Christians should dress soberly, restraining any desire to exhibit themselves by wearing eye-catching clothes, cosmetics, or jewelry. This principle is found in Paul’s use of the term sophrosune—“soberly,“—to describe appropriate Christian adorning (1 Tim 2:9). We have found that the term denotes a mental attitude of self-control, an attitude that determines all other virtues. Paul recognized that self-control is indispensable for a Christian to be able to dress modestly and decently. The reason is that modest and decent attire derives from the exercise of self-control.
Paul pictures the converted Christian woman as one who dresses soberly by restraining her desire to exhibit herself through wearing elaborate hair styles, gold, pearls, or expensive clothes (1 Tim 2:9). Her appearance does not say, ‘Look at me; admire me,’ but rather, “Look at how Christ has changed me from the inside out.” A Christian woman who has been freed from the abiding concern to be the object of admiration will not be afraid to wear the same dress too often, if it is well-made, conservative, and wears well.
The apostle’s call to dress soberly by shunning elaborate hair styles, glittering jewelry, and extravagant clothes is particularly relevant today, when fashion reigns supreme and many worship at her altar. Ellen White reminded us that “those who worship at fashion’s altar have but little force of character . . . . They live for no greater purpose, and their lives accomplish no worthy end. We meet everywhere women whose mind and heart are absorbed in their love of dress and display. The soul of womanhood is dwarfed and belittled, and her thoughts are centered upon her poor, despicable self.”3
Paul’s admonition to restrain the desire to buy or wear “expensiveclothes” (1 Tim 2:9) also points to the practice of Christian stewardship. Expenditures that go beyond our means are incompatible with the Christian principle of stewardship. Even if we can afford to buy expensive clothes, we cannot afford to waste the means that God has given us at a time when there are many crying needs to reach the unreached with the gospel and to help the needy.
“Practice economy,” Ellen White wrote, ” in your outlay of means for dress. Remember that what you wear is constantly exerting an influence upon those with whom you come in contact. Do not lavish upon yourselves means that is greatly needed elsewhere. Do not spend the Lord’s money to gratify a taste for expensive clothing.”