Outward Appearance – Part 2

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Side Two of the Coin

“God is concerned about what I look like. He is interested in every detail of my life.”

This next section includes truth that is also validated in Scripture. While God is vastly more concerned about the “inside of the cup”, and that ought to be our main concern, there are additional issues to consider. They are as follows:

Modesty

Modesty is the first additional issue we will consider, because today it is probably the most obvious and most needful. It is natural and normal for Christian girls and women to want to be stylish and fashionable. It is also possible to be both fashionable and modest.

But sometimes fashion clashes with modesty, and the woman must make a decision – a judgment call: which is more important to me, style or modesty? And ladies, the judgment call you make reveals your heart. Putting style OVER modesty indicates that you are a slave to fashion rather than a slave or servant of Jesus Christ. These little decisions in life often reveal what kind of a person we really are. If you WANT to be modest you can. Where there is a will, there is a way. You may have be creative with today’s styles. You may have to add something underneath or put something over and layer up… or let down the hem. Modesty and fashion CAN go hand in hand – IF you really desire to be modest.

Clothing has been a problem ever since the fall. In Genesis 3:7 we read, “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.”  When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately knew that they were naked and sewed together fig leaves together and made aprons. The term apron is defined variously by Zodhiates as a sash, a belt, a girdle, or a loincloth. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made some sort of a loin cloth.

This loin cloth was their attempt to cloth themselves. They undoubtedly thought that they covered themselves sufficiently – especially since their only other recollection was being stark naked! It seemed good enough to them. However, in Genesis 3:21 we read that subsequently, God clothed them with coats of skins.

We usually read this passage thinking only of the spiritual application. The first couple sinned and tried to cover up their sin. Their attempt to cover up sin was not sufficient, so God covered them by killing an animal and shedding its blood. Certainly that is a proper application from the passage. But don’t forget the interpretation… the literal event from which we derive that spiritual application. Adam and Eve were stark naked and made their best effort to cover themselves physically. They made some type of an apron or loin cloth out of fig leaves. However, God did not see their cover as sufficient, either as a physical covering or a spiritual covering. God did not see them as fully clothed, so He clothed them with clothing of His own design, and THEN they were dressed modestly.

God clothed them not with a loin cloth, but with something much more substantial: coats! Consider the following definitions of the term coats:

  • Zodhiates: A feminine noun indicating a coat, a garment, a tunic; the main common garment worn by men or women.
  • Strong’s: tunic, under-garment. a long shirt-like garment usually of linen
  • Dictionary of Biblical Langauages: garment, i.e., clothing as a covering more complete than a loincloth, a basic garment reaching the knees and so a common garment for common wear and work.

This term is used a few dozen times and is usually translated coat, garment, or robe. We don’t know exactly what the coat God made looked like. We don’t know exactly how long it was, or how high the neckline was.  But there are a few of things we DO know: God did not accept their covering. They chose a covering that God deemed to be too skimpy. The clothing God made covered much more of their flesh than the clothing made by Adam and Eve. We could argue over exactly how much the coat covered, but one thing is plain: a coat covers more than a loin cloth.

In his fallen state, man has a different standard of what it means to be covered than God does. There is a word of warning here: it is possible to THINK we are sufficiently covered when in fact, before God, we are not. So be careful, and be covered.

Before the fall, no clothing was necessary. Man and woman were naked and they were not ashamed (Gen.2:25). At that point, God looked at everything He had made and behold, it was “very good”, including the naked condition of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:31).

But after the fall, we have several examples of God Himself designing clothes. It was He who designed the coats for the first couple in the Garden. God also designed clothing for the priests in the Old Testament (Ex. 28). The clothing He designed provided complete covering for the priests. God also provides clothing of His own design in heaven (Rev. 6:11). He provides His saints with ROBES. Like the term “coat”, “robe” has a broad range of meaning, but one thing is clear here as well: robes and coats provide much more coverage than a loin cloth or fig leaves. The clothing designed by God was modest.

The problem with immodest clothing is not the clothing itself, but its effect on others. In the Garden of Eden before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. They did not have a sin nature, and thus, their nakedness did not stir up any sinful thoughts or sinful desires. Besides, they were husband and wife and were the only people on earth! But we don’t live in the Garden of Eden. Men and women today DO have sin natures, and those sin natures are easily stirred up by the sight of flesh.

The experts tell us that this is especially true of men. Men are more easily stimulated by sight than women are. If that is so, then this makes godly women even MORE responsible to be careful about the way they dress. Young girls need to know this. What you wear and how you carry yourself can stir up sinful thoughts and desires in men. These are facts of life that you need to know. And I know that the short skirts and tight blouses are “in” today and very fashionable. And the problem is not so much the style but the EFFECT of that style on men. They can be arousing and stimulating and cause men to stumble.

There would be nothing wrong with such styles if we lived in the Garden of Eden and men did not have sin natures. But reality tells us that that is not the case today. Christian men are commanded to think on things that are pure (Phil. 4:8), and ladies, when your clothing is too revealing, it makes it MUCH more difficult for men to obey that command. Yes you have liberty to choose stylish clothing. But you do NOT have the liberty to be a stumblingblock to others… and to cause others to sin! “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (I Cor. 8:9). One author aptly likened the relationship between scantily clad women and men (who are easily aroused by the sight of female flesh) to “candles among gun powder!” This is a call for personal responsibility in the area of dress, to avoid setting off potentially explosive chemical reactions. By wearing that tight fitting outfit, you may have no intension whatsoever of teasing men, but the reality is, you do.

Love demands that we put the spiritual well being of others first… not self first. The Bible COMMANDS us to love one another… to put self aside – on the cross – and consider others. Thus, love demands that women dress modestly. This is NOT a matter of law or legalism, but of love. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor” (Rom.13:10). Love is willing to sacrifice self (and the styles that please self) for the spiritual well being of a brother. And ladies, even Spirit filled men are easily distracted by seeing too much of your flesh. It is always a distraction, but especially so in a worship service! Remember also, when you sin against the brethren, you sin against Christ (I Cor. 8:12), for they are members of His Body.

These are very serious issues. And if you KNOW these things and continue to wear provocative clothing that you know is going to cause a man to sin, you need to ask yourself these questions: WHY? Why am I choosing to wear this? What is my motive? Am I manifesting agape love to my brother or am I behaving selfishly? Am I being a stumblingblock? Have I considered the effect it will have on others? Is fashion more important to me than purity? Is Christ my true Master or am I a slave to another master: fashion? It is impossible for a believer to have two masters. A choice must be made between the two. And this is not a problem for our teen girls only. Older women—even older Christian women do not always dress modestly. It is a real problem in our culture today and one that needs to be confronted directly.

Fortunately, it is still possible (as of 2006) for young Christian girls to find clothing that is BOTH fashionable and modest. It requires more searching and digging, but such clothes do exist. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:14 was like a “merchants’ ships.” She searches far and wide for the best merchandise to purchase for her household. Ladies, you may have to look a little harder and longer to find appropriate clothing, but God honors those virtuous women who take the time to do so. And we want to commend the Christian ladies who have been good examples in this area. A woman who fears the Lord shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30b)!

There is a need today for the aged women to teach the younger women discretion (Titus 2:1-5). Many issues that arise are not specifically addressed in the Bible. Virtually all of the issues that become controversial are the ones which are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Clothing certainly fits into this category. We are never told exactly how low a neckline should be, or exactly what length a skirt should be. We are not told how tight is too tight. If all this was spelled out for us in Scripture, the controversy would be easily resolved. The “gray areas” are the ones which become so problematic. Thus, Paul encourages young women to seek older godly, spiritually minded, discerning women to teach them how to be discreet (sophron = sound mind; temperate; self–disciplined in one’s freedom, self–restrained in all passions and desires) and chaste (innocent, pure, modest, holy).

And isn’t God wise? He tells the younger women to get advice in these areas (discretion and chastity) from the older women. He doesn’t send these young girls to the elders of the church. It would be quite awkward for middle aged men and older to have such conversations with young girls in the church.  So Paul directs these girls to the older ladies. Young women need discretion and discernment in this area, and the older, more mature Christian ladies have much to share. That makes the older more mature Christian ladies a most valuable asset to the local church. They can give their advice on particulars, (styles; lengths; fashions; child rearing; how to love your husbands; housekeeping; etc.). Older women have a reservoir of wisdom to share that they have observed and gleaned over the years.  While their advice is not Scripture, it is valuable. It would be a shame to let all that wisdom go untapped!

NEXT: Outward Appearance Part 3: God is Interested in Every Aspect of My Life (cont’d.) 

PREVIOUS: Outward Appearance Part 1: God is Primarily Concerned with My Heart

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