By Johnny O. Trail — As the temperature rises the hem lines go up and the neck lines tend to plunge. While this is sometimes seen as a problem that is reflective in women’s fashion, it can also be a problem among men. In addition to the cut of the hems and the depth of the neck lines, the messages written on shirts and pants can be immoral in nature.
One of my earliest memories involved a trip to Nashville to visit an uncle who was dying of cancer in the Veteran’s Hospital. Since we were from Manchester, it was really easy for us to become lost as we navigated the large and confusing town of Nashville. Somehow or another, we ended up on lower Broad Street. In that day, prostitution was a problem in that area. There, on a street corner, were two women who were dressed rather strangely. From the back seat of our Chevrolet Impala I asked my parents, “Why are those women dressed that way?”
This trip to Nashville would have taken place in the mid to late seventies. I will never forget the complete silence that prevailed in the car. My mother and father did not know what to say, because the women standing on the corner were prostitutes. How do you tell a small boy about such a profession? Well, you do not, and they did not!
Nevertheless, that memory stands out in my mind to this very day. If you were to take some of the “fashion” that people wear in our age and place it on a woman in the mid-seventies, it would be completely inappropriate to wear out in public. Our morals have become greatly deficient over the last several decades.
We must endeavor to emphasize the proper aspects of our being. Whatever we do in life should bring glory to God. One who is beautiful on the inside will naturally be beautiful on the outside.
When Saul was selected to serve as a captain over the people and later a king, he was head and shoulders taller than the other people (I Samuel 9.2). For better or worse, human beings tend to gravitate towards people who are outwardly attractive.
As Saul lost favor with God for making unauthorized sacrifices and for general disobedience to God’s commands (I Samuel 15.26-28), God told Samuel to travel to Bethlehem and the household of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel. Samuel did as he was commanded.
Upon reviewing all of the sons of Jesse, Samuel thought he found God’s anointed in Eliab. He was evidently a tall, striking young man—kingly in nature and appearance. Still, God was not interested in his appearance as much as he was interested in his character. I Samuel 16.6-7 says,
“And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, surely the LORD’S anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: forthe LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
These events should impress upon the reader one major point—God is interested in a person’s heart. We have emphasized the outward appearance of a person too much in our society. Certain psychological disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are centered on an individual’s self-image. While most of the world is worried about its next meal, some in our culture are starving themselves to look like a model that they see on the cover of a magazine or in a movie.
Moreover, body image is not just a problem with women. Young men want to have a striking physical appearance, so they can impress their friends and potential dating partners. To this end, they have endeavored to modify their appearance when no change was needed. What kind of body image are we imposing upon our men and women when we underscore Hollywood as the normal standard? Such concepts are not realistic, moral, or “normal.”
Still, what we are wearing (or not wearing) matters. Clearly, Adam and Eve understood they were not dressed appropriately when their eyes were opened to good and evil. Genesis 3.6-7 says,
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
While God wants people to focus on what is inside of them, what we wear (or do not wear) tends to reflect something about us. It is an external reflection of and internal conviction. By and large, we dress in the manner in which we want to be treated. We sometimes “dress for the occasion.” One showing up for a job interview tends to wear his or her best clothing. A person wearing revealing clothing gives off the wrong message to potential employers and people with worldly mindsets.
As children of God, we want our purity to be exhibited in our conduct and manner of dress. Philippians 4.8 says,
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Does it demonstrate purity for a person to wear clothes that have an impure message on them? The fact of the matter is that Christians should refrain from wearing clothes that advertise things such as beer, tobacco, sexuality, profanity, or illicit drugs.
Purity is about you. It is not necessarily about the other person. God wants us to be pure in manner and dress for our own soul’s sake. Over time, various caustic statements have been made to preachers who deliver sermons about dressing modestly. One that has been echoed through the years by people who wear revealing clothing is “Well, they should not be looking!” When one considers the logic of such a statement it is utterly incomprehensible that a reasonable person would make such an argument. Does a person wear revealing clothing so the will not be noticed?! In reality they want a person to look at them!
These things having been said, we need to be careful about where we allow our minds to wander. Our thoughts matter! Jesus said in Matthew 5.27-28,
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
While a man should not be looking upon a woman to “lust after her,” she should not be giving him the opportunity to look at her in a lustful sort of way. The opposite might be said of a man as well—going shirtless, wearing pants so the underwear can be seen. These practices can create inappropriate thoughts also.