Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Non-Crafty Post about Clothing

I posted this on Facebook and got a slightly different response than I was expecting. Not entirely, but sort of.

I just have to get this out there. Clothes are not a covering of shame. They are a covering of immaturity. But we're teaching our daughters all wrong. CLOTHING IS A GLORY. A scantily clad girl is a high maintenance one, like a toddler who likes to lift her shirt and show you her belly button. Adam and Eve wore clothes after they ate the fruit because it was then that they suddenly grew up and realized they weren't dressed to be the king and queen of the world. It was after they grew up that they finally were joined and had children. Anyhow, all this to say, we're teaching our girls totally backwards when we teach them to just cover all the important parts. No wonder our daughters get caught up in the dos and don'ts and try to judge each other's motives for dressing. Am I crazy in thinking this? Really, I'm trying to have a soft heart here, so I'll try not to overreact if somebody cares to comment and disagree...

So to answer some questions, I wrote it all out here.

I want to be clear that all the arguments going around the blog and facebook world about modesty have been fine and dandy. I’m not saying that modesty isn’t a heart issue first and foremost. On the contrary, it is. And I think the fact that it’s been such a long and good discussion has been fantastic. I don’t mean to end the conversation. This is just something I’ve been thinking a lot about these last few weeks. I still have a lot of thinking about it to do too. I’m probably leaving some important things out and possibly thinking some of these things through inadequately. But hear me out.

What I *do* intend is to suggest that we are approaching the subject from the wrong angle. Rather than taking one verse about modesty (I. Tim. 2:9, and we will come back to that one) and spreading it thinly over the whole discussion, I think we need to reevaluate what God says about clothing throughout all of Scripture.

This means the first few chapters of Genesis are a good place to start, and this is where I’m afraid I’ve attracted the attention. I think my statement about Adam and Eve having sexual relations after the Fall has more attention than even the modesty issue. I will talk about what I meant here, but let me make clear that I think my other clothing comments coming later still stand in spite of whether you agree with me about these first few chapters of Genesis or not. Though it sure makes it even more clear if you *do* agree with this part.

I’m going to overdo this for the sake of clarity. And I also want to be clear that if we disagree here, it’s not like we can’t be friends still.

God planted two trees in the Garden. One for Life and one for Knowledge of Good and Evil. He made two naked newborns. Not that they were necessarily babies in body. Obviously Adam was old enough to have language and use it to name all the animals. I have no problem imagining him as a full grown man. But he was still very naïve. After all, he was *not* eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil just yet.

God created Eve and then Adam praised her and called her woman. But that’s it. Perhaps they did it then and there. It’s certainly possible and not ruled out. But it doesn’t say that they did. It saves that for after the Fall. And I think there’s a reason for that. I think they were still naïve and unashamed (Gen. 2:25), essentially, toddlers or children.

Do you think that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was always going to be off limits? Do you think God planted it there to permanently be the no-no? Was it there to just always keep Adam and Eve in check? It doesn’t say, and I realize that. But I am suggesting that it was eventually going to be permitted. God was training up his two children and He was going to give them Knowledge of good and evil and He was going to give them sexual pleasure and He was going to let them out of the nursery garden and into the whole world to turn it into one big garden city. That was always part of the plan. But they would also be allowed to continue to eat from the *other* tree too. They would create heaven on earth, is what I’m saying. They would be like we are going to be one day. They would have eternal life in *real* bodies, creating God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

But they disobeyed. And while God’s plan adjusted for this, it was ultimately going to end up the same way, but BETTER. Because now the world would have a far deeper understanding of GRATITUDE. And that’s another conversation.

The point is, Adam and Eve grew up when they ate that fruit. Not that their bodies necessarily changed. I don’t know about that. But they suddenly realized they were naked. It doesn’t say they were ashamed necessarily, but I think it’s probably a safe assumption. I do *not* think it is a safe assumption that nakedness is in and of itself shameful. On the contrary, naked bodies are beautiful, and very much so on purpose. God made them that way, right? The shame was because they realized they had no glory. They were not fit to be what God had given them to be. There is no shame in a husband and wife being naked in front of each other, right? But there is *vulnerability* even in that situation. Adam and Eve realized their vulnerability, their inadequacy.

So what did they do? They sewed fig leaves into coverings. Note, they didn’t just grab a branch and hide behind it. They “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:7). They put some effort into this. They thought it would be good enough, I suppose. But then God comes, deals with what happened, and then makes tunics of skin to clothe them. I think this is important for a couple reasons, but the more important one, and the one I want to bring up right now, is that if clothing was just about modesty, THE FIG LEAVES WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH. As far as covering goes, they were getting the job done. There was something missing though apparently because God clothed them in a different way. A heavier way.

And then we are allowed a glimpse of God’s conversation within His personhood. Adam and Eve had indeed become like Him in knowing Good and Evil and He did not want them to be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life any longer. So rather than allowing them to eat from both trees and expand God’s kingdom from the Garden into the whole world, Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden to till the ground from which they came. The Kingdom would have to come later, with a new Adam.

And *this* is when it says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” (Gen. 4:1). I think this makes perfect sense if you view their eating of the fruit as a strange coming of age. Otherwise it seems like a complete change of subject. But really, it’s the perfect flow. Because in that very same verse, Eve gives birth to a son, whom, if I was her anyhow, I would assume is the Seed God had just promised. But of course God’s story isn’t that simplistic. It’s better.

Ok, so hopefully I’ve explained myself more fully. Like I said, you don’t have to agree, but I think that what I’m going to say from here on out will make even more sense if you are at least willing to think about what I’ve said above.

I want to talk about glory now. I don’t claim to know exactly what glory means all the time, but I do have some thoughts. In Hebrew, in its most basic sense, it means weighty or heavy. And from that it also means magnificence, wealth, stateliness, you get the idea. What’s not so obvious about the word, I suggest, is that it also implies some sort of appearance. Over and over again, the glory of the Lord is appearing to people. In the cloud while the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness. When the ark was first brought into the Temple, the priests couldn’t even be in there because it was so full of this glory. In the psalms He appears in His glory. Isaiah says, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (40:5). Ezekiel tries to describe God’s glory: “Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (1:28). Stephen saw the glory of God before he was martyred (Acts 7:55). And there’s more, but I hope you get the point, which is: this word for glory also has an implication of appearance or being seen.

So, in Psalm 45:13, the beautiful wedding picture: “The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; Her clothing is woven with gold.” In Isaiah 4:2, the Branch of the Lord shall be “both beautiful and glorious”. In Exodus 28, the garments of the priests are “for glory and for beauty” (v. 2 and v. 40).

I also think that this helps Psalm 19 make more sense. How exactly do the heavens declare the *glory* of the Lord? Well if glory has an appearance aspect, then that works well. The heavens can simply display His glory. That’s how they declare it. Which helps us understand what exactly it means when *we* are repeatedly commanded to declare His glory too (Isaiah 66:19, Psalm 96:3). It means we display it. We demonstrate it. We live it out and we always point it back to God. We don’t only use words words words to evangelize the nations. We have to declare His GLORY. That was a free thought, with nothing to do with the rest here. 

So glory is an appearance of some sort and generally a beautiful appearance, or an adornment. I suggest that clothing is a glory. Like hair on a woman’s head (I Cor. 11:15). (Doxa, the Greek for glory also definitely has an appearance aspect to it as well.) Nope, I don’t have any specific verses to back this up. But I think taken as a whole, clothing appears to be a beautiful adornment. To say much more than this is to say more than Scripture bothers with.

I Peter 5:5 tells young people to be clothed with humility and let God exalt them in due time.
The Proverbs 31 woman is clothed in tapestry, fine linen and purple while her household is clothed in scarlet as a protection against harsh weather. But most importantly, strength and honor are her clothing.

Now the modesty verse. I Timothy 2:9 is the only verse in the whole Bible about what is or isn’t appropriate to wear. To interpret the verse, I think you need to read the one before it. Paul tells Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting”. The first phrase is explained by the next two. So also with the next verse, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in  modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” While this verse *could* be about covering all the right parts (and that would be fine if it was), I don’t think that’s actually what he means by modest here. I think it’s safe to say that what Paul means by modest is that your clothing *not* be ostentatious or a display of wealth. That it be appropriate. The exact word seems to mean appropriate or orderly.

Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn't have boundaries for our daughters. I’m not saying that anything goes. But I *am* trying to make folks see that we really can’t go farther than Scripture does. I think that if we teach our daughters that clothing is a glory, that it is an adornment of an already beautiful thing, but that it is more important to be clothed in humility, strength, honor, and good works FIRST AND FOREMOST, then this whole modesty conversation will become insignificant. The longer we try to push this modesty concept (modesty meant in a far more specific way than Paul used it) the more confused or legalistic we encourage our women to be.


  1. Good stuff to think on, Leah. Thanks for writing!

  2. And woman is the glory of man too, which is a whole 'nother related thing. Yup.

  3. And this is really good too.