"WHAT SHALL I WEAR?"
1. "What shall I wear?" is a question many people ask nearly every
a. As they dress for work, to relax, etc.
b. Usually weighing such issues as fashion versus form, style versus
2. When Christians ask this question, other issues should come into
a. Is it modest?
b. Is it proper for those professing godliness? - cf. 1 Ti 2:9-10
3. The challenge is that which constitutes modesty is constantly
a. At one time, it was immodest for a woman to expose her ankles
b. Today, even the most modest of dress would have been consider
4. So the question remains, "What Shall I Wear?"...
a. Should a Christian woman wear shorts, mini-skirts, low-cut
blouses, tight skirts or pants?
b. What about men? Should they be concerned about modest apparel?
c. What effect might this have on certain activities, such as mixed
swimming and other athletic sports?
[I do not propose some easy answer, or simple guideline (such as "no
higher than an inch above the knee"). Rather I encourage prayerful
consideration of what the Bible has to say, which provides basic
principles that can help one discern between good and evil. For
I. IT IS SHAMEFUL TO EXPOSE ONE'S NAKEDNESS
A. CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE OF ADAM AND EVE...
1. After they sinned, they made "coverings" for themselves - Gen
a. Hebrew, "chagorah", meaning a garment which covers the
b. Despite such coverings, they still felt naked!
2. The Lord made "tunics" for them - Gen 3:21
a. Hebrew, "kethoneth", a garment commonly reaching to knee
b. Evidently God was not pleased with the brevity of the
coverings they had made
B. IT IS SHAMEFUL TO EXPOSE OR DRAW ATTENTION TO PRIVATE PARTS OF
1. Exposure of such parts was often a form of judgment intended
to shame the wicked - cf. Isa 3:16-17; 47:1-3
2. Paul alludes to the fact that some parts are "unpresentable"
and should be covered - 1 Co 12:23-24
[At some point, then, there needs to be a line where it is a shame to
cross, there are parts of the body that should remain private. Perhaps
we can begin to determine what these may be as we consider another
II. WE MUST NOT PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FLESHLY LUSTS
A. THIS IS CLEARLY CONDEMNED IN THE SCRIPTURES...
1. Look at Ro 13:13-14
2. Can the way we dress excite fleshly lusts? Consider the
a. "An astonishingly great number of men are of the opinion
that women are more attractive partly dressed - than nude.
They prefer to see women partially disrobed to the sight of
complete nakedness." - Theodor Reik (Of Love And Lust)
b. "Mini-clothes are symbolic of those girls who want to
seduce a man..." - Mary Quant,
fashion designer and London
mother of the miniskirt
c. When asked where it (miniskirts, etc.) was all leading to,
Mary Quant replied with one word: "Sex."
d. During the hijacking of the
in 1967, the women Santa Maria
on board were concerned the rebels might have designs on
them, so they left off wearing "enticing clothing"; i.e.,
they stopped appearing in shorts and halter-tops, and quit
swimming in the ship's pool
-- If the "women of the world" know what is capable of
stimulating the lust of the flesh, why not the "daughters
B. JESUS WARNED ABOUT "COMMITTING ADULTERY IN THE HEART"...
1. Is there not a two-fold responsibility here? - Mt 5:27-30
a. The man is responsible to guard his mind from impurity
- Ph 4:8
b. Is not the woman to help prevent the lewd stare?
2. Though lust is inexcusable on the man's part, if the woman by
her apparel or conduct has encouraged it, she shares in the
guilt! - e.g., Pro 7:6-27
[If the clothing we wear encourages the arousal of fleshly lusts in
others, then we have clearly crossed the line. Of course, this requires
honesty and objectivity on our part; we must be willing to be true to
ourselves and to God. To help us toward that end, consider another
basic principle from God's Word...]
III. CLOTHING MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH GODLINESS
A. CONSIDER CAREFULLY 1 TIMOTHY 2:9-10...
1. "modest" (kosmio)
a. "Orderly, well arranged, decent, modest" (akin to kosmos,
in its primary sense as "harmonious arrangement adornment";
cf. kosmikos, of the world, which is related to kosmos in
its secondary sense as the world) - Vine's
b. "The well-ordering is not of dress and demeanor only, but
of the inner life, uttering in deed and expressing itself
in the outward conversation" - Trench
-- In the context, this word applies not so much to brevity of
clothing, but to gaudiness of clothing
2. "propriety" (aidos)
a. Translated "shamefacedness" in the KJV
b. "a sense of shame, modesty, is used regarding the demeanor
of women in the church, - Vine's Expository Dictionary
-- This word applies more to the issue of brevity of clothing:
Can it be said that those who display their bodies so as to
excite lust in others have the quality of "shamefacedness"?
3. "moderation" (sophrosune)
a. Translated "sobriety" in the KJV
b. "denotes soundness of mind" - Vine's
c. "it is that habitual inner self-government, with its
constant rein on all the passions and desires, which would
hinder the temptation to these from arising..." - Trench
-- Will not a sound mind take into consideration the affect
one's apparel has on another?
4. "not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing"
a. Excess, rather than actual adornment, is what is being
condemned here - cf. Isa 3:16-26 with Ezek 16:10-14
b. This is an example of the comparative use of "not" found
frequently in the Bible:
1) "Not" is sometimes used absolutely - Exo 20:14
2) "Not" is sometimes used conditionally (not...if) - Ga
3) "Not" is sometimes used comparatively (not...but) - Jn
6:27; 1 Co 1:17; 1 Jn 4:10
-- Outward adornment is not wrong absolutely, but in
comparison to the adorning of the inner person by good
works, it is to be of lower priority and lesser importance
5. "proper for women professing godliness"
a. That which is fitting, seemly, suitable, becoming - cf. Ep
5:3; Ti 2:1
b. For women claiming to be reverent, pious - cf. Ti 2:3-5
-- Would a woman who professes to be godly knowingly adorn
herself in a way that excites lust in another person?
B. CONSIDER ALSO 1 PETER 3:1-6...
1. Note first the potential value of chaste conduct - 1 Pe 3:1-2
a. Good behavior can influence one for good
b. Likewise, improper behavior (e.g., immodest clothing) can
have an adverse effect!
2. In verses 3-4, we have another example of the comparative use
a. The emphasis should not be one's adornment (arranging the
hair, wearing gold, putting on apparel)
b. Rather, it should be adorning one's inner person
3. The adornment that greatly pleases God - 1 Pe 3:4-6
a. The incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit
b. As worn by women like Sarah, who trusted God and submitted
to her husband
-- When a person disregards the effect their apparel may have on
another, can it be said they are adorned with a gentle and
1. As noted in the beginning, it has not been my goal to establish
specific rules for what is modest apparel...
a. To do so would be to do what the Bible itself does not do
b. Rather, to offer the general principles that can help the
Christian who desires to please God rather than self or man
2. When faced with the question "What shall I wear?", may I suggest the
a. Prayerfully consider whether your adornment in any circumstance
reflects your profession of godliness, and the principles found
in God's word
b. Seek counsel from those who are mature in the faith, whose senses
have been exercised to discern good and evil (cf. He 5:14)
Do this, and one is more likely to fulfill that goal set for us by the
apostle Paul, that we be...
"...blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the
midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine
as lights in the world" (Ph 2:15)