Principles of Righteousness -- what does that mean? It means the important parts of righteous behavior, or commands that we are given. Sometimes we view these principles as limits to what we can do, or burdensome rules we must obey. How much better and pleasing to God if we see these principles as loving guidance from one who wants the best for us, as well as a chance for us to show our joy and love to our heavenly father by following them. Psalms 35:27 illustrates this thought for us, "Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant."
To magnify the Lord with joy, each principle of righteousness should be embraced and gladly made a consistent part of our lives. One part of our conduct that God has lovingly given us guidance on is our clothing. How we dress? Can that really be important?
On even a natural level, we can see that the way people dress says a lot about them. Someone interviewing for a prestigious job is careful to dress in a way that says they are tidy, respectful, and business-like. Someone going to a wedding is careful to dress in a way that shows they realize that marriage is a special occasion. The rich often dress in a way that shows their wealth and position. The rebellious like to dress in a way to shock others. The prostitutes dress in a way to show their bodies are open for use. The famous female entertainment stars often dress in a similar way, and just what does their dress say?
Maybe it is saying "Don't you just wish you could have me? Don't you just wish you could be like me"? And many guys do wish they could have her, and many girls do wish they could be just like her. Many girls dress with the same sense of immodesty, our society's standards of decent clothing go down, and we find that what should be shocking to us is common.
One of the most recent fashions designed to be showy and shocking is a new style of jeans that have a long slender horizontal opening under the beltline in the back, specifically to reveal some curving skin and cleavage from behind. Shocking today, yes! But five years from now, these may be just as common as some of the styles we see today that were shocking not long ago. Recently a 3 year old, pointing to a woman in a bikini, made the innocent observation: "Her naked!" How close to the truth he was. We've got to find a way to draw the line between correct and incorrect clothing, and it cannot be based on what is popular around us.
God graciously gives us help in this area of our conduct. First, we are not to spend a lot of time worrying about how we will get our basic needs of clothing and food. "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? "for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:31-33) If God does not wish us to fret over the basic needs of having some clothes to wear, how much less would He want us to strive to have the latest fashions of clothing, complete with all the accessories to match?
Next, let's look at some of the descriptions that God gives us for righteous clothing. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 tells us proper clothing for prayer and gives us plenty to think about; "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."
We are directed to clothe ourselves with modest apparel. This word, modest, may be the best and most important word to describe acceptable clothing. Modest here means decent, proper, moderate, and not showy. The opposite of modest is immodest. Its definitions name such words as forward, bold, excessive, vain, egoistic, boastful, pretentious, extravagant, ostentatious, irreverent. These are ugly words to describe some of the most popular "beauty" fashions of today.
We are instructed to dress with shamefacedness, which means with a sense of modesty, bashfulness, regard for others, and respect. This same original word is also translated as reverence in the Bible. When we learn to trust God's guidance in this aspect, we will be careful to wear only clothing that everyone in the room will see as modest.
Sobriety is the next word to describe proper clothing, which means using self control and moderation. We should be careful not to use clothing to make ourselves look more tempting. The marriage bed is undefiled, but everywhere else requires discretion.
The next three parts of the quoted scripture gives us examples of how not to dress. We are not to dress with broided hair. Broided means embroidered or braided. Surely this represents any excessive care, time, money, or effort spent to beautify our hair.
Then, we are commanded to refrain from dressing with gold or pearls. No definitions are needed here, though I'm sure the terms represent vain or costly jewelry of all kinds. Jewel-like buttons as well as metallic fabric would also fit the category. It is sometimes hard to think of such beautiful things as inappropriate, but we are to realize the true treasures are heavenly and are not displayed as body decorations.
And the next thing we are to be aware of is resisting costly array, or clothing. God's money that He has given to us as stewards should be carefully spent. Spending it to make us look more attractive or wealthy is money selfishly spent. Like all stewards, we will eventually have to give account to our master of how we spent His money.
The above quoted scripture concludes with the proper way to adorn ourselves: with good works. Once again we are reminded of true beauty. "for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7) Though it may be difficult at first to deny the fleshly desire to adorn ourselves by worldly standards, the spiritual standards will become more and more appreciated as we study and grow in God's Truth.
1 Peter 3:1-6 remind wives to be in subjection to their husbands and once again gives God's instructions on adornment. Adornment is defined as adding to the beauty of something, or dressing with ornaments. "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price..."
Another form of outward adornment that is very popular today is using make-up and nail polish. In a society which pressures us on every side to join the worldwide beauty competition and spend our part of the $20 billion dollars in American cosmetic sales, we may seem prudish and old-fashioned if we decline to join in. And just what is the definition of prudish? Prudish: excessively proper or modest in speech, conduct, dress, etc. Proper? Modest? These words sound familiar, don't they? The question we'll all have to come to terms with is this: Do we want to please God or mankind?
With all these helpful guidelines, we still can not find in the Bible a list of exact details for today's choices of clothing. We may wonder just how much cost is too much, how much skin is too much, and how tight is too tight. Some may try on a piece of clothing and wonder, is this acceptable? If you find yourself wondering, then it is probably not alright. Don't degrade yourself by making excuses and finding loopholes. Let God be magnified through the faithful obedience of his servants.
Let us keep in mind the whole point of the topic: decorate yourself on the inside by developing a spiritual attitude shown by good behavior. Do not decorate yourself on the outside other than with modest apparel in a way that will not attract attention to yourself or promote covetous thoughts among others.
And finally, I end with a note to mothers, grandmothers, Sunday school teachers, and any other sisters in a position to influence young minds. It is never too early to start teaching to the young ones the importance of proper dress. Of course the best teaching is a good example in our own behavior, but scriptural explanations can help lay the foundation that will have to be strong as the years go by.