Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clothing: The "Woman's" Issue?

A prevalent topic in sermons and books for girls is modesty.

"Ladies, don't wear shorts that are too short.  Don't wear shirts that come down too low or fit you too tightly.  Be very careful not to tempt boys.  We want to guard their hearts."  And these are usually very good things to teach young girls who are beginning to discover the beauty that God has placed in their physical bodies.  It's a good thing to remind women of all ages.  However, modesty is usually the extent of our Christian discussions about clothes.

Every week, my Christian high school held chapel.  Sometimes boys and girls would have separate sessions.  A vibrant speaker would stand and remind us ladies to cover ourselves up and remember that our bodies are temples of God, not meant to show off to just anyone.  A little less occasionally, we would hear a sermon about how fruitless it was to find identity in our outward appearances rather than in Christ.  Good sermons.  Sometimes they were exactly what I needed to hear.

But you know what I never recall being spoken from that stage?  Warnings about entitlement, excess, indulgence, abuse of the poor, tolerance of slavery.  About the injustice in the extent we high school students (boys and girls) spent on ourselves, where we spent our money, and the way we conveniently continued to forget about how many millions of people in the world went hungry that day while we perused the mall for cool new outfits.

This was never talked about.  The messages all consisted of: "We're girls.  Girls love shopping.  Remember to dress in a feminine way and don't tempt those boys.  Be sure to put your identity in the Lord and not in looking stylish.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made."  That was it. 

Modesty, femininity, and identity are all very important things to discuss with young ladies.  But they are not the only important things.

I'm tired of the clothing discussion in Christian circles being confined to shame-based lectures and sermons about modesty that are directed only at women while entirely skipping over men.

I'm tired of shallow discussions that make "being fearfully and wonderfully made" only about how we are beautiful, feminine, modest women and not about how we were made in the image of a Creator who is transforming us to look like Him on the inside and through our actions.

I'm so very tired of every single conference for high school girls being about modesty without even mentioning our bondage to excess and over-indulgence, the slaves who are being forced to make our clothes, and how many people in the world are going without.  And how when they do bring up the needy, it's to make us nod and say, "Oh, yes, we are blessed to live as prosperous Americans" and not to challenge us to make sacrifices from our excessive lifestyles.

What did Jesus even say about clothes?  He said not to worry, that God would provide.  He commanded us to clothe the naked.  He condemned showing favoritism to those who dressed nicely over those who had nothing.  Jesus didn't talk about fashion.  The New Testament only briefly mentions modesty, and when it does, it emphasizes godly actions over excess in attire.  In Christ's conversations, we see overwhelming themes of justice, mercy, compassion, contentment, and a confidence that the Lord will provide for our needs.

As a woman who loves women's ministry, I'm not saying that talks about purity, modesty, and femininity should stop.  But I am saying that when clothing is discussed, our conversations need to expand from confining and even demeaning sermons about outer appearances.  Instead, it would be nice to see messages about glorifying the Lord through the way we live, the way we dress, the way we spend our money, and the way we extend compassion to others.

Women were made in the image of God, not just to look outwardly beautiful, but to glorify Him through our lives.  Modesty and femininity are good qualities, but they are not our entire purpose.  We have been called to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedom for the captives.

Clothing is not only a women's issue.  Glorifying the Lord through what is worn and through what is bought is an issue that should be explored and discussed by men and women alike.

I want the way I dress to reflect modesty, femininity, and an identity found in Christ, but I also want to dress as one who seeks justice, loves mercy, and pursues simplicity over excess.

I pray that the godly men in my life are also seeking to glorify the Lord through the way they dress.  I pray that men who love the Lord desire to dress as ones who seek justice, love mercy, and pursue simplicity over excess.

I'm tired of clothing being only a women's issue.  Aren't you?

Two years ago: I have tall friends.
Three years ago: Twin's Day Wednesday


  1. I'm sitting here, somewhat awed, fingers tapping the keyboard, not knowing what to say. I'm hearing the wrath of God in your words, echoes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, wondering what lit this fire.

    Remembering now that I found this blog when I was looking for people who want to be candles for God. This looks to me like something a candle might say.

    Anyway, in case you haven't already guessed, I agree with you wholeheartedly about clothing as an issue for all of us, not fjor women only; and about glorifying God through the way we live, the way we dress, the way we spend our money, and the way we extend compassion to others.

    and that's about all I got.