Questions From Readers
● Is it proper for dedicated Christians, who are supposed to be exemplary in morals, to imitate the extreme styles of clothing and grooming of the morally decadent world?—W. R., U.S.A.
We all have personal likes and dislikes in connection with clothing and hair styles, but it is not our personal opinion on these matters that is to light the roadway for others; the Bible does that. It says at 1 Timothy 2:9, 10: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.”
Notice that the apostle Paul does not give many details. The Bible allows for considerable variety, so we can express our own individual taste in clothing. However, he does encourage Christian women to be neat, to have “well-arranged dress,” and most women who are Jehovah’s witnesses are exemplary in that regard. He also says that they should dress “with modesty and soundness of mind.” Dress that is modest is not lavish, nor is it indecent; it does not embarrass others who observe the wearer. But, as we all know, many of the styles worn by women in the world today are not modest; they are designed for showy display and to make a woman look sexually attractive. They both embarrass and disgust clean-minded observers.
Worldly boys, too, like to wear certain types of clothing that draw attention to them. They are usually styles that have come to be associated in the public mind with groups that have low morals or are defiant of the law. But since true Christians do not keep “running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery,” they are wise if they avoid anything in their dress that would make it appear that they still are part of those wayward groups.—1 Pet. 4:4.
Of course, when individuals begin to associate with Jehovah’s witnesses it takes time until Bible principles really govern their thinking in all the matters of life. Even some who have been associated with the organization for many years may be careless in this regard. This is evident from the fact that nearly every week the Watch Tower Society receives letters from individuals who are shocked by the tight-fitting, excessively revealing or suggestive clothing that some who attend congregation meetings wear. Usually those who take offense are rather new in the truth, though not always. But, whether they are newer ones or not, we do not want our personal conduct to stumble them, do we? We feel as did the apostle Paul, when he wrote, at 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” Generally speaking, Jehovah’s witnesses are exemplary in their modesty, but it is not good to become careless about it.
The Watch Tower Society is not going to make rules on these matters. Personal tastes vary, and the Bible does not restrict a person so that no individuality may be shown in selection of clothing. Furthermore, modes of dress and the way hair is worn vary greatly from one part of the world to another. What might be acceptable in some places would land a person in jail in another. So we have to consider local custom, and at the same time be careful not to follow the example of those whose way of dress is really a reflection of their immoral thoughts.
Just as the disciple Timothy was given the counsel noted above to use as necessary in aiding the congregation in Ephesus, so today there may be times when the overseer in a congregation feels that it would be a loving thing to draw to the attention of certain ones what the Bible has to say on the subject. If so, he should do it in a kindly way. But in most cases these problems are ones that can be worked out in each household. Rather than being unduly critical of what others do in this matter, let us make it our determination to encourage them in the right way by setting a fine example ourselves.—Rom. 14:13.