Seven principles to Christian dressing

3 min


Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University

PRINCIPLE ONE: Dress and appearance are an important index of Christian character. Clothes and appearance are most powerful nonverbal communicators not only of our socioeconomic status, but also of our moral values. We are what we wear. This means that the outward appearance is an important index of Christian character. The Bible recognizes the importance of dress and ornaments as indicated by the numerous stories, allegories, and admonitions that we have found regarding appropriate and inappropriate adorning.[button color=”red” size=”medium” link=”https://amredeemed.com/blog/christian-living/principles-christian-dressing-1/” ]Read First Principle in Full [/button]

PRINCIPLE TWO: Adorning our bodies with colorful cosmetics, glittering jewelry, and luxurious clothes reveals inner pride and vanity, which are destructive to ourselves and to others. 

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PRINCIPLE THREE: To experience inner spiritual renewal and reconciliation with God, it is necessary to remove all outward besetting objects of idolatry, including jewelry and ornaments. We have found this truth expressed especially through the experience of Jacob’s family at Shechem and of the Israelites at Mount Horeb. In both instances ornaments were removed to effect reconciliation with God.

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PRINCIPLE FOUR: Christians should dress in a modest and decent way, showing respect for God, themselves, and others. This principle is found in Paul’s use of the terms kosmios and aidos—“well-ordered”and “decent”—to describe the appropriate adorning of the Christian woman (1 Tim 2:9). With reference to clothing, the terms mean that Christians must dress in a well-ordered, decorous, decent manner, without causing shame or embarrassment to God, themselves, or others.

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PRINCIPLE FIVE: 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.

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PRINCIPLE SIX: Wearing finger rings is not compatible with the Biblical principles of modesty; historically, they have tempted people to wear all kinds of jewelry. This principle is derived from the Biblical disapproval of wearing ornamental jewelry (1 Tim 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3-4; Gen 35:2-4; Ex 33:3-5). The only finger ring mentioned in the Bible several times is the signet ring (Jer 22:24; Gen 41:42; Esth 3:10, 12; Luke 15:22), which was used to seal various documents and contracts. The wearing of the signet ring is not condemned in the Bible, presumably because it was regarded as an instrument of authority rather than an ornament.

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PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Christians should respect gender distinctions in clothing by wearing clothes that affirm their male or female identities. This principle is plainly taught in the law found in Deuteronomy 22:5, which prohibits wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. We have found that the Bible attaches great importance to preserving gender distinctions in dress as well as in functional roles, because these are fundamental to our understanding of who we are and what role God wants us to fulfill.

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Conclusion. Clothes do not make a Christian, but Christians reveal their identity through their clothes and appearance. The Bible does not prescribe a standardized dress for Christian men and women to wear, but it calls us to follow the simplicity and unpretentiousness of Jesus’ lifestyle, even in our clothes and appearance.

To follow Jesus in our dress and adornment means to stand apart from the crowd by not painting up, jeweling up, and dolling up our bodies as do the rest. This takes courage. Courage not to conform to the seductive dictates of fashion, but to be transformed by the sensible directives of the Word of God (Rom 12:2). Courage to distinguish between the capricious mode that changes and the sensible style that remains. Courage to reveal the loveliness of Christ’s character, not by the external decoration of our bodies “with gold or pearls or expensive clothes” (1 Tim 2:9, NEB), but by the internal beautification of our souls with the graces of the heart, the gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in God’s sight (1 Pet 3:4). Courage to dress, not to glorify ourselves by wearing glittering jewelry and eye-catching clothes, but to glorify God by dressing modestly, decently, and soberly.

Our outward appearance is a constant silent witness of our Christian identity. May it always tell the world that we live to glorify God and not ourselves.

NOTES TO CHAPTER VII

1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, California, 1948), vol. 3, p. 376.

2. Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville, 1954), p. 415.

3. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, California, 1948),vol. 4, p. 644.

4. Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville, 1954), p. 421.

5. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, California, 1954), p. 180. 


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