“Do all things for God’s glory.”—1 COR. 10:31.
SONGS: 34, 61
1, 2. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain high standards of dress? (See opening picture.)
“YOU saw a lot of casual clothing, especially when it was hot,” reported a Dutch newspaper regarding a meeting of church leaders. “That is not the case at the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. . . . Boys and men wear a jacket and tie, while the girls’ and women’s skirt length is . . . in good taste, yet modern.” Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses are often commended for adorning “themselves in respectable dress, with modesty and good judgment . . . in the way that is proper for [those] professing devotion to God.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10, ftn.) The apostle Paul was speaking about women, but the same basic standard applies to Christian men.
2 Appropriate standards of dress are important to us as Jehovah’s people, and they are important to the God we worship. (Gen. 3:21) What the Scriptures say about dress and grooming leaves no doubt that the Sovereign of the universe has wholesome standards of attire for his true worshippers. Therefore, our choice of dress and grooming should not be determined only by what is pleasing to us. It should also take into account what is pleasing to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.
3. What can we learn about clothing from God’s Law to the Israelites?
3 For example, in God’s Law to the Israelites there were rules that protected them against the openly immoral way of life of the nations around them. The Law showed Jehovah’s strong feelings against clothing that does not make clear the distinction between male and female—what has been described in our day as unisex fashion. (Read Deuteronomy 22:5.) From God’s stated direction about clothing, we clearly see that God is not pleased with styles of dress that feminize men, that make women look like men, or that make it hard to see the difference between men and women.
4. What can help Christians to make good decisions about how to dress?
4 God’s Word contains principles that help Christians make good decisions about how to dress. That is so no matter where they live, what their culture is, or what the climate is. We do not need detailed lists saying which styles of dress are acceptable and which are objectionable. Rather, we are guided by Scriptural principles that allow room for personal preferences. Let us consider some Bible principles that can help us determine “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” when we are deciding what to wear.—Rom. 12:1, 2.
“WE RECOMMEND OURSELVES AS GOD’S MINISTERS”
5, 6. What effect should our dress have on others?
5 The apostle Paul was inspired to emphasize the important principle found at 2 Corinthians 6:4. (Read.) Our personal appearance says much about us. Many people form impressions and opinions of us by “what appears to the eyes.” (1 Sam. 16:7) As God’s ministers, therefore, we understand that our getting dressed is not just a matter of putting on something comfortable that we like. The principles that we glean from God’s Word should move us to avoid wearing clothing that is tight-fitting, revealing, or sexually provocative. That would rule out wearing clothing that exposes or accentuates private parts of our anatomy. Nobody should feel uncomfortable or forced to look the other way when seeing how we are dressed.
6 When we are neat, clean, modestly dressed, and well-groomed, people are more likely to respect us as ministers of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. And they may be attracted to the God we worship. Furthermore, our appropriate attire will reflect well on the organization we represent. As a result, others may be more likely to pay attention to our lifesaving message.
7, 8. When especially do we need to wear appropriate clothing?
7 We owe it to our holy God, to our spiritual brothers and sisters, as well as to the people in our territory to wear clothing that dignifies the message we bear and that brings glory to Jehovah. (Rom. 13:8-10) This is especially so when we are engaging in Christian activities, such as when we attend meetings or when we share in the preaching work. We should dress “in the way that is proper for [people] professing devotion to God.” (1 Tim. 2:10) Of course, some clothing that is appropriate in one place may not be appropriate in another. Hence, Jehovah’s people throughout the world take local customs into account so as not to cause offense.
8 Read 1 Corinthians 10:31. When we attend assemblies and conventions, our dress needs to be appropriate and modest rather than reflect the extreme styles that may be common in the world. Even as we check in and out of a hotel, as well as when we enjoy leisure time before and after convention sessions, we want to avoid an appearance that is overly casual or slovenly. Thus we will be proud to identify ourselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes, and we will feel free to give a witness as we have an opportunity.
9, 10. Why should Philippians 2:4 have a bearing on what we wear?
9 Read Philippians 2:4. Why do Christians need to consider how their attire affects fellow worshippers? One reason is that God’s people work hard to apply the Bible’s admonition: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion.” (Col. 3:2, 5) We would not want to make it difficult for fellow believers to heed that counsel. Brothers and sisters who have given up a sexually loose lifestyle may still be fighting sinful leanings. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) We would not want to make their fight harder, would we?
10 When we are around our spiritual brothers and sisters, our manner of dress should help to make the congregation a haven of moral chastity. That is so whether we are together at a meeting or in an informal setting. We have the freedom to choose what to wear. Still, all of us have a responsibility to wear clothes that make it easier for others to remain chaste and to maintain God’s standards of holiness in thought, word, and conduct. (1 Pet. 1:15, 16) True love “does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 5.
THE RIGHT CLOTHING FOR THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE
11, 12. What is a reasonable consideration as we think about what to wear?
11 When making decisions about what to wear, God’s servants take into account that “there is a time for every activity and every action.” (Eccl. 3:1, 17) It is understandable that different climates and the change of seasons influence what we wear. So do varying circumstances and living conditions. Jehovah’s standards, however, do not fluctuate with the weather.—Mal. 3:6.
12 In warmer climates, it can be particularly challenging to make sure that our style of dress is respectable and sensible and that it shows good judgment. Hence, our brothers and sisters appreciate it when we refrain from wearing clothes that are so tight or so loose that they are revealing. (Job 31:1) Also, when relaxing at the beach or at a swimming pool, the style of swimwear we use should be modest. (Prov. 11:2, 20) Even if many in the world wear revealing swimwear, we who serve Jehovah are concerned about being a credit to the holy God we love.
13. Why should the counsel found at 1 Corinthians 10:32, 33 influence our choice of clothing?
13 There is another important principle that helps us to select appropriate clothing. That is our concern for the conscience of others—whether fellow worshippers or not. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:32, 33.) We should take seriously our responsibility to avoid clothes that may offend others. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up,” wrote Paul. Then he added this reason: “For even the Christ did not please himself.” (Rom. 15:2, 3) Yes, Jesus put helping others ahead of personal convenience—helping them was key to his doing God’s will. Hence, we will forgo items or styles of clothing that we like but that could close the minds of people to whom we want to witness.
14. How can parents train their children to glorify God by their manner of dress?
14 Christian parents have a responsibility to teach their families to apply Bible principles. This includes making sure that they and their children strive to make God’s heart rejoice by their modest style of dress and grooming. (Prov. 22:6; 27:11) Parents can instill in their children a healthy respect for the holy God whom they worship by setting the right example for their children and by giving loving and practical instruction. How good it is when parents teach their youngsters where and how to find suitable clothes! This means not just what they like but also what will enable them to carry out their privilege of representing Jehovah God.
USE YOUR FREE WILL WISELY
15. What should guide our personal choice as to our dress?
15 God’s Word provides practical guidance that can help us to make wise choices that will bring glory to God. Still, what we wear involves some personal preference. Our individual tastes vary, as do our financial resources. But our clothes should always be neat, clean, modest, appropriate to the occasion, and acceptable locally.
16. Why is it worth making the effort to be appropriately dressed?
16 We must admit that it is not always easy to make a decision that shows good judgment, that is sensible, and that takes all factors into account. Many stores cater to popular fashions, so it may take more time and effort to find modest skirts, dresses, and blouses or suits and slacks that are not too tight. Yet, fellow believers will likely note and appreciate the results of our sincere efforts to find attractive and appropriate clothing. And the satisfaction we have of bringing glory to our loving heavenly Father more than makes up for any inconveniences that we may face to dress so as to glorify him.
17. What are some factors that may affect whether a brother wears a beard?
17 What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.
18, 19. How does Micah 6:8 help us as we strive to let our style of dress be pleasing to God?
18 How grateful we are that Jehovah does not burden us with detailed lists of regulations about our dress and grooming. Instead, he has permitted us to exercise our free will and make sensible personal decisions, which should be guided by sound Scriptural principles. Thus, even in our dress and grooming, we can show that we want to ‘walk in modesty with our God.’—Mic. 6:8.
19 Our modesty includes making a humble evaluation of ourselves when compared with Jehovah’s purity and holiness, for we are completely dependent on him for the best guidance. Also, modesty includes showing respect for the feelings and opinions of others. Therefore, we ‘walk in modesty with God’ by conforming our lives to his elevated standards and showing respect for other people’s sensitivities.
20. What effect should our dress and grooming have on others?
20 Our choice of clothing should not make people conclude anything other than that we are worshippers of Jehovah. Our brothers and sisters as well as people in general should be able to see that we fittingly represent our righteous God. He has high standards, and we happily strive to reflect those standards. Commendation is in order for brothers and sisters whose appearance and fine conduct attract honesthearted people to the Bible’s lifesaving message and bring glory and joy to Jehovah. Making wise decisions about what to wear will surely continue to bring glory to the One who clothes himself “with majesty and splendor.”—Ps. 104:1, 2.