How did you decide what to wear today? Was it the “right” color, fit, style, or look that informed your decision? Or was it simply the only thing that was clean? Regardless, have you ever considered God’s opinion about how you look? Did you know God has an opinion about your appearance? Well, He does and here is what it is…
The Apostle Paul addressed this very issue in the Corinthian church because of their reckless approach to dress and appearance. He said…
1 Corinthians 11:4-5 – Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
Obviously, this admonition requires a bit of context to understand what is being said. In ancient Corinth, a non-Christian man would typically go to a pagan temple and perform pagan rituals before various deities. As part of the ritual, he would cover his head with a toga hood. So when Paul told the Corinthian Christian men to not cover their heads in church (i.e. praying and prophesying), he was saying don’t dress like you are engaging in pagan worship. Conversely, non-Christian Corinthian women often didn’t cover their heads and some even shaved their heads as a sign of rebellion or promiscuous behavior. So when Paul tells Corinthian Christian women to cover their heads at church, he is saying don’t dress in a promiscuous or rebellious way. Again, all of this requires context in order to understand what is really being addressed.
In other words, Paul wasn’t making a fashion statement about hats or long hair, he was addressing how Christians should be approaching their appearance before the Lord. He was saying… “Consider the spiritual implications of your appearance and pay attention to cultural cues.”
No matter how you view it, when it comes to clothing and appearance, it communicates value. For example, if I wear a cowboy hat, I would be communicating that I value country life and the things associated with that lifestyle. (e.g. outdoors, horses, farming, music, etc.) If my wife were to wear a leather biker jacket, chaps, and a headscarf, she would be communicating that she values riding a motorcycle. Neither could be further from the truth, but those would be obvious examples of how we communicate through our appearance.
Of course, there is also the sinful side of a culture cue and how we communicate through appearance. For example, if someone said, “She dresses like a prostitute”, we would have a general idea of what that looks like. Now that may have looked different fifty years ago or if you were to travel to another country but in today’s culture, there is a way for women to dress that would communicate sexual availability or promiscuity.
Therefore, it is important for Christians to take this communication issue to heart and keep it in check. What are you telling others you value by your appearance? Is it what God values? What are you telling others you like to do by how you look? Is it spiritually appropriate or inappropriate? Often our appearance decisions are based on two simple steps, 1). Do I like it? 2). Does it look good on me? As Christians, we need to be adding one more step… What does God think about it? Does my appearance honor the Lord? Would I dress the same way if I were hanging out with Jesus? If not, then make the appropriate adjustments. If so, then go for it!
Obviously, this is a very subjective discussion with a lot of gray areas that will be continually changing. But as you and I start including God in our daily decision-making process, it will go a long way in making sure our appearance doesn’t miscommunicate our faith in a world that desperately needs Jesus.
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To watch a sermon on the topic, click here.