, they mean that dress suits you especially, it looks especially nice on you, just like they might say that the color blue really suits you. The dictionary defines becoming as suitable, fitting; especially attractively suitable (Merriam-Webster). The definition in the concordance is really quite similar - Greek #516--appropriately, and it comes from a word meaning suitable (Strong, 13). How could our behavior be becoming or unbecoming to the Gospel of Christ? “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints (Ephesians 5:3).

Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Titus 2:9-10).

The things we do and the way we do them can either cause the name of God, and his doctrine, to be blasphemed by people who observe us (1 Timothy 6:1), or to be becoming, attractively suitable - to the gospel of Christ. Titus 2:10 tells us that our behavior should be such that we adorn the doctrine of God in all things, but 1 Timothy 2:9-20 tells us one specific thing that is becoming to women who say they are godly:

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 Timothy 2:9-10).

The way we adorn ourselves can either be becoming or unbecoming to the gospel of Christ. So what does 1 Timothy say about what we should wear? Most importantly, it says that the most suitable adornment for a woman is not outward adornment, but good works.

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 (1 Peter 3:3-4).

That makes sense, because the gospel is not about our outer man, but about our inner man. “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

So if the Gospel is not about the outer man, does it really matter what our outer man looks like? Does it really matter what we wear? Yes it does! First of all, God gives us several commands about what we wear, and every command of God is important and necessary:

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).

But why would God give us any commands about what we should wear? Why would he care, if he does not judge by our outer man?

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 true that God judges by our inner man, but men judge by the outer man. When people see someone dirty and disheveled, what do they think? When they see someone overdressed, what do they think? When they see someone in short, tight or gaudy clothing, what do they think? Whether we like it or not, people perceive us by what we wear. Is what we wear an honor to God? “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). This word honest is the Greek word kalos, which means beautiful or good (Strong, 39). God commands us to consider what is good and beautiful in the sight of men. Why? Not because he judges like people judge, but because he wants our behavior to be an honor to Him.

So is it left up to me to decide what clothing honors God? The guidelines God gives us in His words are all we need (2 Peter 1:3). So what does God command about what we wear? Before we even consider the direct commands that God gives us in the New Testament, let us consider a principle shown by the most basic understanding God has given to mankind:


And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (Genesis 3:6-10).

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

It is not okay to be naked! Nakedness is a shame, and we should hide it. When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, they sewed themselves aprons, or literally “belts” of fig leaves. What did those belts cover? Well, not enough apparently, since Adam and Eve still hid themselves in embarrassment, and God made them better clothing - coats, tunics or coverings of skins to wrap around them. What is the purpose of clothing anyway? Job 24:7 says, “They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.”

A person’s clothing is to cover him. The word covering here is the Hebrew word kecuwth, and is from a Hebrew word which means to plump, or fill up the hollows; by implication to cover for clothing or secrecy (Strong, 56). In Isaiah 3, God said he would shame Israel by discovering their secret parts. Adam and Eve, and all the rest of mankind, knew that some parts of us need to be covered, because they are secret. If I am trying to keep a secret, will I give people as many hints as I can? Not if I am any good at keeping secrets! So if God made Adam and Eve a covering for the things they should keep secret, then why would people wear things that call attention to them?

Clothing designers do not design things to be tight or low by accident. One fashion magazine I read several years ago even advised that to be most alluring, a woman should not show off as much skin as possible, but that she should wear a conservative outfit with one prominent hint such as a low keyhole or a high slit up the side of a long skirt because this is much more attention-grabbing. Is that not the opposite of the purpose of clothing? God gave Adam and Eve something to hide their nakedness, their secret parts, not to call attention to them.

Everybody knows the bare minimum of what is to be covered, but how far up the leg does God consider nakedness?

Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man (Isaiah 47:2-3).

And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach (Exodus 28:42).

The linen breeches were worn underneath the priests’ coats, robes and ephods, which were long to the ground. But the linen breeches covered them when they went up the steps to the altar. At least these verses indicate the leg and thigh are nakedness. God does not say if he meant halfway down the thigh, most of the way down, or what? So how short can we wear our shorts, or should we wear shorts at all? We might argue that our society does not consider the thigh to be nakedness, but has our society simply lost its ability to blush?

Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 6:15).

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves (Romans 1:24).

How much have women of every nation covered throughout all of history? In the first century? In the second century? In the third, fourth, fifth, seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries? What about our century? Considering these questions should be thought provoking. What should a Christians mindset be - to get away with something or go as far as possible? Some young people say, “Hey, Mom, this is the 21st Century. Lighten up!” The principle that our bodies need to be covered was the first thing God made humans aware of when they learned the difference between right and wrong.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another (Romans 2:14-15).

Is it becoming to the gospel of Christ, or is it living soberly, righteously and godly, if we disregard the innate knowledge God gave all mankind concerning what is good?

Mark E. Teske used the following passage from Isaiah in his paper on “Modesty” and then commented briefly.

At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not. Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them (Isaiah 39:1-4).

“Hezekiah’s exposure of his household treasures to the Babylonians eventually led to the looting of these treasures by the Babylonians a few years later. His desire to show off his possessions led to his losing them. We can look at this story and see the great folly of his actions, yet this story is repeated time and time again in our society today.

“Just a single walk through a shopping mall (viewing either the advertisements or the shoppers) would allow one to see countless women displaying the personal, private possessions of their bodies. If that is not evidence enough for you, a look through a clothing catalog or nearly any popular secular magazine will provide one with ample evidence that modesty is nearly non-existent in our society today.. The more flesh that is exposed, the more everyone (including the girl’s parents) seems to like it.

“Like Hezekiah, when a woman displays all her treasures, leaving very little to the imagination, there is a real good possibility that someone will take away what she has. Is the flaunting of her worldly possessions any different than Hezekiah’s? Is it any wonder that the lack of modesty has gone hand-in-hand with the overall degradation of morals in our society?” (Teske, Mark. Modesty, N.d.).


“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” (1 Timothy 2:9 KJV). Getting to the specific commands God gives us about our clothing, God commands that women adorn themselves in modest apparel. The word modest is the Greek word kosmios, which means orderly or decorous (Strong, 43). Merriam-Webster gives synonyms for orderly: groomed, kempt, neat, tidy, and trim. It gives the antonyms: disheveled, messy, slovenly, unkempt, and untidy. This might seem surprising. Does the Lord care if our clothes look as though they have sat for a week in the bottom of a laundry basket, and if our hair looks as though we just got out of bed? Why would that matter to him? We know God looks not on the outward appearance, but rather the heart? “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17).

We saw earlier that this verse commands us to consider what is beautiful or good in the sight of all men. The world has a saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” This is not God’s word, but what do people think of someone who is dirty or disheveled? While it may not always be true, people’s automatic assumption about someone dirty and unkempt is that they are lazy and likely dishonest - all that is opposite of diligent. Is this a glory to God?

Keeping ourselves tidy and clean would seem to be part of dressing orderly. What about decorous? The Merriam-Webster defines decorous as, in keeping with good taste and propriety; polite and restrained, and lists synonyms, decent, seemly, proper, becoming, and respectable. Is it in keeping with propriety or politeness to wear jeans to a wedding or flip-flops to an interview? Would you wear pajamas to the store? Public school students might accept such unconventional outfits, but they know it is not good or beautiful even so. They deliberately dress down to be perverse. So is that a glory to God?


“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” (1 Timothy 2:9). The word shamefacedness is the Greek word aidos, which means bashfulness, and is from another Greek word, which has the idea of downcast eyes (Strong, 8, 25). Does this sound like a woman who is the center of attention? Some kinds of clothing shout to be noticed - bright and flashy sequins, beads, colors, accessories at the height of style, pencil fit jeans and skyscraper heels. Do we dress to be noticed? Are we noticeable, regardless of our intentions? Even the definition of modest carries some indications that modest clothing is not noticeable; Merriam-Webster lists synonyms of modest: humble, unassuming and un- pretentious. Is our clothing calling for attention?

Certainly a woman’s clothing can attract inappropriate attention, but downcast eyes and bashfulness really refers more to her behavior. One website advised young girls how to dress modestly and still get attention too, “Make plenty of eye contact and let your eyes do the talking for you!” God warns against women who use their eyes to get attention: “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids” (Proverbs 6:25).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us that evil companionship corrupts good manners. We might not consciously behave in a way intended to attract attention, but the behavior of those around us rubs off on us. Have you ever noticed a group of noisy, giggling teens? What words would you use to describe them?

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:3-4).

Foolish talking literally means silly talk (Strong, 48). Silliness or even just laughter and loudness does attract attention, but not in a way that is becoming to saints. “A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing” (Proverbs 9:13 KJV). Clamorous is the Hebrew word hamah, meaning to make a loud sound. Our society has conditioned ladies to be bold towards everyone, and feminism has taught women that they should be the center of attention. Proverbs tells us that a clamorous or loud woman is foolish, and knows nothing. She might think she is making herself attractive because she gets a lot of attention, but see what God says about a woman without discretion: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Proverbs 11:22).

Just like jewelry cannot cover up the fact that a pig is a pig, if a woman’s behavior or talk is indiscreet, all the beauty she possesses cannot cover up the fact that she is not honorable. In contrast, behaving ourselves with wisdom and discretion is a beautiful, honorable thing: “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck” (Proverbs 3:21-22).


“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” (1 Timothy 2:9). The literal definition of sobriety in this verse is Strong’s #4997, soundness of mind. In other contexts similar words are often associated with not being drunk; in contrast to being impaired by drink, a person with a sound mind is able to exercise good judgment and wise reasoning. How could we adorn ourselves with sobriety? Are there certain ways of dressing and acting that seem either to indicate sound judgment, or the opposite?

When an employer interviews an employee, who are they looking to hire? Is it the person who is most sober and serious about the job, with the best and soundest thinking? Does a person’s appearance help convey this impression to a potential employer? All websites on preparing for a job interview unanimously advise that a woman should avoid low necklines, short skirts, excessive jewelry, or heavy makeup. One website advised, “Because a teens level of maturity is a significant factor for employers looking to hire young people, its especially important that teens dress modestly and tastefully” (Doyle-Online). Another site summarized, “Do not let your outfit detract from the focus of the interview; you, your work experience, and how you would be the best fit for the job you want.” People know what is decorous and restrained, and recommend such clothing in instances where the employer is looking for someone dependable, honest and sober-minded. Could this give us some ideas as to the kinds of things a sober-minded, dependable and honest Christian might wear (or might not wear)?


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 Timothy 2:9-10).

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 (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Both of the Scriptures, which speak directly of a woman’s adorning, emphasize strongly that her adorning should not be the outward man, but should rather be the hidden man of the heart. According to 1 Peter, our ornaments should not be on our outside but should be the kind of qualities that shine from our hearts - particularly a meek and quiet spirit. Is this not reflective of where our focus should be as Christians anyway? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

If people see my treasure on the outward man, is that becoming, or suitable, to the Gospel of Christ, which tells me my focus should be on things above and not on things of the earth? Yet focusing on the outward man can be a huge temptation for us since the physical things are the only thing that our physical eyes can currently see. We need more faith so that we can walk by faith and not by sight, remembering what is eternal and therefore most important:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

We also need to remember from where promotion comes. We might think that having an attractive appearance is necessary if we want to be able to get a good job, find someone to marry, or be respected in others’ eyes. But remember the example of Esther. She had just one evening to impress the king more than any of the other fair ladies in the kingdom, or else she would be shut up, forever, in the house of the concubines. How much would I be thinking about my appearance in that situation! Esther was offered anything she wanted to wear or take with her, but chose nothing except what the chamberlain thought was necessary. She knew that her future depended on God, not her appearance. So I might think my future depends on how I look, but the appearance God has given me is not going to impede his plans for me.

Especially for a young girl whose appearance is quite lovely, focusing on the outer man can be a great temptation. But we need to learn to think the way God thinks. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).

Man highly esteems the outward appearance, but the Lord doesn’t think very highly of those who focus on the outer man:

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes [8265. to ogle, i.e. blink coquettishly], walking and mincing [2952 to trip (with short steps) coquettishly] as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments [5914 a fetter; hence an anklet] about their feet, and their cauls [7636 a netting for the hair], and their round tires like the moon [7720 a round pendant for the neck], The chains [5188 a pendant for the ears], and the bracelets, and the mufflers [7479 a long veil (as fluttering)], The bonnets [6287 an embellishment, i.e. fancy head- dress], and the ornaments of the legs [6807 a march; (concr.) an (ornamental) ankle-chain], and the headbands [7196. an (ornamental) girdle] and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples [4304 a wide cloak (for a woman)], and the crisping pins [2754 cut out (or hollow), i.e. (by impl.) a pocket], The glasses [1549 a tablet for writing (as bare); by anal. a mirror], and the fine linen, and the hoods [6797 a head-dress], and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair [4748. something turned (rounded), i.e. a curl (of tresses)] baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground (Isaiah 3:16-26).

If I am trying hard to gain respect of men by my appearance, then I should remind myself that in God’s judgment I am gaining the opposite. If I want to adorn myself in a way that is beautiful to him, I need to be working on my inner man. And who do you love best, anyway? The prettiest, most stylishly dressed person you know, or the sweetest and most humble, most selfless and compassionate person you know?

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:30-31).


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: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement (1 Peter 3:1-6).

God tells us two very specific qualities of heart with which to adorn ourselves - being in subjection, and having the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. These are rare and valuable qualities, and adorn us much better than valuable jewels or expensive clothing.

This is really showing how we may adorn our inner man. No matter how femininely I might dress, if my heart is not submissive, I am not keeping this command. But Colossians 3:17 tells me that everything I do should be by the authority of Christ, and what I wear is a small part of that. Could I dress in a way that contradicts the quality of heart that people should see in me? Even if I am truly respectful and submissive in heart, that is not others impression of me if I am dressed in an obviously masculine way. If someone saw me for the first time, would their impression of me be that I am happy in the role in which God put me? The next command is somewhat related:


But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (1 Corinthians 11:3-16).

Here we are told that if a woman prays with her head uncovered, she is dishonoring her head (her husband), and that her long hair is given to her as a covering. God says that even nature itself teaches us so - that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, but a glory for a woman. Why? God designed it that way. Some may understand this passage to mean that God is judging from the outer man. The point can be added that long and short hair customarily (in all cultures) indicates whether the person is a woman or a man. If the woman indicates she is a woman (by her long hair), she plainly states that she is under the authority of her husband - where God has placed her. Submission to Gods authority is a glory to the woman, not the outward beauty of long tresses.

The command that women should have long hair is really the most specific command God gives us concerning how we should dress. Most commands have to do with the heart we should have, but we have seen that the heart we have helps to make our decisions about what we wear. We might think that if the heart is where our focus should be, then what we wear really should not matter. But people judge us by what they can see. For their sakes, what I wear does matter, and is why God tells us to dress in a way that is modest, with shamefacedness and sobriety, adorning our inner man and not our outer man, and being in subjection. Most of these things have to do with our hearts, but God shows that these qualities of heart should determine my choice of what to wear.

Are there any other commands of God, not specifically applied to dress, that might influence what we choose to wear?


“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). This verse directs us not only to abstain from what is evil, but also to abstain from anything that looks evil. You would not want to be seen in a beer joint even if you were not drinking there, since it might appear to others that you were drinking. In many ways we need to take thought for what is honest in the sight of all men.

“And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart” (Proverbs 7:10). Obviously this lady was wearing some kind of clothing that identified her. What was the attire of a harlot? The account of Tamar and Judah in Genesis 38 seems to indicate that at least part of her attire was a veil; Judah thought Tamar was a harlot because she had covered her face. Was it that the veil was indecent, or that it simply identified a woman as being of a certain type?

Similarly, we might not be wearing anything indecent, but it may still identify us with the wrong type of people. Are we going along with a fad started by some singer? With what or with whom would that cause people to identify us? Whose styles are we following, and why?

What about the graphics on our clothes? Do we want the names or pictures or sayings of immoral people on our clothing to indicate that we like or admire them? Some T-shirts are so lewed, I have actually asked my students to turn them inside out before they entered my classroom. Perhaps the graphics are not associated with a particular worldly person or type of people, but are just foolish or brash. What should our speech be as Christians? By having something written on our clothes, we are saying it to everyone who sees us - not just people with whom we stop and talk. Is it something that would sound wise if it came out of our mouths?


Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

This is a covenant we make with God when we decide to follow him. Is our work and focus supposed to be the same as the world’s, or are we to have a completely different mindset - something entirely different to work on and be consumed by? Remember the things the world is working for:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:31-33).

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

We were all in the world at some point, living for the same things that the world lives for, thinking about the same things that they think about, and loving the same things that they love. But if we have chosen Christ, we have chosen to come out from that. We cannot continue to be the same kind of people. We have to be transformed.

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 (Romans 12:2).

Am I willing to be transformed - willing to change what I work for, what I think about, what I love - or am I hanging on to the world? Am I still trying to be as much like the world as possible, without breaking any commands of God? I cannot live that way! If I still love the things that the world loves, the love of the Father is not in me, and if I still want to be accepted by the people in the world, I am the enemy of God:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

Applying this understanding to how I dress, am I trying to dress like the world so the world will accept me, or am I willing to come out from the world and be separate? If I love the good of God and His ways and hate the evil which surrounds us, will I be mimicking that evil as closely as I possibly can? I cannot be accepted by the world, and be a stranger and pilgrim in it at the same time.


Having looked at many principles, commands, and considerations concerning our behavior and our clothing, how should a Christian dress, who is trying to live soberly, righteously and godly? At a minimum, we should not disregard the basic sense of right and wrong that God has instilled in all mankind.

Our bodies need to be covered. Anything that draws attention to what God intends to be covered is doing the opposite of why God gave man clothing (Genesis 3). This includes both men and women. And it certainly means that we would willingly obey any command which He does give concerning our apparel:
- Our clothing should be modest (orderly and decorous);
- With shamefacedness (bashfulness);
- With sobriety (a sound mind);
- Our adornment should be our inner man and not the outer;
- Specifically a meek and quiet spirit;
- And specifically in our submission to God and the authority he has placed over us;
- Our hair should be long so that we honor our head (our authority over us).

If another command would apply to what we wear or the way we wear it, we would definitely take that into consideration:
- Providing for things honest in the sight of all men;
- Abstaining from all appearance of evil - not even mimicking it;
- Remembering the spiritual focus we should have; we are not trying to be like the world.


Our culture puts extreme pressure on us to be accepted. From the time we are children, our values are shaped by the values of the people around us. But most of these people do not care about the fact that God has revealed to everyone - that we have a creator, and we have a responsibility to him. But we should care. If Jesus made me (and bought me as well!), then how should I be living?

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you (1 Peter 4:1-4).

My mind should be determined that everything I do from now onward should be only for the Lord. That is going to mean that I have a lot of things that I was accustomed to doing that I now need to change. Am I willing? Now that I am a Christian, I cannot go on doing things in the same way that I have always done them. Yes, that means that all the people of the world who once accepted me are going to think I am strange. I may even think I am strange if I am accustomed to thinking the way the world thinks! But where do I want my home to be - with the people who surround me here, or with God and his people for eternity?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Would God be ashamed to be called my God? “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Beth Johnson


Biblesoft’s King James Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.

Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek- Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.

Doyle, Allison. “9 Things You Shouldn’t Wear to a Job Interview,” (Accessed 20 August 2015).

"Modest." Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 25 August, 2015

"Orderly." Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 04 August, 2015

Teske, Mark. “Re: Citing Your Paper.” Message to the Author. Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 12:10 AM. E-mail.

Published in The Old Paths Archive