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Is wearing makeup a sin? Is wearing jewelry a sin? Are there certain hairstyles and clothing styles that are inappropriate for Christian women? These are the questions we are going to answer in this post.
The Bible is not an infallible book. It contains documents that were written by imperfect human beings. As a result, some of the teachings and conclusions we find people drawing in the Bible are, well, wrong.
Let’s talk about the apostle Paul. The man had some great qualities. Being a perfect theologian wasn’t one of them. Like every teacher in the Church, Paul had his blind spots when it came to understanding how God works. When it comes to deciding for God how He can work through women in the Church, Paul does an abominable job. With a few swift strokes of his pen, Paul announces that women should be banned from ever taking the role of teaching men in the Church.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Tim. 2:12-15)
Here we find a highly respected man intentionally mangling Scriptures to suit his own carnal agenda. Where does Paul get off telling women to sit down and shut up? How dare he suggest that the Holy Spirit would never preach or lead through a woman? HE’S BEEN DOING IT FOR CENTURIES and Paul knows this. There were plenty of prophetesses running around in the Old Testament, and they were preaching and speaking to both men and women. The Jews were definitely a male-dominated society. This hardly stopped God. He will speak through anyone He wants whenever He wants and if men like Paul feel threatened by this, they can just lump it.
This rot that Paul brings up about Eve is more idiocy. The man is trying to suggest that God thinks men are better than women because He made Adam first. Really?? He made the sun and the moon before Adam, so does that mean He likes celestial bodies more than humans? What kind of ridiculous logic is Paul using here? If you’ve been taught that God thinks you’re somehow inferior to men because you were fashioned from a rib, then you need to think again.
So if Paul was to actually read the Scriptures he is mangling, he’d discover that Adam and Eve were TOGETHER for that famous fruit sampling moment.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen. 3:6)
Paul’s attempt to stick some extra blame onto Eve is utterly unfounded. How dare he try and change the judgment which God Himself made? Do we find God putting extra blame on Eve? NO, WE DON’T. We find God angry at Adam, Eve, and the snake. All three of them get blamed, and all three of them get cursed. Eve isn’t told she’s extra horrible, because God looks on the heart, not at the anatomy, and He saw that both Adam and Eve were willfully defying Him.
So then, in this passage from 1 Timothy, Paul is being a mouthpiece for Satan. He’s promoting theology that is absolutely wrong, and he is instructing young Timothy to do the same. Nice. Now we can have another man going around telling women how God wouldn’t use them.
Whenever Satan speaks, damage is done, and this passage in 1 Timothy has been used for years as an excuse to try and block women who are legitimately called by God from serving Him in the Church. Well, when we decide to listen to Satan instead of God, we reap the consequences.
But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Tim. 2:15)
What on earth does this mean? Women are saved through childbearing? No, they’re not. They’re saved by grace through the atoning work of Christ. And don’t miss the “if” statement. Love how Paul tags on a bunch of extras that fertile women have to do in order to keep their salvation. This from the same man who told us:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
One minute Paul is laying down some great truths. The next minute he’s spinning off absolute rot. You can’t just believe everything you read in the Book, ladies. You have to THINK and you have to PRAY to the Holy Spirit, otherwise you’re going to come away with some very damaging conclusions about how God views you.
So then, moving past the idiocy of Paul who suggests that if you can’t bear children, you’re going to Hell (good grief)–let’s talk about how God actually views you.
GOD & WOMEN
God thinks women are fantastic. He designed the genders to beautifully complement each other, not compete with each other. What do you value more: your sight or your hearing? How can you really compare these two senses? They are both essential in different ways. God cherishes both genders equally. Does He speak through women? Of course He does. Does He find you less useful than a man? Certainly not. Will He call men and women to do different things? Yes, because of anatomical differences, not because of spiritual abilities.
It’s very interesting to note that Yahweh did not allow women to function as priests in His Temple. Why not? Because they couldn’t physically handle it. How long would you last dragging around bull carcasses all day? Not as long as a man. Running the sacrificial system was extremely labor intensive, exhausting work. Even men weren’t allowed to work in the Temple past the age of 50 and they couldn’t start until 25. So before you read too much into the fact that Yahweh excluded women from the priesthood, realize that the wives and daughters of priests were invited to share in certain portions of sacrificed meat, plus the women were able to support their men in sewing the priestly clothes as well as the fabrics for the Temple. The wives and daughters of priests also benefited from the tithes that the Levites collected. So did God exclude women from participating in His sacred work? Certainly not, He just assigned them tasks that they could physically handle.
When it came to tasks that were less physically demanding—such as speaking for God—women were just as equipped as men, and so God called them to function as His prophets, judges, and teachers. This is a very important distinction to make: in the areas that matter most—spiritual insight and wisdom—God has always treated both genders equally. Women are not spiritually inferior to men in any way.
Now what does all this have to do with makeup and clothes? Well, we have to realize that the verses which are being used today to tell women it’s a sin to use foundation are coming from the same guy who said God couldn’t preach through us and that we’re saved through childbirth. So given how idiotically Paul is talking in this passage, should we just swallow everything he has to say about makeup and jewelry without even thinking? No, we shouldn’t.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Now if we run amuck with this verse—which many do—we will conclude that it’s some kind of evil to put on a string of pearls or walk around with a diamond wedding ring. But of course this is not true. Paul has clearly had some bad experiences with obnoxious women, which is why he has so much to say on the topic of keeping women restrained and controlled.
Now in Paul’s culture, everyone wore dresses (which are known as tunics when a man is wearing them). Pants weren’t a concept yet. If we want to get ridiculous—which we do—we could use this cultural fact to say that it is a sin for women to wear pants today because the women of Paul’s day didn’t wear pants. Fine, but let’s tell the rest of the story. The men in Paul’s day all wore dresses, so if we’re going to play cultural context games, we should all be running around in nightgowns. But of course in real life, God likes cultural diversity, which is why we find so much variation happening in styles of clothing around the world. Some groups still have both genders running around in dresses, but other groups have switched both genders over to pants. Does God care? No, He doesn’t. There’s nothing feminine or masculine about a particular style of clothing—these things are culturally defined and cultures are constantly changing. If you live in a culture where only men wear pants and you put on a pair of pants, you are going to make people uncomfortable and you are going to compromise your witness. But does this mean it is always wrong to push for change? No, it doesn’t. With God, heart attitude is what matters.
God created the genders to have complimentary differences. Because of this, Satan pushes hard for a unisex mindset. If you’re putting on pants and chopping your hair short so you can look like a man, then God will have a problem with what you’re doing. God does not like cross-dressing.
A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God. (Deut. 22:5)
It’s interesting to note that God laid down this law in a day when everyone wore tunics. Clearly the issue of cross-dressing is not about a certain cut of clothes, it is about heart attitude. WHY are you putting on clothes that your culture defines as belonging to the male gender? Are you just trying to be comfortable or are you trying to misrepresent your own gender? When we intentionally set out to blur the lines between male and female, we are displeasing God. But a man and a woman can be wearing the same style of clothes and still be very clear on the differences between them. Just because everyone is wearing pants and everyone has short hair does not mean everyone is trying to push a satanic unisex agenda.
You should dress in a way that makes it immediately obvious whether you are a man or a woman. You should not be trying to downplay your gender or trying to imitate men so that you can be accepted as one of them. You are not a man, you are a woman, and God wants you to embrace the gender He has given you.
When we accept Satan’s unisex agenda, we end up with all kinds of problems. We start pretending men and women have no differences between them, we deny the different lusts and temptations that each gender struggles with and we start combining men and women in situations where they should be kept separate. Should a male police officer have a female partner in the field? No, he should not. Spending countless hours in a car with a woman who is not his wife is bound to lead to problems. Should a male pastor counsel a woman alone behind a closed door with no witnesses around? No, he shouldn’t. Should male and female soldiers be bunking together on naval ships? No, they shouldn’t. The genders are NOT the same, and their differences should be respected. But as long as we’re respecting differences, let’s not be making up differences that don’t really exist. Women are NOT inferior to men intellectually or spiritually.
God wants Christian women to dress modestly. There are several reasons for this. One of the main reasons is that the genders are NOT the same. In general, men are far more visual than women. This means that their fight to keep a pure mind is made exponentially harder when you come along thrusting your chest and butt in their faces. God commands us to RESPECT each other. One of the main ways that we show respect for men is by keeping our bodies modestly covered. Modest means “more than the average woman does in my particular culture.” If you live in America, this means putting on a shirt that fully covers your midriff and having a neckline that is closer to your neck than it is to your breasts. If you can’t bend over and pick something up off the ground without giving your brother in Christ a faceful of cleavage, then you are dishonoring him and being a handy tool for Satan to try and drag him down. Why would we want to go around tearing down our brothers in the Lord? Do we want our men to treat us with respect? Of course we do. We don’t want to be viewed as cheap sex toys. We want to be valued for our character, not just our curves. Given all of this, we need to help men focus on the things that matter by not leveraging their hormones against them. When you go around with painted on pants, crotch level shorts, see through shirts, and well defined underwear, you are only tempting men to view you as something you are not. Women like to fuss and complain about their men not treating them with respect, while at the same time pretending that they have no responsibility in making that happen. We do have responsibility. By now we’ve all had time to be educated by God on how men are wired differently than us. We have had to time to figure out that our partially naked bodies are irresistible eye candy for them. So then, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON. This isn’t rocket science, ladies. If you were hobbling around on crutches, you’d want other people to notice and try to make your life easier by giving you extra room in store aisles and holding the door open for you, right? Well, our brothers in the Lord want us to dress a lot more modestly than we do. It is extremely draining for a Christian man to have to constantly fight to keep his eyes averted and his mind pure. When you are talking to your pastor, the man wants to be able to talk to you without having to try to not think about your breasts the whole time. Generally speaking, Christian women are not trying very hard in the department of modest clothing. Far too many of us are trying to lure men towards us using the same bait that the world uses. This is utterly inappropriate for Christian women. When we refuse to respect our brothers, we are dishonoring the Lord.
Now since half-naked is all the rage, some of you have never been taught how to dress modestly. Let’s go over some basics:
SHIRTS: Most shirts today are designed to show cleavage. If you bend over in them in front of a mirror, you can often see straight down to your navel. Such clothing is unacceptable. You need to go for the high necks. If you can’t find any, then you need to layer with tight undershirts that do not fall away from your body when you bend down.
If you go sleeveless, raise your arm and turn to the side in front of a mirror. If you’re seeing half of your breast and/or a big strip of your bra, then the armholes are too big. You need to either find a different cut or layer with a full shirt underneath.
UNDERWEAR: Underwear should be worn UNDER, not poking out at every available opportunity. Bras should not be drawing attention to themselves. Super tight shirts, see through shirts, and wearing dark bras under light shirts are all ways to look cheap. Don’t go there. Get one size bigger so that every little bump and lump of your bra is not so clearly defined. Wear bra colors that either closely match your skin color or closely match the shirt color that you’re wearing. In general, dark colored shirts are much easier to work with than light colors. Dark colors will make lumps and bumps less obvious, plus they do a much better job of hiding your underwear.
SHORTS: Shorts ride up when you sit in them. Your shorts should be at least halfway down your thighs WHEN YOU’RE SITTING. Most shorts are designed to go up your crotch because, again, Satan is trying to use you to drag men down. Here’s a good trick for getting around this too-short-shorts epidemic that we’re stuck in: find a pair of jeans you really like and then cut them off. That way you can control the length. You can hem or fold up the ends. Jean material wears very well this way, and when you use this method, you often end up with something pretty comfortable.
PANTS: When you’re buying pants, turn around and look in the mirror. Are we seeing each buttock clearly defined? This is not appropriate. Now many pants have been cut to intentionally define your cheeks for you, so it’s going to take some searching to get something that is less tight. But it’s worth the effort. You are more than a butt, so you do not want to wear clothes which attempt to make this your most defining characteristic.
SKIRTS & DRESSES: Always sit down in the dressing room and notice how far up they ride. You do not want to be giving men a constant glimpse up your crotch, and that’s what they’re going to get every time your knees drift apart if you are wearing something that is too short.
Satan loves to promote super tight as sexy, but in reality it just makes you look cheap. Get something you can breathe in and leave some room for the imagination when it comes to wondering exactly where your natural curves are.
Slits and darts are like arrows: pay attention to what they’re pointing at. A long dress is no longer modest when it has a slit up to your pelvic region on one side. Wearing dark nylons is a good way to minimize how much leg is hanging out when you’re dealing with a shorter dress.
Don’t stuff yourself into these dresses that are so low in the back that it becomes obvious to the world that you’re not wearing a bra. Your dress should be high in the back without a bunch of peekaboo holes in it. A man should be able to dance with you or give you a friendly hug without getting a handful of skin.
THE MODESTY ADVANTAGE
You want to look sexy, right? There’s nothing wrong with that. But you need to remember that Satan is a chronic liar. He tries to tell you that the closer you are to naked, the more attracted men will be to you. This is not true. Once you bare it all for the world to see, there’s no mystery left. But when you are well covered in clothes which are not painted on you, then you become far more enticing to a man with godly character. There’s a quick metaphor we can use to demonstrate this principle. Suppose I show you a crooked stick. You look at it for a few seconds and then you’re over it. But suppose I walk around with a large bag and I say there’s another crooked stick inside of it. Well, that’s more interesting, because that stick could be crooked in a thousand different ways. By keeping the stick hidden, I am spiking your interest in it. You can’t help wondering exactly what it looks like. In the same way, when you keep your torso well covered, you look far more enticing than a woman who is hanging it all out.
There’s another principle we need to discuss. Consider what turns a fad into a fad. It all starts with one person acquiring an object that someone else doesn’t have. That someone else become jealous and he goes out to try and buy one for himself. But until he does, the first man feels pretty special that he’s the only one who has this new, exciting object. As more and more people buy the object, those who currently have it continue to feel superior to those who don’t. Why? Because they have something valuable that not everyone else has. As a woman, you want to be the special treasure that your husband gets to proudly walk around with. You want to be the kind of treasure that he feels extra blessed to have because no one else in the world has you the way he does. When you walk down the street half naked, you destroy this dynamic and you make your man feel like he’s walking around with something used and common. Save something for your husband. There should be a large difference between how much of you he gets to see in the bedroom and how much of you the world gets to see as you walk down a public street.
The guidelines we’ve been discussing apply to cultures that are similar to modern America. But there are other cultures who are running around with far more or less clothing on. In some cultures, women don’t wear shirts. Once everyone is not wearing shirts, bare breasts stop becoming the tantalizing thing that they are in cultures that are always covering up. If you live in a bare top culture, you are not dishonoring God by not wearing a shirt because this is your cultural norm. Likewise, men who are running around in jungles with nothing but a coconut shell around their essentials are not being crude. Every culture has a different concept of normal, modest, and seductive behavior. You want to stay away from seductive. If long hair is considered to be a “bad girl” thing in your culture, then why would you want to associate yourself with that stereotype? If short hair is considered inappropriate, then don’t go there. You want to align your appearance with your culture’s definition of modesty, class, and respectability.
In the New Testament, we find Paul making some strong statements about hair.
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:13-16)
This is strange language for a Jew to be using, because under the Old Covenant, men intentionally grew their hair out long as a way of honoring God (see the Nazirite Laws). Being hairy was considered a very good thing, so Paul’s definition of “short” here is probably much longer than the image that comes to your mind.
It’s obvious by the way that Paul is talking that his cultural norm was for women to have long hair. Fine, that’s him. You are not living in the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago, you are living today in a culture that might have very different opinions about how long a woman’s hair should be. For Paul to say that women shouldn’t pray with their heads uncovered is utterly ridiculous. God isn’t looking at your scalp when you pray, He’s listening to your soul. And for Paul to take this rigid attitude that all women who want to join Christian churches have to conform to a certain type of hair style is utterly ridiculous. Should we turn someone away at the door of our churches today because of how they look or because of how they are dressed? Certainly not. God does not exclude people based on externals and neither should we. Now and then there will be someone who is trying to make a scene by dressing in some shocking manner, and we’ll have to draw boundaries to keep order in our services. But it’s pretty easy to tell who is trying to make a scene and who is just doing what seems natural to them without any divisive intentions.
In modern America, anything goes when it comes to women and hair. We’ve got a lot of ladies who are totally bald from chemotherapy. We’ve got others who go long and others who go short. Some hair types just don’t lend themselves to certain styles without becoming unmanageable. God has set certain styling limits on you by giving you a certain type of hair. Always it’s WHY you’re doing something that matters to God. He likes variety. If you’re getting a certain hair cut in order to be accepted by some satanic cult, then obviously God is going to have an issue with your hairstyle. But if you’re just playing around with a new look, God is not going to leap all over you with condemnation and say the sincerity of your love for Him can be measured by the length of your hair.
God gave you a face. God likes your face. Satan will try very hard to make you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your face. In America, women apply makeup for very negative reasons. Often they are acting out of shame and trying to hide their ugliness. Other times they’re acting out of fear—covering up blemishes so they won’t get picked on by others. There is enormous pressure on American women to look picture perfect all the time. If you’ve succumbed to this pressure and now you can’t leave the house without “putting your face on” God understands and sympathizes with the pressures that you’ve been ground down by. Is He loving the fact that you feel the need to hide your natural beauty under a layer of cosmetics? Of course not, because God doesn’t want you to be bound up in fear and shame. But is your application of makeup going to stunt your walk with Him? Not if you are sincerely seeking Him in your heart. Makeup becomes a spiritual problem when we start obsessing over how ugly we are and close our minds to the fact that God can have a different opinion of us. If you’re caught in the makeup trap for low-esteem reasons, read God’s View of Your Body.
Now suppose you just enjoy dabbling with colors or you want to doll up for a date. Does God have a problem with this? Certainly not. God is a Creator who loves to create, and He’s given each of us a desire to play around and try new things. There’s nothing sinful about experimenting with makeup. But as you do, make a point to involve God in the process. Ask Him for makeup tips (He happens to be very good at this stuff). Talk to Him about your color preferences. God wants you to involve Him in every area of your life. If you’re on a makeup kick right now, He wants to share in the fun with you.
Now if you’re painting your face with mystical symbols so that the rain god will pay attention to you, obviously God is going to get upset. If you’re dolling yourself up so you can try and lure another woman’s husband in your direction, then the Holy Spirit is going to be on your case. There are clearly some wrong reasons for applying makeup, and if we venture into them, God will let us know. If you feel God convicting you in the makeup area, you need to obey Him. If you don’t, then don’t take on a bunch of false guilt.
Some of us like our bling. Is this a problem for God? No, He likes variety. If you’re wearing jewelry because He made you a jewelry type of person, then there’s nothing wrong with it. If you’re flashing your rocks in other people’s faces because you want them to feel jealous of your wealth, then you are being a jerk and the Holy Spirit will convict you. It’s all about your internal motivations.
Now jewelry can actually be pretty handy in our walks if we turn some of our pieces into spiritual monuments. Maybe you buy a heart pendant and when you wear it you think about some positive thing God said to you. This is excellent. Maybe you get a chastity ring as a way of memorializing your commitment to stay a virgin until you’re married. This is very honoring to God. Maybe you’re wearing a little golden angel to remind yourself of your guardian angel who is always with you—this is a major problem to God. God is extremely jealous and we don’t want to be going around committing idolatry with our stuff. If your jewelry symbolizes something to you, make sure that thing is honoring to God. Your jewelry shouldn’t turn your mind to any nonhuman being other than God, or to any kind of saint. The Holy Spirit finds St. Christopher medallions extremely irksome. St. Christopher is just some dead guy who isn’t protecting anyone. God needs to be the only One we’re depending on for protection in life.
OUR JEALOUS GOD
Jewelry isn’t the only way we can stray into idolatry. Clothes can take us there as well. When we start wearing shirts that are exalting some movie star or Christian musician, God is going to become jealous. We can’t afford to be slack in this area. We must respect God’s sensitivities, for He is extremely jealous (see The Christian Idol Industry).
So then, do we need to feel stressed out over some comments that the apostle Paul made? No, we don’t. God is leading you in life and He has designed you to like certain styles of clothing and certain kinds of accessories. As long as you are listening to the Holy Spirit and asking Him to have His total way in your life, you can’t go wrong. It’s when we stop listening and we stop caring that Paul’s lousy theology can actually benefit us, for it can drive us into a state of anxiety so that we once again start asking, “Is God okay with what I’m doing? Are there any changes He wants me to make?” If you’re already asking these kinds of questions, you’re doing great. Let’s remember that God is very communicative when we are doing something He doesn’t like. He tells us what’s wrong, and He tells us what to do about it. He doesn’t leave us guessing and anxious because He wants us to succeed with Him, and He has made that very easy to do.
Does God love women less?