How Should a Woman Dress to Go to Church?

16 Mar

I Timothy 2:9, 10, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

It strikes me as odd that the above passage has been used in two opposite ways as a proof text for what women should wear to church!

One side says that it forbids expensive clothing and jewelry and therefore confirms that a woman should dress by the standards of her time (i.e., jeans nowadays) to go to church.

The other side says that it calls for us to give God our best effort and to avoid immodesty.  This side believes that women should only wear skirts or dresses to church, avoiding anything too snug, too lowcut or with too high of a hem.  

While the Bible does have things to say elsewhere about all attire (and specifically about women’s attire), this passage concerns reverence for God being expressed in women’s dress.  The word translated in the KJV as “shamefacedness” is elsewhere translated “reverence.”  It has to do with the principle of doing whatever we do as unto a Holy God.  That idea is also expressed elsewhere in Scripture.

If we are dressing as unto our Holy God, we will not dress in a way that attracts undue attention to ourselves.  That is why we will avoid wearing the Hope Diamond or something made of so much solid gold that we would not be able to accidentally lay it down for a minute and be confident it would not be stolen.

We don’t want to distract our fellow worshippers with competition, or even with covetousness.

However, in an era when almost every American woman owns some nice pieces of jewelry, these verses do not teach against the use of jewelry, per se.

They do not teach against spending $100 on a dress in an era when the average price of a dress is $100.  

They do not teach that women who only shop at thrift shops are allowed to feel superior to women who buy their clothes new.  Or vice versa.    

They do not teach that it is inherently superior to dress like the hipsters do, living in jeans 24/7.

They teach dressing as unto a Holy God.  Only that.

Coming at this from the other side, these verses do not teach that every woman should only wear dresses and skirts for worship, let alone for every occasion 24/7.  

That is a preference.  One that I possess, although I do own four pairs of jeans and wear them on the occasions when our workteam works outside. 

What we should get, more than anything from these verses, is the idea that we are worshipping a Holy God and that our dress should reflect our hearts, pure and modest before Him.

Going into worship while judging the attire of those around us is kind of a contradiction in terms.

In God’s sight, we all lack holiness and need to be humble.  

There is not one superior way to dress before Him, as long as dress is modest.

There are only  preferences.   

If this lady who loves dresses and skirts acknowledges that, I suggest that we all look at the Scriptures and see what they are compelling our hearts to do!

Love one another, in spite of our different preferences in dress.  

God would be so pleased!!!


One Response to “How Should a Woman Dress to Go to Church?”

  1. Mary Gardner Martin April 24, 2014 at 6:08 PM #

    Reblogged this on iconobaptist and commented:

    Updating an old post that I wrote.
    The two positions I noted among others were: 1) avoiding extremes, dress to match the society you inhabit (with modesty, being a given) or 2) dress up, as though going to a formal occasion (because many regard church as a formal occasion).
    I only add one thing, from my story of having ballooned to over 260 pounds by way of chemotherapy/steroids and my own gluttony, then losing 110 pounds and keeping them off for sixteen months thus far.
    It is this: many heavy women cover up as though they were Muslim women in burqhas. When I was big, I had a lot of tent dresses that not only were long, but were big in every direction.
    There is nothing inherently virtuous in tent dresses. There is nothing inherently virtuous in being overweight and embarrassed about it to the point that you hide your body. I realize not all overweight people get that way due to gluttony, but I did. There was nothing inherently virtuous in that. Quite the opposite.
    On the other hand, there is nothing inherently evil in dressing well. As long as a woman is not showing her breasts or thighs, or wearing something skintight, she should be given the benefit of being treated as a virtuous woman.
    I say that because I have become aware of a legalistic subset among those who believe that women should wear always wear dresses to church, if not 24/7. That mindset wants to take a tapemeasure to a woman’s skirt to ensure, for instance, that it does not ride up above the knee under any circumstances.
    I bought a dress online that is a small but is baggy nonetheless. When I put a silver belt on it, it went from being at my knee to moving an inch above my knee when I walk. And I find myself wary of those legalists among us who would take away my virtuous woman badge until I should throw that brandnew dress away.
    My thought: I was far more selfish and proud when I was stuffing my face with everything I wanted to eat than I am now, when my dress occasionally flutters above my knee when I walk. Really!
    And . . . if a man is noticing that one inch difference when I walk . . . well, even a burqha would not align his heart in the direction it needs to go.

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