by Janet Treadway

Some people think clothes don't matter or that it makes little difference how they wear their hair. The Bible says differently. Read this article to find out how and why.

Recently I read a story about a man standing off to the side, in front of a church, dressed in baggy, torn clothes, unshaven and very unkempt. As the members went into the church, they had to pass this man. Not one member stopped to greet the man. All ignored him and looked the other way. The next week the pastor announced that he was the man who had been in front of the church the previous week, dressed in old clothes!

The minister then read James 2:2-4: “For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”

Perhaps we have read this scripture before and know that we are not to favor the rich over the poor. But why did God inspire this scripture to be in the Bible? The previous illustration makes it clear that while God looks inside, at everyone's heart, we humans are generally only able to judge others by what we see.

Because this example teaches us that we need to be careful not to assume we know others' character based on their appearance, some people don't think it matters how they appear to others. If someone says something about another's appearance, an angry retort often comes back saying, "Don't judge me! Who are you to decide how I should dress, wear my hair or appear to others? God doesn't care how I look because He looks on the heart!"


What such individuals don't realize is that God does care. Many are seemingly ignorant of the Bible's teaching that, while we are not to show favoritism because of judging others' appearance, we must be concerned about the impression we give others by our own appearance. As 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil"

Similarly, in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, which represents God inviting people to the wedding of His Son, God throws out a guest who didn't come dressed in proper attire. As verses 11-13 explain, “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Why is our appearance so important? Simply because the way we look says something about us. It often reflects to others what we really believe. Of course, our actions do this as well.


To see how people respond to a person's appearance, John T. Molloy, author of Dress for Success, panhandled money around the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station in New York City. His approach was to stop people and say that he was terribly embarrassed, but he had left his wallet at home and needed 75 cents to get home. He did this for two hours during the rush hour. During the first hour he wore a suit, but no tie; for the second hour he wore the same suit, but added a necktie. In the first hour he made $7.23, but in the second, with his tie on, he made $26, and one man even gave him extra money to buy a newspaper.

His conclusion? "No question then: The tie is a symbol of respectability and responsibility; it communicates to other people who you are, or reinforces or detracts from their conception of who you should be".

After conducting hundreds of studies, experiments and tests over a period of years, Mr. Molloy concluded that what a person wears is directly related to the success he will have in life. Of clothing in general, he concludes: "We all wear uniforms and our uniforms are clear and distinct signs of class. We react to them accordingly" (p. 29).

The clothes we wear do say something about us! They openly reveal our attitudes - toward ourselves (self-esteem), toward others (relationships), toward our work (its importance) and toward God (reverence or lack of reverence toward Him). Immodest clothing is a dead giveaway of a person with loose morals or someone who does not know God's views. What we wear indicates the importance we attach to what we are doing.


Women will often spend several hundred dollars (or more) on a wedding dress because this is a very special occasion and one she wants to treasure for the rest of her life. The care and time she puts into her hair, dress, flowers, bridesmaid’s dresses and the groom's attire speak volumes about how important that occasion is to her. If she decided to come in jeans and a halter top, that would change the whole mood of the occasion.

So what do your clothes say about you? What does your clothing say to those around you? What message are you sending? Do your clothes reveal an attitude of indifference or a sense of responsibility, of modesty or of temptation, of respect or of disrespect, of carelessness (sloppy dress advertises a careless person) or of dependability, of honesty or of dishonesty?

Every Christian lives in a "window" before the world and is responsible to properly represent the principles set forth in the Scriptures. This is true for all men and women regardless of their age.


Girls who want to reflect the Christian value of modesty should be aware of their bodies and how they project themselves to others. As 1 Peter 3:3-6 explains, "holy women" are concerned about the inner person and their outward appearance and conduct. Godly women should be modest in their dress.

The word modest means "having a sense of shame or reverence" and indicates soberness and soundness of mind - that of down-to-earth, sensible, considerate people. Modesty refers primarily to a genuine personal concern about the response your dress and behavior produce in the heart and mind of another person. A godly woman's clothing should properly cover her body (Genesis 3:21) in such a way (fashion) as to cause no problems in the thoughts of the men around her. Tight-fitting, revealing or suggestive clothing on a woman can advertise loose morals, poor taste or immaturity and send the wrong message to the opposite sex.

Young men should also be modest. Their bodies ought to be properly covered in the presence of others. Clothing should not suggest immoral behavior via pictures, slogans, or tight fit. In the prevailing moral climate of our day, we must be aware that the homosexual world thrives on tight-fitting, suggestive men's clothing.


Although styles come and go, in general, men usually have shorter hair than women and women usually have longer hair than men. In the United States in the 1960s many young men began wearing their hair long as a symbol of their rebellion against authority (something God hates, see 1 Samuel 15:23 and Romans 13:1).

Later, the unisex look (same hair styles and length) became popular. This effort attempted to blur the differences God created in the human race in making us male and female (Genesis 1:27). To respect this difference, God taught ancient Israel that “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)

How sad that so many people today seem more interested in self-expression via their clothes and their hair lengths than they are in God's perspective.

In 1 Corinthians 11, we find the New Testament Church of the first century A.D. continuing to respect God's distinction of the sexes via shorter hair on men than on women. As verses 14-16 explain, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”

If we are going to be godly men and women, we need to be mindful of God's outlook on our appearance. We should be more interested in His perspective than having what is popular - especially if the current style is disrespectful to God.


While deciding what is appropriate in dress and hair length can sometimes be difficult, consider asking yourself the following questions to help decide what to do:

  • Does my clothing say that I am committed to serving God and living the example that Jesus Christ set for all of us?
  • Does my clothing say that I respect those around me and myself?
  • Is my clothing consistent with the importance I attach to my life (God's creation) and my body (God's dwelling place)? We are God's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our worship of and service to God are far more important than anything else we do. Do I give others that distinct impression by my appearance? What about the clothing I wear to church?
  • Does my hair length clearly identify me as a male or female, respecting the way God created me?

How we dress affects every aspect of our lives, including our friends, our family, our career, our success in life and most of all our relationship with God.

Some may want to know if I understand what it is like to be a teen and have conflicts with adults on how to dress? Yes, I do. When I was a teen, mini skirts were in style. That was the only length that the girls wore. But the rule for me was two inches below the knee. I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Fortunately, things are different today. The current wide variation in styles allows young people to pick and choose and still remain modest and fit in.

Have you heard the expression, "What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say"? The standard for Christians is excellence (Philippians 1:10). We must give God the very best in our appearance.

So what does your appearance say to others? More importantly, what does it say to God?