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What Your Appearance Says About You

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

by Janet Treadway

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!

Raggedy man The minister then read James 2:2-4: "For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, 'You sit here in a good place,' and say to the poor man, 'You stand there,' or, 'Sit here at my footstool,' have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with 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 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!"

God does care about the way we look

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" (King James Version).

Wedding party 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, "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will 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.

An interesting experiment

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" (p. 77).

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.

Preparing for a wedding

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, bridesmaids' 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.

Feminine and masculine modesty

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 (in Genesis 3:21, "coat means that which covers," Dr. David Innis wrote in What Clothes Say About You," ). 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.

Hair length

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 "a woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your 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.

Teens in red shirts 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, "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 anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do 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.

Questions to ask about our appearance

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:

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? YU

About the author:
Janet Treadway works in the mailing department of the United Church of God in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Keywords: appearance modesty hair length clothing and appearance 


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