When The Weather Warms Up, The Clothes Come off
Almost everyone looks forward to springtime and warmer weather.For many years I was the exception.While I enjoyed the rising temperatures, I knew that my workload as a school administrator was about to increase significantly.I knew that the battles over appropriate dress were only days away.I would recall situations in the past of angry parents jumping down my throat because their kids did not meet the school dress code.Interestingly, school dress standards could not be expressed as right or wrong.Never could it be pointed out to a parent or student that their dress (or lack thereof) might cause suspension not only from school but heaven as well! Often I have been referred to as a dirty old man simply because I noticed the inappropriate dress of a student.Often I have been told, "But the teachers didn't say anything to my child, why should you?" While I did not try to wage a personal war against inappropriate dress, I did try to enforce the school dress code.
As I am reminded of these disciplinary problems at school, it causes me to ask questions about dress. Does God care about the way people dress?Does God give us guidelines to go by in dress?Does dress reveal things about the person?I believe the answer is yes to all of these questions.
Genesis chapter 3 records the first sin ever committed. An interesting point made within this account is the immodesty of Adam and Eve. The Bible says that when they sinned, i.e., when they were no longer innocent, they recognized they were naked! It is a shame that many today cannot recognize their nakedness! When the summer's heat starts coming on, people's clothes start coming off!
Sadder still is the fact that many who are Christians are no exception. They often have the shortest shorts, the scantiest swimsuits, the highest hemlines, the lowest necklines, and the flimsiest excuses of anybody!
"What shall I wear?" is a question many people ask nearly every morning... As they dress for work, to relax, etc., usually weighing such issues as fashion versus form, style versus substance.
When Christians ask this question, other issues should come into consideration... Is it modest? (1 Timothy 2:9 says that women are to adorn themselves in Modest apparel). Is it proper for those professing godliness? Should a Christian woman wear clothing that is revealing whether it be shorts, short skirts, low-cut blouses, tight skirts or pants? What about men? Should they be concerned about modest apparel?
What effect might this have on certain activities, such as swimming and other athletic sports? (Ex: Mia Hamm, TEAM USA, Women's Soccer Team.) The dress code and modesty for men and women in the last 20 years has certainly grown worse. The sports craze has released an inhibition within people that literally makes them pull their clothes off! It's called the age of "sexual freedom.'' Men and women exercise no restraint toward ungodliness!
Why Do People Want To Expose Their Bodies Publicly?
According to the so-called experts, there are several psychological "hang-ups'' for indecency. One reason is the need to be noticed or admired.Even desired by the opposite sex. (Strange as it may seem, these same people get offended when someone makes an advance toward them.) Vanity is another reason.Those who think they are attractive display their "assets'' to the best advantage. They desire to induce others to lust and commit sin, but also desire that they keep their distance.
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. Let us consider some things together.
Dress Tells Us Something About A Person
Dress may tell us about a person's financial condition. James talks of the contrast in the way a well-dressed man is treated in the assembly as compared to one who is obviously poor (as noticed by dress). James 2:2-4.
Clothing can reveal sorrow. (2 Samuel 3:31) It can identify belonging to a particular group, such as a gang or life style. Zephaniah 1:8 speaks of foreign apparel. Prisoners can be detected by their dress. Jeremiah 52:33 speaks of prison garments. Clothing may reveal certain activities, for example the wedding garment mentioned in Matthew 22:11-14. The Bible even speaks of the attire of a harlot in Proverbs 7:10.
It Is Shameful To Expose One's Nakedness
Consider the example of Adam and Eve. "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.'' (Genesis 3:7) And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.'' (Genesis 3:10) Even though Adam and Eve attempted to clothe themselves, their clothing was not pleasing to God. For this reason, God made clothes for them. "God made tunics of skin, and clothed them". (Genesis 3:21) Even after covering the essentials, Adam and Eve hid from God because of their nakedness. Nakedness and nudity are different. One can be naked with clothes on. (see John 21:7-John was naked (KJV), i.e., "gumnos," meaning clad in undergarments only- Strong's Bible Dictionary). The NKJV version says he put on his outer garment.) If there is one great lesson that can be learned from Genesis 3:21, it is that man's concept of nakedness and God's concept of nakedness are not the same!
It Is Obvious That God Is Concerned About Appropriate Dress
Evidently God was not pleased with the brevity of the coverings Adam and Eve made.Just as God was not pleased with the fig leaves clothes of Adam and Eve, God is not pleased with "fig leave clothing" today clothing that is scant and revealing is not pleasing to God.
God dressed Adam and Eve appropriately.God did not dress Adam in a pair of skintight skimpy shorts with no shirt.God did not dress Eve with her breasts revealed or her belly button showing, or with a slit up her dress to reveal the thigh and cause sexual excitement.God clothed them in tunics.It seems to me that whatever was covered by the tunic, would serve as an example of acceptable dress until the Lord returns.
The word "tunic" is from the Latin word, "tunica." The Hebrew word is "kethoneth".Webster's College Dictionary defines tunic as, "A simple slip-on garment made with or without sleeves and usually knee- length or longer, belted at the waist, and worn as an under or outer garment by men and women of ancient Greece and Rome." Harper's Bible Dictionary says that a tunic was a "simple slip-on garment made with or without sleeves and usually knee-length or longer, belted at the waist, and worn as an under or outer garment by men and women of ancient Greece and Rome." We can plainly see that a tunic covered a man or woman from the shoulders to the knees.
The Bible speaks of other garments. Consider the trousers mentioned as a part of the dress of the priests in Exodus 28:42-"And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs." Where does the thigh start?That depends on the starting point. If one says it is the top of the thigh, then the garment would not cover the genitalia, (the sex organs), and therefore it would not cover one's nakedness. Herodotus, a Greek historian, wrote that this undergarment would reach from the waist to a little above the knee. (Herodotus, vol. 2, p. 113, 2nd ed., Rawlinson's Herodotus).The pulpit commentary says, Unto the thighs' i.e., to the bottom of the thighs where they adjoin on the knee.
Prison Visitors Dress Restrictions
A fellow preacher sent me this article last year. I believe from this we can see the importance of modest dress. This is an excerpt from the general information manual of the Waupun Correctional Institution, detailing the restrictions for visitors dress. Preachers are apparently not the only one's concerned about the effect certain kinds of dress can have on others. In other words, it does not take a Bible to curb the immodesty of women regarding their apparel in public. If worldly minds know this, how can some professing Christ not see it?
The following apparel is considered inappropriate and
will result in the denial of visits:
(1) Transparent clothing;
(2) Shorts which are shorter than fingertip length (i.e., visitor standing naturally ~with arms straight down the side of the body and fingers extended);
(3) Skirts or dresses shorter than fingertip length plus three inches (should a reasonable doubt exist, a ruler will be provided to the visitor to enable the visitor to demonstrate compliance);
(4) Strapless, tube and halter tops;
(5) Tops which expose the midriff;
(6) Spandex or Spandex-like and Lycra or Lycra-like athletic pants, aerobic/exercise tights or leotards;
(7) Underwear worn on the outside;
(8) Clothing with revealing holes or tears above fingertip level (i.e., visitor standing naturally with arms straight down the side of the body and fingers extended);
(9) Clothing or accessories with obscene or profane writing, images or pictures.
(10) Visitors wearing gang or club related clothing or insignia may be denied entrance into the institution. This includes, but is not limited to, motorcycle jackets bearing club logos and footwear.
These restrictions apply equally to men and women.
Lesson From The Santa Maria
On January 22, 1961, while sailing in West Indian waters, the Santa Maria, a cruise ship was hijacked by terrorist rebels. For eleven days, this incident of terrorism commanded the attention of all the news networks.The capture of the 609-foot long SANTA MARIA made history. Several books have since been written about this affair. An armed band of Portuguese political insurgents, traveling as passengers, took command of the ship. Radio connections were stopped and, for several days, her whereabouts were unknown. A huge air-sea search was mounted before the ship was finally surrendered without any loss of life or damages. During the hijacking of the Santa Maria, the women 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 of God"?
A New Testament Analogy
When Jesus was in the country of the Gadarenes, he encountered a man who was possessed of demons.Luke 8:27 says, "And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in tombs." Later in Luke 8:35, we see this man "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind." Please notice that when demons possessed the man he was naked, but when Jesus came into his life and the demons were cast out, he was clothed and in his right mind. Today, when fashion dictates immodesty in dress, you can be sure it is from Satan. The modestly dressed Christian, the one sitting at the feet of Jesus, is clothed and in his or her right mind!
Notice a quote from fashion designer, Mary Quant, who is recognized as the mother of the min-dress: "Mini-clothes are symbolic of those girls who want to seduce a man..." When asked where it (miniskirts, etc.) was all leading to, Mary Quant replied with one word: "Sex."
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.
There is much more in the Bible on the subject of proper dress, the kind of dress that God requires for his people.Space in this article will not allow for more.Those who are serious about this subject should spend time studying it from the viewpoint of desiring to please God in our dress.
By Frank Richey
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