Women's dress

(Rebekah DeWitt) #1

In the OT it says that it as an abomination for a woman to wear what pertains to a man…does this apply to today and if so, does it mean women have to wear skirts and dresses? If not, what Biblical grounds support women wearing pants? Thank you

(Akshay Ghorpade ) #2

Hi Rebekah,
As far as the biblical perspective from deuteronomy 22:5 goes this does not relate to woman wearing pants or not wearing pants for the following reasons

  1. Men in the Middle East during the OT times did not wear pants. So as such specifically it cannot pertain to pants.
  2. It most likely relates to pagan rituals where to worship pagan gods like asthoreth cross dressing was prevalent. This was also done in the worship or Venus ( where men dressed up in women’s clothing). Also women dressed up in men’s clothing to worship Mars. This was to prevent the Israelites from incorporating pagan practices in the otherwise true worship of God.
  3. This also has to be seen in the context of the culture at the time. Scottish men wear kilts which look a lot like skirts. They are definetly not cross dressing or intending to portray themselves as feminine. It’s merely a cultural aspect.
  4. Thus it could be appropriate to say that this would be applicable more to men or women trying to purposefully dress up and protray themselves of the opposite sex. As long as that’s not the intent, it would be safe to say that wearing pants does not contradict scripture.

(Rebekah DeWitt) #3

I appreciate your sharing. One more thing that I’ve heard as a reason women should not wear pants is that whatever the type of clothing a man wears (depending on the time frame in history), a woman should not wear the same. Also, since something was an abomination to God then, and He changes not, would it not be still an abomination? These are points that I have a hard time sorting.

(Akshay Ghorpade ) #4

Hi Rebecca,

I think another way to understand what God really wants is to understand our Fathers heart. When you know the intent you better understand what HE actually meant. Here it’s very clear that the intent is not so much clothes but what women wearing clothes similar to men at that time represented. Here when we understand the context we realise if women in that time wore men’s clothing it would mean something very different ( pagan worship ) than what it would mean in today’s time. Yes our God is unchangeable, but unchangeable in HIS divine intent( His children worship him in truth not following pagan ways and rituals) not so much to bind woman in our era into wearing or not wearing pants. Imagine if woman in the battlefield today incurred Gods wrath in wearing combat fatigues ? Is that what our God wants ? This type of teaching reminds me personally more of the yeast of the Pharisees who distorted God’s laws to bind people and in doing so missing HIS whole intent.


(Kathleen) #5

Hi, both!
Very interesting question, @Rebekah. These ancient laws always seem a bit bizarre to me! And even more interesting are the ways Christians throughout history try to apply them in contemporary society.

One of the things that I always try to remember is that God is less concerned with behaviour than he is with the heart (or motive). I think what we need to be examining more than ‘What am I allowed to wear?’ is ‘Why am I wearing what I’m wearing?’ And I seek to understand the same concerning these laws: Why was this particular behaviour forbidden? What did it mean in that culture?

Thank you, @akshay807, for giving us some insight into that!

(SeanO) #6

@Rebekah I think the first thing to understand is that we need to know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. In Deuteronomy God said it was an abomination for a women to dress in man’s clothing, but ‘why’? The why is so important. A ‘what’ without a ‘why’ is a rule without a reason - a command without a clue - a penalty without a purpose.

How is it that Jesus could boil the entire Old Testament law down to 2 commands - love God and love neighbor? Because Jesus knew the ‘why’ behind all the commands - the great ‘why’ is love of God and love of neighbor - that was the purpose of all the ‘whats’ in the Old Testament.

So let’s follow two simple steps to help us understand wearing pants:

  1. What was the why behind the what in Deuteronomy 22:5?
  2. What is the why behind the what in how women should dress today?

The Why for the What in Deut 22:5

It appears, based on this note from the NET Bible - as pointed out by @akshay807, that the ‘why’ behind not wearing men’s clothes was related to its implications in ancient culture. It was associated with some type of immorality or idolatry.

tn The Hebrew term תּוֹעֵבָה (toʿevah, “offense”) speaks of anything that runs counter to ritual or moral order, especially (in the OT) to divine standards. Cross-dressing in this covenant context may suggest homosexuality, fertility cult ritual, or some other forbidden practice. NET Bible

The Why behind the What in How We Dress

So, Jesus gave us 2 great ‘whys’ - love God and love neighbor - let’s work out what those mean for the way we dress today.

How do we love God in the way that we dress?

  • we honor the created order of male and female (there can be cultural differences in the way this is expressed)
  • we do not associate ourselves with idolatrous practices

How do we love our neighbor in the way that we (men and women) dress?

  • we love our neighbor by not dressing in a way that could lead them into temptation
  • we love our neighbor by dressing in a way that would help us to share the Gospel with them

Now, consider Romans 14 - you should read this chapter - Paul is addressing issues that are similarly debatable - the sabbath and meat sacrificed to idols. Let’s see what he says:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind… 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.

So now we have 2 things at play - your conscience and love your neighbor:

1 - love God and neighbor in how you dress
2 - do not violate your own conscience or that of your neighbor in the way you dress

So, what does this have to do with pants? Well, I think you have to consider your own conscience and that of your neighbor.

Now, one caveat, Paul says those with a stricter conscience cannot judge those with more freedom - so someone who thinks it is not okay to wear pants does not have the right to condemn you if your conscience does give you freedom to do so.

Does that make sense? The ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ is so important.

You may also find this thread interesting:

(Rebekah DeWitt) #7

I had a discussion with someone about this after I asked the question here. The statement that was made to me is that whatever pertains to a man in the time YOU are living is what applies to you and that is what a woman should not wear.
What would be your answer to this, please?

(Rebekah DeWitt) #8

I have been re-reading the answers that were given to my question…on the subject of conscience…I would like to ask for input on that further. I was in a church in which theee was such strict teaching that I am now questioning what of it was “man rules” and what is truly from God. My question is, could my conscience be improperly trained from this? Thus, if my conscience is trained to think something is wrong according to the way I was taught in the church, what is the way to not have to live under that bondage?
I hope my question is clear.

(SeanO) #9

@Rebekah Let me try to clarify your question - if your conscience has been trained to feel guilty even when it should not, is there way to get out of the bondage of unnecessary guilt and shame? Is that accurate? If that is correct, I think the answer is a resounding yes.

I think there are a few possible steps forward. And always remember, if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. Sometimes it takes time to overcome that feeling of wrongness.

I John 3:20 - If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1 - Study the Word and know what you believe and why you believe it
2 - Pray for Jesus to give you freedom in your heart
3 - Respect the conscience of those who are still under the bondage - it is easy to be upset at the people who taught us wrongly, but we should forgive and love
4 - Avoid people who are manipulative - some religious places / people try to manipulate us with rules - that is not okay
5 - Find an older woman of God to pray through it with and discuss - pray for the Lord to provide such a person
6 - Don’t violate your conscience - don’t needlessly violate your conscience, give yourself time to heal and grow

Guard Your Heart - Not Your Fence

I call these types of rules about dress or not playing pool or not dancing ‘fences’. Just like when Adam and Eve changed God’s Word from ‘do not eat it’ to ‘do not eat or touch’. They built a fence to try to avoid disobeying God.

Genesis 3:1-3 - Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

But what did God really say? God never mentioned touching it - only eating it.

Genesis 2:16-17 - And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Humans are great fence builders - just like the Pharisees - we make laws to protect our laws. That is called legalism - we mistake the letter of the law for the heart.

Matthew 23:23-28 - “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

In Colossians, Paul points out that all of these rules seem very religious - but they can do nothing to change our hearts!

Colossians 2:23 - Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

What we really need is pure and clean hearts - the fences we build are not what matter at all.

The Conscience with Jesus as Master

Romans 14 and I Cor 8 are great passages to study regarding our conscience.

Romans 14:1-4 - As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

We stand or fall before Jesus our Master - so we should honor the consciences of our brothers and sisters, but not be a slave to the opinion of any other person. Jesus is our Master so we must live for Him alone.

May Jesus heal your heart and provide you with godly examples / mentors for the journey. Are those thoughts helpful? @KMac may have some good thoughts as well.

(Akshay Ghorpade ) #10

Hey Rebekah,

I think one of the ways to clearly get to the bottom of this, we have to ask the following questions.

  1. Does wearing pants by woman today depict the same that it did when this was written ?

Of course not. Women today don’t wear pants as symbol of witchcraft they do this as part of dressing.

  1. Is your wearing pants undermining your relationship with God in any way. Did not even God in the Old Testament say rend your hearts and not your garments ?

  2. I think honestly what this may still be applicable to is the question of cross dressing ( drag queens ). Rebekah God mostly looks at our why not our what. Why do you wear something is more important than what you wear.

Also wearing something or not wearing something is not supposed to bind us. Don’t let the religious teaching of the day hold you down. We know what are commands and teaching we must obey. Let no one bring anything more on you than what the lord puts on you.

Hope it helps, please feel free to get back on this anytime.


(Kathleen) #11

Hi, @Rebekah! Good follow up question, and thank you @SeanO for, as always, your organised thoughts. :slight_smile:

I agree pretty much with what he said. A couple of ideas floating around in my head are…

  • Our consciences (our inner moral guide or intuitions, our sense of right and wrong) are shaped by our environment and the rules that govern that environment.
  • It is very possible for us to be ‘in bondage’ to the things we actually have the freedom to enjoy.
  • Cultures saturated in rules generally condition people to err on the side of condemnation. The majority of the rules are negative (Don’t do this. Don’t think that.) and are usually motivated by fear, so what is ingrained in you is the fear of doing wrong rather than the joy of doing right.

If you grew up with numerous, strict, detailed rules of what is right and what is wrong, then I imagine that trying to shake some of them off will be very difficult…because it will just feel wrong to do so! So Sean’s advice is very appropriate, esp. about giving yourself time to heal and grow and work through things. :slight_smile: