Wednesday, April 8, 2009


(This is a short study given to a group of high school age women, and sometime later, to a single woman's Bible study. The second time was much more comfortable. I was told later that the contents of the study were debated all day in various high school classes after I left. Hopefully, it won’t be that controversial now!)

Fashion, by its nature, is a moving target, so setting any style mandates is pointless. My goal is to simply strengthen your commitment to be pleasing in the sight of God.

The spiritual issues we face as we purchase clothing and dress ourselves each day are timeless. Because of this truism, each of the Lord’s daughters needs to develop a personal philosophy for clothing themselves. If it is based on God's Word, it will be something which you can use all through your life, at any age, and apply to every situation or fashion trend that may come your way.

To develop such a philosophy, we need to first understand the issue of clothing from the Lord’s perspective, a theology of dress, if you will. To achieve and apply this understanding, we will need to ask ourselves three basic questions when we are choosing our attire.

1. As Christian women, our first question should be, "Who does this clothing glorify?"

Were any of you privileged to learn the “Westminster Catechism”? The very first question asks why we were created. The answer, which comes from Rom.11:36 and I Cor. 10:31 is, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

God has revealed that He created us specifically to glorify Himself. But, if the outfits we wear attract too much attention to ourselves - - either to our personal beauty, or to our sexuality, or even to our wealth (as displayed by our clothing), the attire quickly leads to idolatry because the worship isn't going toward the Lord - - it is directed toward us.

Have you ever heard it said that women dress for other women? At times, this appears to be quite a plausible theory; but if we are dressing to gain the admiration of other women, or the attention of men, we run a risk of making ourselves into little "golden" idols seeking to usurp the worship (i.e., admiration and attention) that belongs to God.

We cannot not glorify God when our hearts are set on glorifying ourselves.

So, as you dress each day with a desire to please the Lord, it is practical to ask the Holy Spirit (and check with your own heart, too), "Who does this clothing glorify?"

2. Another issue our Lord is very concerned over is modesty, and He has some quite pointed things to say about it.

You are probably aware that males are easily aroused sexually by what is viewed by their eyes. This reality constitutes a serious and on-going temptation for them. Jesus said, "Any man who looks upon a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." He addresses this to all men, not just to the married men, but to your dad, your brother, your grandpa, the guys in your office, even to the ones in your Bible study.

Our God is righteous and holy, and He sheds the strong light of truth when He speaks. He tells us a "luster" is an "adulterer." Period. Poor guys, right? But consider this issue from another perspective. Are we not our brother's keeper? The world may argue that you have no responsibility for someone else’s thoughts, actions, or life; but if you have heard Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan, you know the Lord is saying the very opposite is true. We do have responsibility for others. As Christian women, we should dress modestly out of mercy and kindness, just to protect our brothers from incurring judgment.

If this plea to your conscience fails to move your heart to protect the males from falling into lust, please notice what Jesus has to say about those who cause his children to stumble. In Matthew 18:6-7, He says, "...whoever is an occasion for stumbling to one of these that believe in Me, it were better for that person to have a millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

Simply stated, He does hold us personally responsible when we cause another to sin. So, if we women select clothing that is not modest - - maybe it covers everything, but it's too clingy, or too revealing - - then we have become that "occasion for stumbling," and the Lord says "woe unto that person".

Please remember, too, that your body belongs only to you and the Lord; and if you marry, to your future husband. It is not meant for any other man's body, not even his eyeballs.

So, the second question we should to ask ourselves as we dress is, "Is this outfit sufficiently modest to be pleasing to God and to protect me from sin?"

3. The final aspect of clothing with which the Lord concerns Himself is that of gender.

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (22:5), God tells the Hebrews that he detests (abominates) men wearing women's clothing and women wearing men's clothing. Much has changed among people since 800 BC, but since the Lord has told us in His Word that He is unchanging, we can be assured that, even today, He still dislikes this very much.

I have given the “why” of this a lot of thought and prayer, and have come to believe that for God, the real heart issue behind this law is contentment. We know He is a God whose big interest is the inner motive because He has described Himself as a “searcher of hearts.” The Lord has made us male and female, with each gender reflecting some of His most glorious attributes. The gender assigned to each of us has been sovereignly chosen by Him, and He desires our contented assent to His choice.

Thus, the selection of our garments should reflect contentment with the fact that God has created us to be women, and we should be careful to not present ourselves as masculine in any way. When we look like women, we are making a public statement to the world about our fundamental trust in the Lord and submission to Him. This is very, very pleasing to God.

So, the final question we need to ask as we dress is, "Do I appear female in these clothes to anyone who may see me?"

To tie up these various threads, the following recommendations are made to help you develop your theology of dress:

1. Remember, first seek God's face. As you dress every day, ask the Lord how to clothe yourself so that other people are drawn to Him. This is what it means to pray without ceasing, just talking to God about everything in your life, large and small, and seeking His will. Next consult with that wonderful conscience the Lord has provided to advise you in just such matters. The three questions about glory, modesty, and contentment should help.

2. Read your Bible daily so that the Lord can talk to you, and you will know His thoughts. If it is hard for you to do this, just purpose to "read your age" every day - 20 verses if you are 20; 33 verses if you are 33; 47 verses if your 47, and so forth. (In my case, I’ll be reading all night.) It's a very easy system, and you'll be surprised how far you'll get with it in a speedy amount of time. The point is, just show up on the page and God will meet there.

3. Throw in a fourth question: “Would I want some woman to wear this in front of MY husband?”

4. Obey what God tells you in His Word. He says obedience is true worship, and it is the very way He will know if we really love Him! ("If you love Me, obey My commands.")

5. The last thing recommended is find a couple of like-minded girlfriends. Confess any clothing sins to each other, and ask the Lord to forgive you. Then continue to hold each other accountable!


I John 2:10 - He who loves his brother remains in the light and there is nothing within him to occasion stumbling.

I Cor. 12:31 But earnestly desire the more valuable spiritual gifts. And I shall show you a still more excellent way.

is long suffering
is kind
is not jealous (envious)
does not self display
is not arrogant (conceited)
is not unmannerly
is not self-seeking
is not irritable
does not take account of a wrong that is suffered
takes no pleasure in injustice
sides happily with truth
bears everything in silence
has unquenchable faith
hopes under all circumstances
endures without limit
never fails (not deficient or lacking)

Gal. 5:14 – For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Law: 10 Commandments - Exodus 20

No other gods
No idols (images)
No misuse of the Lord's name
Always rest in the work of the Lord
Honor father and mother
No murder
No stealing
No adultery
No false witness (lying)
No coveting

MANNERS & ETIQUETTE: The Process & the Giving of a Worthy Gift

Proverbs 15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

"The kindness in demonstrated acts of caring will last a lifetime. It makes love a workable thing.” Edith Schaefer

Eight good reasons why we need to care about instilling good manners in our children:

1. Manners are not ultimately done to please people, but to worship to God through acts of graciousness toward other people.

2. Good manners and gentle words (e.g., please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry) reflect well on our Lord as we identify ourselves as His people. They are Biblical. They also give Christians an excellent reputation in contrast to the common culture, which has sunk so low. We are to be a holy people, set apart. Today, being courteous very definitely sets a young person apart!

3. Social courtesy makes a qualitative difference in life. It's like the difference between being given a table at a restaurant next to the dumpster versus being seated in a lovely garden under dappled sunlight. Good manners just make life more pleasant and graceful!

4. Etiquette greases the wheels of social communication. It is a social tool to accomplish tasks because it makes cooperation more likely; hence the saying, "You'll catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”

5. Of course, having nice manners can’t change our fundamental sin nature, but exercising them performs a discipline that brings some measure of control to our actions and helps train us not to be ruled by our emotions. They bring order to the chaos of interacting, and often conflicting, wills. They also help cultivate the biblical virtue of self-discipline.

6. We often hear that it is confidence building to know what to do in social situations. This is very true!

7. Judith Martin, professionally known as “Miss Manners”, argues that while morality emphasizes the sacredness of the person, courtesy protects the dignity of the person.

8. Courtesy takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on someone else's comfort. Good manners are a great way to show love. As it says in Proverbs, "A friend showeth himself friendly." This is what manners are all about.

For example:

- Because of love, we personally greet people every time they enter our home.
- Because of love, we put the seat down on the toilet and remove hair from the sink.
- Because of love, we send notes of gratitude.
- And so forth.

Planned Training:

1. Weekly instruction and discussion (This can cover skills such as giving a toast, how to be a good guest on a prolonged visit, finger bowls, listener etiquette, etc.)

Book recommendations:
• PROPER MANNERS AND HEALTH HABITS, Rod and Staff Publishers, Inc., Crockett, Kentucky 41413
• ETIQUETTE, Author: Fern G. Brown; Publisher: Franklin Watts; 1985
• WHITE GLOVES AND PARTY MANNERS, (author and publisher unknown; may be found at library)

2. Etiquette schools and classes (usually available for children through city classes)

3. Planned situations:

• Restaurants - public practice of seating someone; helping with a coat; table etiquette; ordering food; tipping; etc.

• Lessons (e.g., music, etc.) - e.g., walk piano teacher to door and say "thank you;" etc.

• Call dinner alert a little early to give time for grooming (clean hands and face; combed hair) to make dinner more pleasant for others.

• Sport practice: help coaches with equipment and say thanks, thank referees, etc.

Spontaneous Training:

1. Repeat expectations before each situation (e.g., a visit to another home, invitation to a restaurant, going to symphony, stores, library, etc.) because these are children. They get excited and forget, plus each situation has some novel, yet specific, courtesy applications.

2. On-the-job training as situations arise, e.g., duplicate birthday gifts; not enough seating for everyone on a bus/church/etc.; food not liked; and so forth

3. Modeling, e.g., morning greetings; always finding them to let them know where you are going; unlocking their car door first; taking them with you to choose and purchase flowers for a hostess; maintaining and requiring good grooming and appropriate dress, etc.

4. Complements and Reinforcements from parents and others. (You'll get plenty of help here!)


Teens should no longer need or receive any formal training. In our home, we occasionally read and discussed small portions of etiquette books at the dinner table to meet the issues that come into the lives of older children, such as, 1) What is the expected business demeanor as an employee? or 2) “driving” etiquette? Teens and young adults really need to consider these situations in advance because the working world and roadways are a whole new and tricky frontier for them.

These are our only hard-and-fast rules for teens:

1. No telephone calls are to be made or accepted at dinnertime. (6-7 p.m.)

2. No calls to friends after 9:30 p.m. ever. You'd better plan ahead!

3. Next day telephoned calls of gratitude are acceptable for parties, rides, etc.

4. All gift “thank you” notes are to be written.

5. Naturally, all verbal courtesies are still on.

HEADCOVERING: Physical Sign of the Bride of Christ

I Cor. 11:2-16: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore, the woman ought to have a token of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman, for just as the woman is from the man, so the man is through the woman, and they all have their origin from God. Judge for yourselves. Is it becoming for a woman to worship God without covering for her head?

As under the Old Covenant, God has provided his New Covenant children with tangible symbols of His spiritual relationship with them. Specifically, the physical signs for the Church are baptism, the Lord's Table, and the covering of the woman's head (and lack thereof on the man).* God lovingly gave these symbols to His people so that through their enactment, they would be continually reminded of their standing in Him - washed by His blood, recipients of salvation through His sacrifice on the cross, and beloved bride for the Son.

For women, the Lord designed the headcovering to be an honorable symbol that reflects the richness of His grace. Sadly, knowledge of its significance has almost vanished from the modern church. It is my prayerful hope that by God's grace, I might confess some of its meaning for God's people are impoverished through its neglect.

• A Symbolic Reminder of Creation Order

I Cor. 11:7-8 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed, man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake.

I Tim. 2:13-14: For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

Gen. 3:16b: Your desire shall be toward your husband, and he will dominate you.

I Tim. 2:12: I do not permit women to usurp authority over men.

As a role distinctive, woman was made to be a suitable helper to man in a tiered act of creation. Modern women have tended to bristle over the scriptures cited above because their pride is pricked and their autonomy challenged by them. Nevertheless, God has ordained that leadership is male. Wearing a headcovering signifies a woman's assent to the Lord's establishment of this order.

• A Symbol of Christ's Headship in His Union with the Church as Reflected in Marriage

Isa. 62:4: "But you will be called, 'My delight is in her', and your land, 'Married'; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married."

II Cor. 2:11b: I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.

Eph. 5:24: But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be subject to their own husbands in everything.

Eph. 5:31-32: For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Throughout Bible, God uses marriage, binding and intimate, as an illustration of His spiritual relationship with His people. When we view the covered heads of women in the church, we can rejoice in the reminder that Christ is the personal Bridegroom of our little church body - always wise, always forgiving, deeply loving, completely resourceful, our sole provider, sovereign over time and place; in short, the perfect Husband.

The headcovering is intended as a tangible means to remind us that our own marriages are to reflect Christ's relationship to the church, i.e., His headship over the church and it’s submission to Him. An important part of Christian testimony concerning our relationship to our Lord is lost when this does not occur. I find the covering of my head with a hat or scarf to be a very steadying and useful personal reminder that it is proper and pleasing to the Lord for me to be a submissive wife. (See I Peter 3:5-6.)

• A Symbol of Redemption - the Covering of Our Sins

Eph. 1:7: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Rom. 4:7: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.

Psm. 27:5: For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of his tent, He will set me high upon a rock.

Ezekiel 16:8: Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered in to a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

Within her marriage, a Christian wife is intended to be a living symbol of the Bride of Christ, the Church, who is under the cover (protection) of the Lord’s tent. Christ, through His own blood and righteousness, is the covering of His people and the eternal protection of His spouse. Each time we go before the Lord in the assembly of public worship, we are to be joyfully reminded of the covering of our sins by the covering the women's heads!

• A Symbolic Testimony to the Angels

I Cor. 11:10: Therefore, the woman ought to have a token of authority on her head, because of the angels.

I Pet. 1:12b: these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven -- things into which angels long to look.

I Pet. 3:22: ...angels, authorities and powers are subject to Him.

Women are privileged to model the submission of Christ to the Father before the whole world and spiritual beings. Men model His headship; women model His submission. A headcovering is a public sign of a wife's status under authority.

Having seen the pre-incarnate Christ in His glory, and then having observed His submission to the will of the Father through the taking of human form, suffering, and dying for our sins, the angels find this yielding of His glory and His humble submission an amazing mystery. It is a wonder of love they cannot fathom. A woman's submission to her husband is a testimony to them as she models this manifestation of the unsurpassable love of Christ. Indeed, women are highly privileged to be allowed to model this aspect of Christ's character, and our Lord has promised to use it redemptively. (To consider a good example of how He might accomplish, this see I Pet. 3:1.) If women will demand honors, this is their honor! To despise it is shameful.

Additionally, the submission of a wife (or daughter to father) is instructional to the spiritual beings on their own conduct, and it magnifies the glory of Christ. As Paul says, women are to be adorned by the significant covering of their heads "because of the angels."


Despite the fact that a headcovering symbolizes God's grace in each point mentioned above, there is a general feeling today that for a woman to cover her head during the worship (I Cor. 11:13) is merely a "Pharisaic" reflex. I hope I have been able to disabuse this perspective and to illuminate it's wonderful, practical use. It is a gift given from the Lord's own hand through the apostle Paul to help us remember the significance of submission to Him in our daily walk -  - a walk that should typify the relationship between the Lord and His people, and particularly their redemption from sin. 

May it become known in our hearts again that obedience is the worship prized by the Lord. As Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my word," (John 15:14).

Dedicated to my husband, Steve, with my love ~

Carolyn Pierce

* Footwashing and anointing with oil are also physical symbols given to the church to reflect spiritual realities.