Your Clothes and Appearance Talk—About You
1-4. Why does the way we dress tell something about what we are like inside? Give examples.
HAVE you ever admired the pleasing varieties of color in a field of spring flowers or marveled at the beautiful shades to be found among tropical fish? Seeing these things convinces us that our Creator appreciates variety and beauty. He does not want everything to look dull, gray or monotonous. And how interesting it is to see the great variety of styles among people around the world! But have you stopped to think how much the way you look on the outside tells about what you’re like on the inside?
2 When you were very small your clothing probably didn’t tell much about the kind of person you were. Your parents picked out your clothes for you and combed your hair. But as you grew older they allowed you to have more say about selecting your clothing, how you arranged your hair and such things. Now your own choice came into play. More and more your appearance came to reflect what you’re like inside, your own personality. What do your clothes and appearance tell about you?
KEEPING YOUR BALANCE
3 People who are very proud of themselves often show it by being extremely style-conscious. They always want to “outshine” everybody else with their clothes or looks. But pride or selfishness can also be revealed by being very sloppy. Why? Because while the sloppy person may be just lazy, he may also have a selfish “don’t care” attitude as to the effect his appearance has on others. Between these two extremes is the person who doesn’t think too much of himself and who cares about others. His appearance will show it by good taste and moderation.
4 Some young persons feel they have to keep up with all the latest styles so as not to look old-fashioned. But in between being “ultra-conservative” and very “mod” there is a middle ground. If you stay with that, then you’ll always be well-dressed and you won’t be reacting to every single fashion change, like a puppet twitching each time a string is pulled.
5-7. (a) Who really benefits when a person tries to keep up with all the latest styles of clothing? (b) Even if a person does not have much money, how can his clothing show that he has self-respect? (c) How might the principles found at Philippians 2:3, 4 and Romans 15:2 be applied to how we dress?
5 Ask yourself: Who benefits anyway from my being very style-conscious? It’s the commercial world that basically sets and encourages styles. They have one big interest: to make money. If you always play into their hands you’ll benefit them, but you really won’t benefit yourself in any genuine way.
6 Sloppiness may not seem to cost you much money but it can cost you a lot in other ways. It can cost you a job or cost you the respect of others. Even if a person’s clothes aren’t expensive, if he keeps them neat and clean, this shows he has self-respect. Other people respect him more and have more confidence in him.
7 A good rule to follow in all life’s affairs is found in the Bible at Romans 15:2: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.” Other people look at us more than we look at ourselves. So, then, shouldn’t we try to give them something they will find pleasant to look at? Not something that makes them feel self-conscious because of their own appearance, but something that shows we care about their feelings.
IDENTIFIED BY DRESS
8-11. (a) How are various groups or types of people identified by their dress? (b) So, what may people conclude from the way a person dresses, and how might this present problems?
8 The way you dress tells something about you in another way. It can identify you with a certain group or class. This was true even thousands of years ago, when the Bible was being written. For example, in the book of Second Kings we read of messengers reporting back to King Ahaziah and telling of meeting a man who gave them a certain message. The king asked: “What was the appearance of the man?” When they described his garments, the king said immediately: “It was Elijah.” How did he know? Because Elijah wore the distinctive garment of a prophet.—2 Kings 1:2, 5-8.
9 To be identified as a prophet was an honorable thing. But another Bible example shows that one’s dress could also link one up with that which is dishonorable. To attain a certain purpose, Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar took off garments identifying her as a widow and put on a shawl and a veil and sat alongside the road. When Judah came along, the record says that “he at once took her for a harlot, because she had covered her face [with the veil].” Her dress gave her the appearance of a prostitute of that time.—Genesis 38:13-15.
10 Today, just as back then, the way we dress can link us up with certain classes of persons, even though we may not practice what they practice or believe what they believe. People assume that we at least sympathize with the class of persons who dress that way. Can we blame them?
11 Manner of dress distinguishes not only policemen, firemen or nurses; it also distinguishes people whose occupation is dishonorable. Today prostitutes seldom wear shawls or veils as they did in Canaan some three thousand five hundred years ago. However, their very revealing, suggestive clothing now points even more plainly to the profession they practice. Among men, those who favor revolt or radical political action have also worn distinctive styles, and so do some homosexuals. Do we want to be linked up with any of these? And if we dress like them and have problems as a result—as when trying to get employment or to qualify for certain privileges in a Christian congregation—should we be surprised?
WHAT SHOULD DETERMINE HAIRSTYLES
12-15. (a) What kind of hairstyles do you feel attract a lot of attention nowadays? Why do they? (b) What was the point of the counsel given at 1 Peter 3:3? (c) What does 1 Corinthians 11:14, 15 mean? How would you apply it to current trends? (d) If men imitate women in the way they wear their hair, what might this suggest to others?
12 There are many styles in which you can arrange your hair. Down through the centuries, hairstyles have varied from country to country and from one period to another. Does it make any difference which hairstyle you choose? Yes, it does. Human pride has sometimes produced very extreme hairstyles. For this reason the apostles Paul and Peter found it necessary to counsel Christian women not to be extravagant or to put too much importance on hairstyles. Peter wrote: “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments.”—1 Peter 3:3.
13 In recent years, however, the hairstyles of young men—especially very long hair and long sideburns—have drawn particular attention. Yet, didn’t men in Bible times generally wear their hair longer than is customary in most lands today? Undoubtedly they did. But something else is equally certain. What? That men’s hair was still consistently shorter than that of women. That is why the apostle Paul could write to the congregation at Corinth, Greece, and say: “Does not 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?” (1 Corinthians 11:14, 15) How does “nature” teach us this?
14 For one thing, among wavy-haired peoples, such as the Semites and Europeans to whom Paul was writing, there is usually a significant difference in the length that men’s and women’s hair will naturally grow. In most cases, the length is naturally shorter for men. At the same time, people have generally recognized that it is the “natural” thing—the proper and fitting thing—for men to cut their hair to a moderate length, shorter than that of women. For a man or a boy to wear his hair so that he looks like a girl is not natural. Rather, it is typical of an age (and lands) where homosexuality is on the increase. And the Bible shows that homosexuality is “contrary to nature,” both unfitting and detestable in God’s sight.—Romans 1:26, 27.
15 Does this severely limit us? No, for just as with clothes, so with hairstyles there is a wide variety of ways of arranging one’s hair that are pleasing and attractive without being immodest or unnatural. There can still be refreshing variety without going beyond the bounds of what is right in God’s eyes.
WHAT ABOUT COSMETICS?
16-19. (a) How do you feel about the use of cosmetics? (b) What bad effects do they sometimes have? (c) How do Bible principles provide a balanced guide on this matter?
16 The Bible shows that people have used cosmetics from ancient times. We know that people wear clothes, not merely to cover the body, but also to produce an attractive appearance. To make their bodily presence even more pleasant, the ancient Hebrews often used perfume. There is evidence, too, that they used certain cosmetics, particularly ointments, to combat dryness of skin and to improve their appearance.
17 What, then, should be the guide for young women today who want to do what brings God’s approval? They need to follow the good advice to do all things “with modesty and soundness [or, healthfulness] of mind,” letting the main adornment be “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Timothy 2:9, 10; 1 Peter 3:3, 4.
18 Of course, it is good for young girls to realize that cosmetics can often do more harm than good. They can ruin a good complexion or make a poor one worse. Besides this, cosmetics frequently mask the freshness of youth that is really of far greater beauty than the artificial effect cosmetics create.
19 Overuse of cosmetics by girls often does no more than draw attention to weak points. Worse, it may prevent any beauty of personality (which is actually more attractive than good looks and far longer lasting) from showing through or being noticed. Overuse of cosmetics can pervert your personality in the eyes of others and, in time, can even tend to mold your personality into the cheapened image you thereby present.
FOLLOWING RIGHT GUIDELINES
20-22. (a) Instead of rules on dress and grooming, what do we find in the Bible? So, what is required of us in order to apply these? (Proverbs 2:10, 11) (b) Why do parents have the right to set out supplementary guidelines for their children?
20 In God’s Word there are no specific rules on these things, but, instead, fine guidelines are provided. Young people should seek to get a balanced outlook, and the Bible will help them to do that.
21 Your parents have the natural right to set down supplementary guidelines. If the house you live in were painted with a wild or weird combination of colors, people would wonder if the head of the house, or his wife, had any sense. Or, if the house were neglected and became run down in appearance, they would have little respect for the house owner. You represent your parents even more than the house does. You bear their name and, just as what you do and say reflects on the training they give you and the kind of people they are, so does the way you look. More importantly, if you claim to be one of God’s servants you also represent Him. Does your appearance fit your claim?
22 Think of Jesus’ words: “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.” (John 13:17) Are you able to discern for yourself the sense of what the Bible counsels? You can show that you have real insight and strength of personality by putting the Bible’s counsel to work in your life. Then you will have the happiness of knowing that you are pleasing in the sight of God, his Son, and all who love and serve him.
[Blurb on page 53]
What do your clothes say about you?