Towards the end of last year, in November precisely, two incidences happened in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa that brought a serious shift in thinking about dressing and fashion. In separate incidences, two girls were stripped naked on the streets apparently because of how they were dressed. A movement with the tag line ‘My Dress My Choice’ was born. Its proponents argued that the choice on how to dress or not dress is squarely on the individual while the opposing camp felt that the society has a say as to how people dressed as long they are part of the society. Our very own Deputy President was quoted saying that people should be allowed to dress the way they want. That was not only a sad statement coming from a key leader but a choice in itself that will affect this and future generations.
The issue of dress is deeper than the type of cloth, how short, how revealing or even how sexually provocative it is. Although these are important aspects of dress, the issue goes deeper that the dress itself. Your dressing is an issue of your discipleship and walk with the Lord Jesus. Your dressing speaks both about your value system and also your position with God. It is a communication of the state of morality of a society.
Do the scriptures have anything to do with how as a young Christian you ought to dress? Boy or girl, does it matter? Is your dress really your choice? The other misunderstanding is that modesty is a subject for women only. Can men be immodest? Does the truth of scripture also apply to them? The scriptures give answers to these and other questions on this pertinent issue.
My Dress, My King’s Choice
1 Corinthians 10:31 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
When you go to a shop and buy a dress, it becomes yours. You own it. You wash it when it gets dirty, you put it on at the time you want to, as often as you desire. The dress cannot dictate to you how it wants to be used. You decide, because you own it. In a similar manner, when we become Christians, we cease to belong to the Kingdom of darkness and we cross over to the Kingdom of God.
As a matter of fact, the scriptures tell us that we are bought out of that Kingdom. We no longer belong there. We have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are no longer our own. We have a master. We become slaves, not of sin anymore, but of righteousness. (Romans 6:19) We cannot live the way we want or dress way we want. Our dress can NEVER be our choice. Our dress has to be the choice of our Master. We cease to live for ourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:15). If that be the case then, we have to read the manual of our faith, the Holy Bible, and know the dress code of our Kingdom. If we say that ‘my dress is my choice’, we are living against the very value of our Kingdom, we are living for ourselves. Rather we ought to say, ‘My Dress, My King’s Choice’.
As a Christian your behavior sets the tone for how others see you and your faith. Being modest in your appearance is just as great a witness to those around you as your words. By being modest you allow others to see your inner faith rather than your outer appearance. In a world where decency and modesty is defined by swag more than the scriptures, it is important we explore what the Bible says about Modesty.
“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:12 NLT)
Cultural appreciation and Current Trends
There has been valid argument that culture defines our clothing. As people who have been redeemed and bought at a price, we cannot just conform to any other culture blindly. We must both appreciate that God made us in the context of a particular culture and also that He has principles in His word that define how as His people, we ought to live in the context of the cultures that host us without crossing the boundaries of His Kingdom. Regardless therefore of where we come from, we have irreducible minimums that we cannot forsake as children of the light.
When we speak about fashion and current trends, those trends must conform to the principles of modest dress as laid down in the scriptures. In short, culture and trends must be dictated by the values set out in scriptures.
John MacArthur asks, “How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshiping God? Or is it to call attention to herself, and flaunt her…beauty? Or worse, to attempt to allure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshiping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.”
Modest clothing covers
Granted, there are changes over time in what people consider modest. But because we are concerned about God’s glory, we do not allow our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit if we are believers, to become public property by wearing revealing clothing. And if we are concerned for the good of others, for our witness in a fallen world and concern for holiness in other believers, we will not facilitate lust (or envy, or disgust) by wearing revealing clothing.
Now, the Bible does not say how much skin clothing should cover; we’re not given a percentage or exact directions. But Scripture does give some base lines—implicit directions that we need to follow. When Adam and Eve fell, they made aprons to cover their nakedness. When God confronted them about their sin, He also made clothing for them – tunics to replace their aprons, which indicates that stomachs and backs are not to be on public display, even for guys.
Here they were, a married couple, the only people on earth, and the coverings that they had whipped up for themselves were inadequate. God had to kill an animal in order to cover them, foreshadowing the fulfillment of the promise that Christ would die to cover their naked souls with His own righteousness. So our clothing must reflect the gospel reality of being covered.
Modest clothing is appropriate
In our culture, this seems to be an increasing problem as individualism and postmodernism try to erase any standards, so it’s something to think about carefully.
- Dress appropriately for your age
If you are 50, please don’t dress like you are 18. That’s not being modest. It shows a discontentment with where God has placed you, and it draws attention to yourself in a way that is not respectable.
- Dress appropriately for a female or a male
There are cultural and chronological variances here, and what is feminine in one place might be problematic in another. But in general, our clothing should be visibly feminine or masculine
- Dress appropriately for your marital status
In other words, dress in a way that’s appropriate for a wife or a husband or a single person.
- Wear clothes that are appropriate for the circumstance or event
If you are going to church, it is immodest to dress as though you are headed to the beach. If you are going to the beach, it is immodest to dress as though you are headed to a funeral. It’s attracting attention to yourself and not considering others. Modesty means that we dress according to the occasion and love others by fitting in with the occasion. Modest clothing is, as the I Timothy passage says, “respectable”.
Modest clothing is moderate, not elaborate, decadent, or flashy
Do you have clothes in your wardrobe that you have not worn for more than three months? Do you have clothes that you are beyond your means and people wonder where you got them because they know that you cannot afford them? A modest wardrobe is temperate and self-controlled. It’s not wrong to have your own style, but it is wrong to be flamboyant about it, spend large amounts of money on it, or to let it define you. Matthew Henry says, “Little reason we have to be proud of our clothes, which are but badges of our [spiritual] poverty and infamy.”Clothing that is temperate in style, price, and number of items is modest as it uses God-given resources wisely and helps keep us from being obsessed with how the world thinks we should look.
Modest clothing does not show form or figure
When you dress and we can all tell where x and y is, you are immodest. If you ever ask anyone “Is it too tight?” it is already tight and you know it, you just want to justify your sin.
Modesty is not just about clothing, it is an attitude; it is how you relate to God. When you dress, ask yourself
- Is it giving me a wholesome look?
- Is it moderate?
- Is it decent
- Is it covering
- Is it attracting undue attention to me?
- Am I glorifying God in this dress or outfit?
Colossians 3:17 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
My Dress, not my Choice, My King’s choice