The late comedian and television personality Joan Rivers coined and popularized the phrase: “Who are you wearing?” This question was asked to extremely well-dressed and fashion-forward Hollywood stars at black-tie events like the Oscars. The question produced interesting material for the television viewers. It also gave a nod to all of the famous elite designers who designed the attire and jewelry for A-list celebrities to lesser known ones. This question is still being asked on the red carpet because the people still want to know. It is a competition for attention and distinction for the stars and designers alike. Often – especially in the case of jewelry – the celebrities do not have pay any money at all to either buy or rent what they wear. That is because the stars are walking billboards for the designer.
Does Joan Rivers’ question also apply to Christians? Who or what are you wearing? Do we “wear” our worldly success or attainment? Do we take pride in the way we look or the clothes we wear? Do we wear our volunteer activities or Christian works? Do we wear the position that we have in the world or church? Do we clothe ourselves in the respect or deference that others may have for us?
In the gospels there is the account of Jesus blessing the small children:
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. –Mark 10:13-16
So Jesus said that if we don’t receive the kingdom as a small child, we cannot enter it. Do infants and toddlers care about status or labels? Do infants and toddlers care about worldly success or awards? Do they care about position? No, they really have pretty basic needs, and one primary need for them is to spend time with the few important people in their life. The important people for a very small child would usually be their mom and dad, and extend perhaps to a couple more people like their grandparents.
Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The NIV translates “put on Christ” as having “clothed yourselves with Christ.” Interesting! After baptism we are actually to wear our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Peter gave instruction to godly women and wives as to conduct:
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. –I Peter 3:1-6 (Emphasis added)
To summarize, Peter says that godly women should not focus on outward adornment, but on a quiet, peaceful spirit that trusts in God.
The apostle Paul in his letters to Timothy also gives instruction for dress and conduct:
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. –I Timothy 2:9-10
Some people think because of the above scripture that it is a sin to wear any jewelry or to dress in any way that is not “plain”. However, this is not the emphasis. The emphasis is that the true “adornment” comes not from outward appearance, but with genuine good works done with compassion. Even the Proverbs 31 woman is clothed expensively with “fine linen and purple”, however that is not the emphasis of her life. Proverbs 31:25 says: “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”
The Proverbs 31 woman is praised for all of her good works and achievements to benefit her family, but all of this comes from an inward quality. It is “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”
It is not what the virtuous woman is wearing that is important — it is WHO she is wearing that is significant in her life.
If there seems to be a lot of emphasis in the Bible about how women adorn or conduct themselves – we should know that women are a type of the Church – which is the Bride of Christ. If God wants women to behave modestly and be humble and ready to learn – then that is also the model of what he wants the Church to be! It is an opportunity, blessing and special responsibility given to Christian women to model this example for the Church.
Like the black tie events of Hollywood, God’s Kingdom is also invitation-only. But God made a way for all to come to Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16. We can’t reach the Kingdom of God by our good works or personal merit. Paul states in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The only way to approach God is through Jesus Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” –John 14:6. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross made a way for us.
This principle is further illustrated in Jesus’ Parable of the Banquet:
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
In this parable, many of the people invited the King’s banquet had other things to do and could not make time for the King. These people even oppressed and killed the King’s servants. But then the passage accounts for one man who came to the banquet, but had omitted a very important detail – his attire. This wedding feast admitted people from the highways with all sorts of backgrounds – “bad and good”. In Luke 14:21 it says they gathered up “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” to attend the banquet. But there was only one acceptable wedding garment to this feast. That “garment” is what we put on when baptized – and that is Jesus Christ – our righteous Redeemer. (Galatians 3:27)
We should ask ourselves: “Who am I wearing?”