by Keith A. Moser, Sr.


Clothing certainly does not determine character, for God looks on the heart, not the appearance (I Samuel 16:1).  But, one’s character can and does determine the clothing one wears.  For some reason, however, some professed Christians seemingly give little thought to their attire even though there are a number of biblical principles relating to one’s dress.

In the very first book of the Bible one can find reference to God’s attitude toward public display of the human body.  After the fall of Adam and Eve they “made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7).  But God did “make coats of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  Obviously, Adam and Eve did not cover enough of themselves with the “aprons’ and a principle of modesty is seen.

The Bible also teaches that Christians are to dress in such a way as not to intentionally discomfort another, nor are Christians allowed to “judge” another by his poor dress (James 2:1-9).  Some would overdress to impress but the Bible demands “modest apparel (I Timothy 9-10).  The term modest is kosmios, which word contains the idea of orderly or decent.  A “kosmios” person, to the Greeks, had grace and dignity in all of life— including dress.  The style of the world in the first century tended to gaudiness, but Christians then (thus, now) are not to be slaves to style but to decency.  The Bible also teaches personal cleanliness for Christians. “... let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1). The term flesh includes personal hygiene.  One who loves his fellowman will not offend.  During the hippie culture, American medical doctors were reporting epidemics of scabies (itch).  Such is amazing in a supposedly enlightened culture.

One’s dress can provoke lust (Matthew 5:27-28).  (Many parents used to understand this and so teach their children.  With the influence from the most decadent society in the history of man, overwhelming all the media, even Christians are found now in skimpy wear on beaches; in sloppy wear at worship; and generally dressed like the world).  Surely men and women must control their thoughts, and their exhibitionist tendencies.  One who influences another to lust is as guilty as the one who lusts.

The Bible further teaches that one should avoid harmful influence to the church and to one’s person reputation. “Give none offense; neither to the Jews, not the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (I Corinthians 10:32).  The church, (i.e. all Christians), is responsible for teaching and for setting good examples. Members of the body of Christ must respect God, others, and themselves in all things covered by the principle of love (Matthew 22:37-39).  A word of caution is needed here.  Sometimes the newly baptized, secular visitors, etc. who are not familiar with Bible principles of dress visit the church setting.  (A poor farmer was once baptized where I preached.  He came to services that first Sunday dressed in his best—-bib overalls, a white shirt buttoned at the top, a dark sport coat, and field shoes.  An unloving elder told the man that he was not dressed “properly.” The man would never came to services again and returned to the Methodist church).  Christians, while trying to improve their own lives, must be patient with the untaught.

The Bible teaches that God demands that the distinctions between males and females are to be maintained.  There is a curious passage in Revelation that reads: ”...and on their heads were as it were crowns of gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.  And they had hair as the hair of women” (Revelation 9:7-8).  Of course, the former passage is figurative, but hermeneutical rules state that figurative speech has some basis in the literal.  God established distinctions between males and females and does not want such distinctions blurred (Romans 1:26-27).  The principle of male leadership involves a clear understanding of the differing roles of men and women (I Corinthians 11:3).  The “unisex” movement in America is an abomination before God, and clothing (including jewelry) is a hallmark of the movement.  Men need to be masculine. Women need to be feminine.  Sound, sensible, decent judgment by Christians concerning appropriate dress ‘for worship, workplace, recreation, and home is much needed in today’s “anything goes” culture.

The Bible condemns, in principle, immodest public attire, show-off dress, and indecent, inappropriate clothing.  Surely Christians can learn not to offend in what they decide to wear.  Personal preferences as to style are matters of liberty. Preferences as to decency are matters of faith.