The Closet: The Biblical Home
Our closets are full of casual clothes. We work very hard at being casual. It is a studied occupation of ours. But of course if we study anything, we should study it in the light of Scripture.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple (Prov. 31:21-22)
If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish (Ex. 21:10).
As we look at these texts together, we find that clothing is important in marriage. One of the ways Scripture restricted a aspiring polygamist is by denying him the right to take away from a first wife in order to give to a second. When we look at what could not be taken or diminished, we see three categories—food, clothing, and conjugal rights. The indication is that these three things are at the center of a husband’s duties toward his wife. We see in the Proverbs passage that a good wife is responsible for managing this provision, and clothing herself and her family.
Since the industrial revolution made fabrics cheap and plentiful, women stopped weaving cloth as a household necessity. Many continued for aesthetic or recreational reasons, but the days of “homespun” were past. But this simply shifted the basic responsibility from manufacturing to shopping, or to a combination of shopping and manufacturing (i.e. sewing). But however a family is clothed, this means that a father and husband has a scriptural responsibility to provide his wife with the wherewithal to do her duty. And I am sorry to have to press the point, but this means money for shopping. The flip side of this, wives, is responsibility in shopping.
Believe it or not, we have a number of scriptural lessons about clothing. We often assume that the Bible says “nothing” about this because we really don’t want to be told anything. But remember, as we search the Scriptures, the existence of a scriptural standard for clothing does not mean that we all have to dress alike. Remember that we are Trinitarians. Our point is not that all clothing must be the same; rather, our point is that there is no neutrality. Ultimately, people dress in such a way as to express their faith—whether they are Muslim, Buddhist, polytheistic, or Christian.
Clothing should be functional—we see Jesus taking off His outer garment to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:4,12). We see Peter doing something similar when fishing (John 21:7).
Clothing should be appropriate to the occasion—we see clothing for festive occasions (Matt. 22:11-12), and we see clothing for mourning (Gen. 37:34).
Clothing should reflect social status—we see peculiar clothes for captives (Deut. 21:13), for widows (Gen. 38:14), and so forth. We do the same (although we pretend that we do not) with UPS drivers, burger joint workers, nurses and doctors, students, soldiers and sailors, and so on.
Clothing should concern itself with the comfort of others—this is simply a reiteration of our theme, “My life for yours.” We all dress for comfort. But whose? Love your neighbor as yourself
Not only do we need to remember the positive principles as we dress ourselves, we need to avoid the temptations that the Bible notes.
Arrogance—we are prohibited from arrogantly dismissing others on the basis of clothing (Jas. 2:2-3). So we should guard against arrogance in how we dress (Matt. 23:5). Returning to “standards” in dress does not remove sin from the human heart.
Ostentatious immodesty—women are particularly warned against dressing themselves in a flamboyant manner (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3-4). At the same time, we need to remember our text (Prov. 31:22).
Sexual immodesty—the Scriptures require Christian men to avoid lustful thoughts toward women generally (Matt. 5:28). Ungodly women have figured out many ways to get men to disobey this command. Christian women who mimic the same tricks will get the same results. A number of Christian women need to stop playing dumb.
Worldliness—the Bible never tells us to make sure that our clothing is “cool.” Neither does it prohibit understanding and conforming to the current fashion—unless the current fashion or style is driven by something which the Scriptures call worldliness (1 John 2:15-17). And if the kids are desperate to have a particular “look” or logo, the hook is in deep.
Our spiritual condition is reflected in the clothing we wear. We should think about this more than we currently do. When Jacob was doing a little spiritual housecleaning, note what he told everyone to do. “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments” (Gen. 35:2).
Strange garments are often the vanguard of strange gods. And repentance sees the connection as well. And we see that this point how much relativism has spread throughout the church. “Strange garments? Strange garments? Who is to say what is ‘strange?’”