Tough Topics for Teens: The Clothes You Wear

Nurses wear scrubs, judges wear robes, and Christians wear. . .

If all God wanted was for us to be identifiable, He might have provided a “Christian uniform” in Scripture. But there is no “dress code” in the Bible that says we cannot wear buttons, zippers, or polyester. Instead, we find principles for the first believers in A.D. 100 that still work for young believers in the 21st century. These principles apply in every culture, climate, and circumstance.

Appearance is one of the most difficult issues for Christian teenagers, especially sisters. What you wear may determine whether your friends compliment you or criticize you. To make the pressure greater, you are bombarded with advertisements in every media showing the latest styles and fads.

Often, clothing becomes a battleground with parents and older believers who send the message (perhaps unintentionally) that “modern is worldly.” But a new style in itself is not wrong because it is new any more than an old style is right because it is old. Plenty of old and new styles do not fit within the guidelines of Scripture.

Also, just because everyone is wearing a certain type of clothing, does not make it automatically right. All teenagers want to fit in and be accepted. However, right and wrong are never determined by what is popular, what the “stars” wear, or what is fashionably “in.” The only safe grounds for your decisions are the principles found in the Bible. God cares greatly about your appearance, which is why He has given plenty of instruction about clothing in His Word. For example, “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” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Who will want to find biblical guidance on dress and appearance?

Christian women! Generally, women notice appearance more, are responsible for the clothing of their children, and face a greater challenge in finding clothing within Biblical guidelines. More specifically, though, the Bible gives instruction to “women professing godliness.” The Spirit assumes that a teenage sister will want to be as godly or Christ-like as possible. Therefore, she practices “good works” that show out her profession. In other words, to say you are a believer and not act like one would be inconsistent. Perhaps, every teen should stop and ask, “Do I want to be godly? Does my practice match my profession?”

Then, Paul adds the third component of the godly life … presentation or appearance. Your clothes and appearance should confirm, not conflict, with your profession and practice of showing forth the character and values of the Lord Jesus.

Hypocrisy is horrible! You could profess to be a Christian and not act or dress like one. Or, you could profess to be a believer and look like one and yet not act like one. Sometimes, there is far too much judgment based on appearance. One of the great dangers is to think you are spiritual because you have your appearance in line with Scripture, when in truth, your heart, attitudes, and life are far from it. Our world wants reality and God expects you to be consistent in profession, practice, and presentation!

How can Christian teens select appropriate clothing?

I. The Guide of Gender: “that men … that women” 

In Genesis 1, God made a distinction between males and females. He gave them different bodies, emotions, skills, and responsibilities. Because this distinction is important to God, Satan works to erase it from Eden (Genesis 3) to the end (Revelation 9:7-8). He even worked to confuse the roles of the two genders in Corinth, prompting Paul to write 1 Corinthians 11-14. So when you pick out your clothes, remember, if you’re a Christian male, try to look as masculine as possible. If you are a female, show that you appreciate your gender by presenting yourself as feminine as possible.

Challenge: Will these clothes confirm my gender?

II. The Mandate To Modesty: “Modest apparel with shamefacedness and sobriety”

Fashion designers have long understood the power of clothes to incite lust in others, especially men. As you take clothes off the hanger or out of the drawer tomorrow morning, ask yourself, how are these clothes going to affect the opposite sex? The Bible would hardly condone doing anything to tempt or stumble another. The world may say, “Skin is in!” but God wants you to have dignity and self-control. Don’t let your appearance keep the thoughts of others from being drawn to the Lord in a prayer meeting or in a park.

Challenge: Will these clothes cause lust in others?

III. The Order of Ostentation: “not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”

Of course, God wants you to look the best you can! The word “adorn” is a form of the word “cosmos” that suggests orderly arrangement just as God has done in creation. However, to put gold in your hair, jewelry around your neck, or make-up on your face so that heads spin, mouths drop, and envy seethes is problematic. Ostentation is where you draw attention to yourself because of riches, style, or elegance. Similarly, there could be an equal vanity and pride of drawing attention to self because of out-of-date clothing. The point is, how will my clothes affect others? If I am going to make them notice my wealth, status, or style, my appearance is drawing them to me, not to Christ.

Challenge: Will these clothes draw the attention of others?

IV. The Sieve of Situation “All men pray everywhere…in like manner also, that women”

Where you are going and who will be there will also determine your dress. When Peter was fishing, he suddenly dove for his fishing coat when he realized the Lord Jesus was present. 1 Timothy 2 gives instructions for assembly prayer meetings. Obviously, the Lord is there as we engage in reverent communication with the King of kings. How you dress will and should vary whether you are at home, in a job interview, at a meeting, or swimming in a lake. The people present, the place, and the purpose of the event will affect your choice of clothes. Obviously, what is modest or ostentatious in one situation may not be in another.

Challenge: Will these clothes be appropriate for this circumstance?

Although God gives instruction to women, let young men also apply the same principles to their wardrobes. The Bible principles for a teenage sister are to be as feminine as she can, as orderly as she can, as modest as she can, and as unnoticed as she can, given the situation. Every day and every event require new evaluation. So now, the choices and challenges are yours with the Clothes that You Wear.