A lovely teenage girl on the verge of tears once asked me if she was sinning for wearing her long dark hair in braids. I knew her to be an extremely conscientious young lady, who was modest in both her behavior and dress. Someone had told her that it was unscriptural for her to wear her hair like that (see 1 Tim. 2:9, 1 Pet. 3:3).
Both of the passages above are encouraging women to demonstrate godliness rather than trying to impress others with their physical beauty through clothing, jewelry and extravagant hair styles. Pressed to its literal extreme 1 Peter 3:3 can be forced to say that any arranging of one’s hair, wearing a gold wedding ring, or even putting on any clothes is to be avoided! Clearly that cannot be the correct meaning of the scriptures!
On the other side, I read an article some time back that argued it was wrong for a man to come to worship without a suit and tie on. I have known congregations that demanded such attire from those waiting on the table. I also know men who do not own such clothing. Are they prohibited from attending or participating in worship? Some friends of mine visiting family members in South America were told not to bring their “church clothes.” The reason was because the locals were so poor that the Americans would appear to be showing off their wealth.
I have also seen folks come to worship God dressed so casually they looked like they just came from mowing the yard or were about to go for a stroll on the beach! Paul’s use of “modest apparel” means that which is appropriate and proper. It applies equally to having on too little clothing and to being “overly” dressed and showy. Paul’s instructions were for proper dress that would reflect those professing godliness (v. 10). Clearly a judgment call. As such, our elders have requested that shorts not be worn to the worship services.
Respect for God, respect for others and respect for ourselves should be how we dress at all times, not just in how we dress for worship, that we may be lights that shine in a world of darkness (Phil. 2:15).
- Tim Orbison