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What God Requires in Bodily Appearance

 “He hath showed thee, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God (Micah 6:8).

The third requirement of the Lord in this beautiful text must be applied to all areas of life. A walk of humility is one of the most essential qualities of the Christian life, and often one of the most difficult that we face as human beings. There are many ways in which pride seeks to destroy us.

This article deals with one area in which pride expresses itself rather flagrantly – the area of our personal appearance. In Proverbs 6:6 – 19 a proud appearance stands at the head of a list of seven things that the Lord hates. God requires of us that we give humble expression of deliverance from the proud enslaved world about us.

We, of course, recognize that one can dress modestly and separate from the world and still be walking in pride. However, having our bodies will covered with modest dress does not normally create a tendency to pride. Modest dress, although not a proof, is an evidence of a noble heart.

What does God require by way of our dress?

First – God requires durable clothing ( Isaiah 23:18) that adequately covers the body. God required Adam and Eve to replace their fractional, flimsy, fig–leaf dresses with durable “coats of skin” (Genesis 3:7 – 21). The requirement involved coats to “clothe them” in contrast to the aprons of fig leaves which left Adam feeling naked before God (Genesis 3:10). The coats of skin were not a flimsy “see-through” type of garment.

God’s requirement for an adequate clothing of durable clothing for his children runs throughout the entire Bible. In Deuteronomy 22:12 Moses refers to the (“vesture wherewith thou coverst thyself” in Isaiah 47:1 – 3, God says of the Chaldean daughters who were making “bare the legs”, “thy shame shall be seen”. In 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 where God requires that women be adorned in “modest apparel”, the word “apparel” comes from a Greek word meaning “down” or “the down garment”. God’s requirement is that women be adorned with a “modest down dress”. God says further, that this is that which “becometh women professing godliness”. The “up” hemlines are not becoming to women professing godliness.

Second – God requires that there be a distinction between the sexes in dress. This doubtless would include both the pattern of dress and the type material use. To put feminine dress material on a masculine body or masculine material on the feminine body may well be a violation of God’s requirement of sex distinction in dress. Any effort toward unisex activities, responsibilities, and appearance in those areas where God intended sexes be different, is an insult to the Creator who made them male and female.

Third – God requires that his children’s dress be free from superfluous, ornamental items. “Whose adorning let it not be that… Of putting on of apparel”(1 Peter 3:3). This is reference to that which is superfluous, showy, and unnecessary. God’s requirement would eliminate neckties, sash belts, ruffles for the ruffled effect, gold or precious metal pins or fixtures, pearly or otherwise showy buttons and such things. The “haughty” (proud) daughters of Zion (Isaiah 3:16-30) who were using about a dozen and a half ornaments in their dresses were said to be doing something that was a stench to God.

Fourth – God requires that dress material be modest and quiet. (1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9) Modesty and quietness refers to color as well as to sound. In Jeremiah 4:30 God said to the spoiled (void of true values) daughters of Zion that would constitute a vain beauty for them to deck themselves with gold and clothe themselves in crimson. In Isaiah 1:18 scarlet is the color symbolizing sin. In Revelation 17:4,5  the mother of harlots is clothed in scarlet and decked with gold, precious stones and pearls. In Revelation 12:3,9, red it is said to be the color of the Dragon,  “that old serpent called the devil”. In our day, red has also been the unknown color of atheistic communism and the color of the second-highest order of corrupt Catholicism – the Cardinals. It is a color used to symbolize danger and the color of the Santa Claus lie. God’s requirement would doubtless eliminate not only red dress but all glaring shimmery fabrics that draw undue attention to the wearer.

Fifth – in Numbers 15:37 – 41, God gave the requirement for his children to wear a special mark of identification in their dress. The purpose is clearly stated: “that you may remember, and do all my commandments and the holy unto your God”. In the context of Numbers 15 a man had just disobeyed the law of the Sabbath observance and needed to be stoned to death (v. 31 – 35). Now, God said in substance, “to help to remember all my commandments, to help you live a holy life, and help you keep you from going back into your old Egypt and ways, I require you to put a distinctive reminder of separation in your dress.”

The New Testament does not name a specific mark of separation for our dress but Romans 12:1, 2 says much the same thing in principle as Numbers 15:37 – 41 says. Our bodies are not to be “conformed to this world… That you may prove [discern] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

Both the Old Testament and New Testament relate the discerning, remembering, and doing “that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God” to the practice of nonconformity to the world and our bodily appearance. In both Testaments’ requirements, the separation was to be a special spiritual benefit to the wearer. Both of these Scriptures would also imply that the total structure of God’s truth and will for His people will not be kept if we conform to the world our dress. Church history would give strong testimony to that observation as well.

Perhaps one reason for the Old Testament being more specific than the New Testament in some applications of God’s requirements is that God’s people in Old Testament times were a local people, whereas the New Testament church is universal. Specific applications may need to vary somewhat to meet local needs. If the principle of nonconformity is to be maintained, the church will need to establish a practical way to express a doctrine in every climate or culture where the gospel is preached. God still requires that his children do not fashion themselves according to the ignorant, foolish, immoral world about them (1 Peter 1:14).

Six – God requires that his children be not hypocritical in their practices of separation in dress.

Jesus declared that the Pharisees who outwardly appear righteous unto men were inwardly like whited sepulchers with dead men’s bones. With such false pretense they could not escape the damnation of hell (Matthew 23:25 – 33).

To have the outward expression of separation unto God without a corresponding inner transformation is obnoxious and hateful to God. Where there is an inner transformation of mind and heart there must of necessity be an outward expression of the inner change in our walk, in our talk, and in our appearance. Separation in dress is one way to give that expression. It is included in God’s requirements for his children. May we enjoy the pleasure of God upon us by the inner change of heart and a proper outward expression of that change.

Aaron M Shank

July 1993