The Bible teaches us a lot about our bodies.
The Bible shows us that our bodies were created in the image of God and that they are full of value and dignity. The Bible calls both men and women to dress respectably and with modesty, but it doesn’t give any kind of dress code. Most of the Bible’s verses on dressing have less to do with showing off the body and more to do with showing off wealth.
A History of Modesty in the Church
Most people are fully aware that over time, our world has grown more and more comfortable with skin. In Biblical times, most women showed no skin whatsoever (though it’s possible in early BC some civilizations didn’t wear much at all). Around the days of Jesus, Rome began to enforce what women could and couldn’t wear.
In the 1800s, women in the west began showing their ankles and by the 1950s, most women wore just about whatever they wanted. Fast forward to today and it’s appropriate for both men and women to show off their bodies – especially at the gym.
The Church’s Conservative Stance on Revealing Clothes
It’s no surprise that the Church has almost always been opposed to the growing trend of wearing more revealing clothes. In most churches, you’ll find very modestly dressed men and women (now and throughout history).
One reason the church has taken a conservative stance on people (mostly women) showing off their bodies is Jesus’ teaching, “…anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 ESV).
Most churches (but especially the conservative ones) have taken the stance that women in the church should dress carefully so as to protect their brothers in Christ. Some have even been guilty of passing the blame of men’s lust onto women for not covering up well enough. If men acted disrespectfully toward them, some of it was probably their fault. There’s some truth and helpfulness in that thought process, but many in the church may have taken it too far.
The Aftermath of Purity Culture
In recent years, many Christians have revealed the hurt, trauma, and wrongful thinking brought about by the “Purity Culture” of the late 90s and 2000s. Many women have wounds and still deal with the shame that many in the church evoked over their sexual sin or the way they dressed. Many felt such intense guilt over acts like kissing, oral sex, or inappropriate touching. Purity Culture was well-meaning, but it seemed to highlight sexual sin as a far worse sin than others prevalent in the church, heaping shame and guilt onto a young generation who didn’t know how to process it.
In more recent years, the responsibility has been put back onto the men to own their sin and wandering eyes. Men who struggle with sexual immorality may live in a world full of temptation, but the Bible makes it clear they can’t pass blame onto others for their sin patterns.
Bible Verses on Showing Off Your Body and Modesty
So does the Bible give instructions on how men or women should dress? It does speak a number of times to how women should dress, but it doesn’t give us a dress code. Let’s look at a few instances in the New Testament:
Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)
Excess is at the heart of these verses – not so much body coverage. Peter and Paul are speaking to women who felt the need to wear gold, pearls, and costly attire. Rest assured, women in this time were well covered up – we can assume Peter and Paul would have had much harsher words if not.
Bible Verses on Beauty and Our Bodies
That said, the Bible is clear that our bodies are meaningful, and are meant to glorify God.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)
The Bible also teaches that beauty is only skin deep. It’s vain. It will one day pass away. Our souls, character, and posture before God are much more valuable.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.Proverbs 31:30
How Should We Dress as Christians?
At the end of the day, we would propose that a heart fully surrendered to Jesus would dress in a way that honors Him and our neighbors. It’s true that someone with lustful eyes is fully responsible for their own sin, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider others in the way we dress. We should seek to encourage and edify our brothers and sisters rather than set up stumbling blocks in the name of fashion or self-expression.
If you feel the need to show off your body regularly, you may want to examine that desire. Do you feel loved by those around you? Do you feel safe and secure in the Father’s acceptance?
The reward for honoring God and loving others in the way we dress is far greater than getting a few likes on Instagram or looks while out and about. There’s no need to show off a body to impress others when it was made in the image of God and already deeply valued by the Creator.