Tag Archives: modesty

00. What should a woman wear?

Exploration of women’s dress, hair length, head-covering, wearing of slacks, pants, breeches, and dresses – a Bible-based discussion with Scriptural references.

We are not to be contentious – each woman must decide for herself.

Hair and head covering, slacks, pants, breeches or dresses: Viewpoints

Tina: “I choose to cover and wear dresses”

“…I choose to cover…. I wear dresses 99% of the time because of the Scripture….” Tina

Lois “I believe the Bible teaches modesty and femininity in dress”

“I believe the Bible teaches that women are to dress modestly and in accordance with femine traditions of their day.” Lois

Jo: “What about the heart?”

Some women “wear the scarf and behave in ways not appropriate to the teachings of their religion?” Scarves, slacks in Arab, Islam

Our stand on the head covering issue

Paul concludes his instructions about head covering for women by saying in 1 Corinthians 11:16, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (KJV).

Romans 14:1-6 says:
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

I think these verses teach that we are not to be contentious on the issue of head covering. Some women will wear a head covering for the glory of God. Some will dress modestly in accordance with accepted feminine attire of their day for the glory of God. Since either way we serve with a pure motive of honoring Christ, let us not be contentious among ourselves regarding this issue.

–Lois

Each woman has to decide for herself concerning the issue of covering.

–Tina

Next: Tina writes…

This 2-part Bible Study was written by Tina and Lois in 2000-2001. Comment by Jo was received 2004.

03. Scarves, pants of Mid East and Asia, Salwar Kameez of Pakinsan, India

Scarves, slacks in Arab, Islamic countries, Mid East, Asia, China; Salwar Kameez pants and top/dress of Pakistan, India. What about heart? Behave appropriately if wear head covering.

Please continue to encourage modesty but just be a bit more informed — Jo.

We should behave appropriately to teaching of our religion if wear scarf.

Regarding head coverings and dress: I live in an arab country – head coverings/scarves existed long before Islam but now to wear one shows externally that you are a good follower of the religion – what about the heart as I personally know women, married or not, who wear the scarf and behave in ways not appropriate to the teachings of their religion.
Secondly, dress for women has been pants or slacks for millenia in the middle East and Asia – peasant women of China, etc, have worn them for centuries, the Salwar Kameez of Pakistan, India and Mid Eastern variations consists of pants that are visible under a top/dress of varying lengths but always covering the backside.

Young modern Christian women seek answers, modesty appreciated

Please continue to encourage modesty but just be a bit more informed about the world that you are speaking to, as young “modern” women like myself who seek for answers to questions such as Christians wearing head coverings, wish to hear good Bible exegesis from those who show good research and understanding.
Thanks, and thanks for the piece about verbal abuse.

— Thanks to a reader named Jo for this informative comment received via email from our website on 7/19/2004.

This 2-part Bible Study was written by Tina and Lois in 2000-2001. Comment by Jo was received 2004.

Back to What should a woman wear?

02. Modesty, feminine traditions, headship; honor God without contention

Women are to dress modestly and femininely, act like women, and embrace the unique role of special protection under headship given by God — as by nature weaker than the man.

Dress in a way that honors God, without contention – Lois

Hair and head covering, slacks, pants, trousers, and dresses – Lois’ viewpoint

This Bible study is based on 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, NIV

Is a woman’s hair to be her head covering?

To me, 1 Corinthians 11:15 is the key to the issue of head coverings for women. I see this verse as indicating that a woman’s hair is to be her head covering, not a separate wrap that she would wear over her head. I believe the Scriptures are teaching some general principles here.

Are pants, slacks, or trousers proper attire for women?

When I was a girl in the 1950’s, girls were not allowed to wear slacks to public school. Dresses were considered the appropriate feminine attire for school, business, and church. Slacks or pants were acceptable feminine attire for casual social occasions in the 1950’s.

But in the early 1900’s, trousers were considered “severe bigotry” for a woman. I have a wonderful hardcover book called, “What Can a Woman Do?” that was published in Albany, New York in 1893. A chapter on personal appearance describes appropriate dresses for a woman, and adds this commentary:

“Custom makes laws as irrevocable as those of legislatures, and the time has not yet come, possibly never will, when a girl can snatch her hat from its nail and get out into the open air as quickly as her brother. There must necessarily be certain restrictions of sex, and no amount of reform will change the laws of nature…. The working dress of American ladies to-day is a happy compromise between the despotic fashions of a court and the severe bigotry of a reform costume of the coat and trousers pattern.”

Modesty, feminine traditions, and headship

I believe the Bible teaches that women are to dress modestly and in accordance with femine traditions of their day. Even today it is the Middle Eastern custom for women to wear a cloth covering over their head. For a woman to have appeared in public without a head-covering in the time Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians would have indicated rebellion to authority.

On the other hand, there are Scriptural principles that cannot be ignored. 1 Corinthians 11:3 begins this commentary on women’s head covering by pointing out that “the head of the woman is the man.”

Later in verse 14-15 the Scripture asks: “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”

Verse 15 concludes with the answer: “For long hair is given to her as a covering.”

Verse 4 indicates that a covering dishonors the head of a man: Verse 4 says, “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.”

Yet the Bible speaks of a special and binding Nazarite vow of commitment that a mother sometimes made for her unborn infant, or a man could make for himself. This vow included letting his hair grow long (Numbers 6:5). Sampson, Samuel, and possibly John the Baptist were among those who were set apart by a Nazarite vow.

A woman should look and dress like a woman

I believe Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 that a man should look and dress like a man and a woman should look and dress like a woman. For some women long hair is not difficult to manage and they enjoy this especially feminine touch. For others of us, long hair is very cumbersome, unbecoming, and time-consuming to manage. As such, it can become burdensome and a deterrant to the ministry God has for us to do.

If the Apostle Paul, or Jesus, were walking among us today, I believe they would instruct women to chose a feminine hairstyle and advise men to select a masculine hairstyle.

If they were speaking with women in the Middle Eastern countries where a cloth head covering is still worn today to symbolize woman’s submission, I belive they would instruct women to wear a head covering to show their lack of rebellion to authority.

In our American society where women have embraced women’s liberation and have attempted to be like men, I believe they would advise women to dress modestly and feminely, to act like women, and to embrace the unique role of special protection that God has given her since she is by nature weaker than the man (1 Peter 3:7).

Dress in a way that honors God, without contention

Paul concludes his instructions by saying in 1 Corinthians 11:16, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” (I believe the KJV expresses this verse a bit more clearly and I have quoted it here.)

Commentators differ in their interpretation of this passage. I tend to agree with those who believe that “no such custom” in this verse is not referring to “no such custom” of being contentious, but rather to “no such custom” of head covering in the doctrine of the churches of that day.

I believe this Scripture is teaching that we should not defy social traditions in a way that would bring reproach on the name of Christ, thus in a society where it is a reproach for women to go unveiled, she should be veiled.

I think this is teaching us that we are not to be contentious on the issue of head covering. Some women will wear a head covering for the glory of God. Some will dress modestly in accordance with accepted feminine attire of their day for the glory of God. Since either way we serve with a pure motive of honoring Christ, let us not be contentious among ourselves regarding this issue.

–Lois

Next: Reader comment from Jo

This 2-part Bible Study was written by Tina and Lois in 2000-2001. Comment by Jo was received 2004.

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

08. Winning behavior: Repay evil with blessing

Our way is not words, but behavior, not outward apparel, but inner beauty. Repay evil with blessing. Jesus is our way. We are followers, pure, modest, beautiful, human, and faithful.

Daughters of Sarah Bible Study session 8 (1 Peter 3:1-12).

We Are Followers

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives… (3:1)

In the same way as what? Backing up into verses 20-25 of chapter 2, we find the context is speaking of Jesus and his submission to the unfairness he suffered in order to purchase our redemption.

“In the same way…” Jesus is our way. He has set us an example. Now he tells us that his way is not words, but behavior. Jesus could have told us over and over from heaven, “I love you.” But his words would have rang empty, and we would have still been forever separated, were it not for his behavior:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death —
even death on a cross!

–Philippians 2:5-8

We Are Pure

The Bible says our husbands may be won without words “when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (3:2). Our words will ring empty, too, without proper behavior. Our behavior is to be manifested by the purity and reverence of our lives.

God explains further that outward behavior begins with inner change.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (3:3-4).

We Are Modest

The way we behave on the outside will reflect what we are on the inside. What we put on the outside or leave off of the outside will reflect our inner purity as well. We have an important role here.

The Christian community will throw stones at a man who is in an adulterous relationship. Yet it is acceptable for Christian women to adorn themselves, even at church, with as little as they can get by with, and then a little less. Somehow we’ve got our values all messed up.

Temptation is everywhere for men. A Christian woman can walk by wearing a skimpy garment. She finds pleasure in the attention she gets for the moment, and just as quickly, her mind is on other things. But she leaves behind her a man struggling to capture the emotions she has unraveled within him. He may have committed his heart to sexual purity before God. Now he feels guilty for the lust he finds in his mind, even though he has done his best to avoid temptation. Who will God hold accountable for this evil? (Update 4-5-2006: For an eye-opening look at this subject from a young Christian man’s viewpoint, see On Modest Dress.)

We have a major responsibility, ladies, to dress in such a way as to help men live above reproach in a sin-sick world. Woe to us if we adorn ourselves in such a manner to pull them down to the level we have lowered ourselves to when we dress immodestly.

We Are Beautiful

When we get our attitudes in order, our actions will follow.

We’ve been taught since we were tiny that beauty is what is on the inside, not the outside, but we’ve never believed it. We take time to get our makeup just right, coax a lock of hair into the right place, and make the necessary adjustments in front of a full length mirror to be sure we’ve put together a lovely package. But that same morning, we brush by our Bible on our way out the door and think to ourselves, “I really should take time to read that…maybe tomorrow.”

God says this is wrong: “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (v. 4-6).

We Are Human

Sarah was human just like us, ladies. She laughed in disbelief when God said she would have a child in her old age. Then she lied to cover up her lack of faith:

Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, `Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

–Genesis 18:10-15

Sarah was not perfect, yet God calls her a holy woman of the past and says she had unfading beauty because she subjected herself to her husband, did what was right, and did not give way to fear. God puts a high priority on this.

We Are Faithful

How do we give way to fear? We fear that when we obey our husbands in what seems to be poor judgment on his part we will bring disaster on ourselves and our children. We don’t have to fear being obedient. Obedience to God via our husbands is right. God will honor our obedience and take care of us.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (v. 7).

“Ah… finally we are getting to the heart of the matter. I would if he would!” We sound like Spiritual two-year-olds. How God must long for us to grow up and realize that our husband’s failure does not free us.

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble” (v. 8).

We are commanded to live in harmony. Our part is submission. We are commanded to love as brothers. Is it possible to love our husband with brotherly love as well as romantic love? It is not only possible, it is necessary. What is brotherly love? Compassion and humility are good descriptions.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (v. 9).

Do you want to get even with your husband? How can we repay evil with blessing? What is promised if we repay with blessing?

“For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it…'” (v. 10-11).

If we keep our tongue from evil but harden it in our heart, are we okay then? No, what is in our heart will eventually spill over. We can only keep the lid on so long.

“…Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Submission starts in the heart.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (v. 12).

Do you want God’s eyes and ears attentive to you or against you? The greatest blessing on earth is to have the God of the universe attentive to our prayers. He asks so little in return. He only asks that we trust him, trust him enough to be submissive to his leadership through our husbands. God calls us to submission to teach us faith so he can bless us.

You can trust God. He gave his Son for you.

Prayer

Lord, this is more than we can do. We’ve already failed. Thank you that you understand our humanity. Forgive us, and lead us onward from here. We follow. Amen.

Questions for Discussion

Is it possible for us to live as Jesus did?
How does our humanity fit into all of this?
How do the clothes we wear reflect the level of purity and reverence in our hearts?
What is the relationship between attitudes and actions?
What is the relationship between fear and faith?

Next

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted