(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!