What Is Appropriate Christian Dress?

The Apostle Paul gives us the New Testament guideline in 1 Timothy 2:9-11, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But [which becometh women professing godliness] with good works.

Some of the women in the church at Ephesus were dressing like the world and were concerned about “putting on a show.” They were letting the styles associated with the local temple prostitutes set their standard of dress.

Let me first address what Paul is not saying. Paul is not saying women can’t wear appropriate pants suits. Neither is he saying women can’t wear jewelry or cosmetics. He is not saying women are to be unattractive.

Paul is setting the principle of “modesty” as the guideline for Christian dress. A godly woman would be ashamed and feel guilt if she distracted someone from worship, especially when the church gathers together. What Paul is saying is that women in the church are to adorn [clothe] themselves with modest or proper clothing and do it discreetly [self-control]. The women were not to put the emphasis on the external but the internal. The Christian should place greater importance on the character of the heart than keeping up with the latest fashions. The word “modest” stresses the absence of dress that is sexually suggestive, or a source of temptation. For example, clothes that are far too tight and reveal the women’s shape, low cut dresses that reveal the cleavage, dresses that are too short, clothing that reveal the navel, or shorts, these are inappropriate for approaching God in public worship. This type of dress attracts physical attention and stirs up the flesh and feeds on the imagination. The Christian’s dress is to be simple, moderate, and God-honoring.

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