What is the appropriate dress code for Christian women in the United States living in a very sexualized culture? There is much debate among the Christian community on what is appropriate, but what does the Bible say about it?
The Bible provides quite a bit of guidance to Christian women on how we should care for ourselves, but as I read the various verses, my bigger take away isn’t simply a bulleted list of Do’s and Don’ts, which is what I was initially looking for.
My bigger takeaway is that inner AND outer beauty are mutually INCLUSIVE.
Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
In other words, our body is a temple of God and it must be honored because it’s where He wants to dwell – in our hearts, in our soul.
Samuel 16:7 says, “…For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Meaning, a Christlike spirit is preferred over a lot of make-up, blingy jewelry, or revealing clothing.
In Paul’s address to the church at Corinth, he focuses on ethical and doctrinal problems that had arisen in the church since he first planted it some years before. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
Because God made us in His image, and as born again Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, our bodies are a temple to be honored and taken care of. Paul wasn’t referring to a physical destruction of our bodies. He was referring to a spoiling of. In Greek text, the words “destroy” and “defile” are the same, meaning “spoil” or “ruin” instead of “annihilate”.
I’m not a Biblical scholar by any means, but I do believe inner beauty and outer beauty come in a particular order, with inner beauty needing to come first, and they are mutually inclusive.
There are many women who focus simply on outer beauty: the makeup, the hair, the clothing, the jewelry, and physical body image. I'm certainly guilty of this! These are important, and the Bible states such, but oftentimes when we find ourselves focusing on these first, our inner beauty can take a beating and we can have poor self-esteem – even when we look amazing on the outside.
If we focus on the outside for the wrong reasons, then our inner spirit will no doubt be lacking.
There is no beauty regimen or latest cute and trendy high fashion that will mask an unattractive heart, hurtful actions, or unkind words.
Therefore, I believe focusing on our inner beauty first is essential and will always shine outward for others to see. Some women shine softer than others which should be CELEBRATED, depending on where their walk lies with the Lord, but there is still a shine and those around WILL see it.
"For the things in his heart, so is he..." Proverbs 23:7
The longer and stronger God dwells in our inner home, meaning our heart and soul, the brighter Jesus shines through us into the things we do and say. Our heart encompasses mind, emotions, and will, so what is nurtured internally is ultimately evidenced externally.
A woman’s countenance is often a reflection of her heart and what she is feeling inwardly. When the Holy Spirit dwells within us, our features tend to soften, the lines lessen, and a joy radiates from our eyes.
1Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the site of God.” Clearly, inner beauty is important to God.
But what does the Bible say about outward beauty? Is it a sin to wear makeup, dye our hair, or wear expensive clothes?
The Bible doesn’t explicitly say no. Instead, there are verses that support the WHY. Meaning, why do we dress the way we do? What's the motivation?
Many women in the Bible, such as Sarah, Rebekah, Abigail, Bathsheba, Rachel, and Esther, are noted for their beautiful appearance. Esther even had a beauty regimen and was in a beauty pageant, leading to her becoming Queen Esther. And as the story goes, she played a crucial role in saving the Jews. She was beautiful, yes, but also courageous, self-sacrificing, clever, and loved God with all her heart.
Having been gifted outward natural beauty by God is never a sin. A Christian woman’s appearance should be a compliment to her inner spirit. It should never be a hindrance to the kingdom of God.
What are your motives in how you dress? Do you prefer modest and stylish clothing that any modern day Christian woman can wear?
- Are we wearing that midi red linen dress with smokey eyes to the local bar to get some free drinks and flirty compliments?
- Or are we wearing a red linen maxi summer dress with sandals and gold necklace when we go to church?
- Are we wearing that tight blue low cut spandex top to our friend’s 40th birthday bash to show how great our girls on top still look?
- Or are we wanting to feel good in our new blue wide leg Palazzo pants with an orange floral cotton puff sleeve top with the new peach lipstick we just bought to show we still take care of ourselves?
- Are we wearing those black skin tight pleather pants encouraging the guys at the grocery store to look at our bootylicious backside?
- Or are we shooting to look nice, not like we just rolled out of bed in the fruit aisle looking for apples in baggy PJ pants?
As Christian women I don’t believe we should focus so much on WHAT specifically we can and can’t wear, but rather ask ourselves if how we look is stumbling others.
Are we trying to get male attention (and who cares which male)? Or trying to make other women jealous because we look better than they do?
God looks at the heart, so why are we dressing the way we are?
Appropriate attire is important because as Christian women we are representing Christ. And in a world that is incredibly “judgy” these days, our actions, words, and modest appearance all reflect on how we regard Christ. But go back to motive and ask "why".
Here are some guidelines that are important to build beauty within that will radiate outward, and that allow for dressing nice and wearing makeup:
- Our body is God’s temple, so dress modest to show respect for the temple He’s given us.
- Jesus must always be revealed in our dressing, so let’s ask ourselves what the motive is for wearing that blouse, those pants, or shorts.
- We don’t want to lead another to sin, nor to stumble another man, or make another man covet us.
- It’s not fair to force another man to look at our assets, so let’s not tempt them.
- It’s also not nice to make another woman jealous, so let’s just stop that.
- Because the world pushes to expose the temple of God (our bodies) with nudity and sexual indecency, let’s take another look at our closet and see if anything fits this world view – if it does, toss it.
- Dress to please our husband so he knows we are attentive and care for his needs.
- What the world thinks of us really doesn’t matter, but what Jesus thinks DOES.
- For those women gifted with natural outer beauty, don’t hide it but do show it tastefully.
- Let’s take care of ourselves and not be lazy with our appearance as it is a reflection of our inner spirit.
- Modest dress is not exclusive to going to church – let’s be confident Christian women, tastefully so.
- Boost our self-worth by seeking Him in our walk, not by showing off our body in that tiny little dress that looks great on the mannequin.
- Teach the next generation modesty – don’t wear a cute new tube top to church with your pierced belly button showing - even if service is in a parking lot because of Covid – yes, saw this one a couple of weeks ago at church, no joke.
Remember, our beauty isn’t dependent on outer appearance but instead is gained with the balance of embodying Christ’s love and taking care of God’s handiwork within us.