For God neither made the sheep scarlet or purple, nor taught the juices of herbs and shellfish to dye and color wool. Neither did He arrange necklaces with stones set in gold, and with pearls woven together or clustered, wherewith you would hide the neck which He made.
As news reports from Iran leak stories concerning their growing political unrest, pictures of protests, demonstrations, and riots reveal a sad condition. Among the complaints—one that has caught a lot of the American attention—is the discrimination of women. Notable figures from within Iran have begun to speak out openly about some of the problems. CNN recently reported, “Increasingly, women’s voices are gaining power as their numbers rise and their demands grow louder. Even the granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic Republic, voiced frustration at the way women are treated.”
Recently I have seen professing Christians dressed in cowboy-western clothes complete with boots, big belt buckle and even the big Stetson style Cowboy hats. It sadly reminded me of my youth before I was born again. It started me thinking. Why do I view that as wrong? What Biblical basis do I have for not approving of this type of clothes?
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Cor. 6:19)
There are few areas in the Christian walk that cause more debate and conflict than the biblical teaching concerning Christian dress. It seems as soon as the issue is even hinted at, walls immediately raise and images of Pharisees with long phylacteries, tasseled robes and furrowed brows quickly come to mind. While this is very unfortunate it is not completely without reason.
The sin of hypocrisy is exemplified by the act of looking righteous on the outside while the inside remains corrupt and wicked. This is a real threat, and we who believe in dressing modestly must not ignore it. The scripture plainly states, “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (I Sam. 16:7) We cannot fool God with outer appearance while the inside remains wicked.
This little article by Charles Finney is refreshing because we live in a fashion crazy Christian world where the modern theology for evangelism is "look like the world to win the world." He wrote it in a style common for his day, giving the question or objection first and then answering it by teaching on the principle in question.
Where is the holy testimony of the people of God in these last days? There is very little difference between the church and the world, between the born againers and the people who do not believe. The professing church seems afraid to be different. Finney testified of his own error on this crucial subject of fashions. John Wesley gave a similar report after he evaluated the results of teaching that there should be no distinction in the clothes of the Christian. There is no holiness in being different. However, if we follow the teachings on modesty in the Bible, we will be different, especially in this day when all have pursued the changing fashions with zeal.
As I was preparing Adoniram Judson’s scathing appeal for modesty, I found myself at many times saying—“ouch!” I questioned, “Wow, that statement seems way too strong.” Or I would find myself thinking, “I should probably clip that part out.” However, as much as I tried—I could not let myself soften the message. This letter was from the pen of a very godly man with a real burden. How could I soften his message just to appease modern tastes?
Adoniram Judson was a pioneering, cross-cultural missionary like none other. This letter came from a deep burden Judson was having about the worldliness he was seeing in the Church, particularly concerning the ungodly dress and fashions that he observed from the visiting missionaries. As Judson was daring to take the whole Gospel to the heathen tribes of the Far East, he did it with the commitment to follow Jesus’ words “teach them all things.” However, as he went forward, he looked back and found that his own church was dropping the very convictions that he was trying to uphold.
As you continue through this letter—reader be warned—Judson holds nothing back. You might ask, “Is this message too pointed for today’s church? Certainly, somewhere—somehow—something has drastically changed. Perhaps the question we should ask is, “Are we more sophisticated now? Or have we rather grown so accustomed to the world that the distinctions that Judson makes here are almost irrelevant—even funny?”
Oh, fellow pastors, missionaries and brethren, please read this with a prayerful heart. Dare to read this letter as if it was written to your church—or to your family. Then, dare to read it again, only this time to conceive just how much worse—not better—things have become since Adoniram Judson penned this letter from his mission post in Burma in 1831.