What does God’s word, the Bible say about a woman wearing pants or dress?
By Cooper P Abrams III
There is an ongoing debate among some pastors and churches that teach a woman should wear a dress at all times. They teach the Bible says that it is wrong for a woman to wear pants because pants are worn my men. It is the purpose of this paper to address this issue from the principles God gives us in His word the Bible.
Most who believe in women wearing dresses cite Deuteronomy 22:5 as their text verse. It states, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5) The word “pertaineth” means some apparatus, or thing that is prepared for or pertains to a man. In this case, the context is addressing marriage, responsibilities to others, and everyday affairs. In this general context, God gives instruction concerning cross-dressing for both to women and men and states to violate this is an “abomination.” Abomination means something that is morally disgusting or abhorrent to God. It therefore is a gross sin. Deuteronomy 22:5 is addressing principles that deal with morality and righteousness (rightness) in the relations between men and women.
God established the standard that the sexes should be manifestly identified and honored. Literally, the verse is saying it is an abomination for a woman to wear anything that pertains to a man, that could include tools, weapons, helmets, uniforms, and clothing. Without question, this passage is addressing sodomy 1 and the appearance of a sodomite among both men and women. A woman or man who denies their sex and practices deviant sexual relations is grossly sinning according to God. These practices dishonor God and the natural order He has created.
The question continually comes up, and asks is should a woman wear pants. Those who take the position that it is wrong, do not consider if the pants were made for women. They conclude all pants fall under this admonishment. But does it?
We would note that verse is addressed to both men and women and the admonishment against cross-dressing equally applies to men.
However, many godly Christian women feel it is not improper for them to wear women’s clothing that include pants or pant suits. Strictly speaking, the verse prohibits women wearing anything that pertaineth to a man, and meaning clothing or items made exclusively for men. In Bible times, both men and women wore robes. The cut of the robes was made distinctively different for men and women, yet both were robes but their gender was clearly apparent.
If you applied that distinction to clothes today, it would seem reasonable to conclude that a woman who wore pants, if they were made strictly made for women, it would be appropriate, in spite of the fact that men wear pants. The etymology of the word shows it means any item made for men only. It would mean that God's standard for a woman is that they not wearing clothes designed for men and if designed for women it honors this principle as long as it is modest. (modestly is addressed further in this paper)
If a woman should wear clothes strictly made for men, then it would violate the principle of Deuteronomy 22:5. It would make her sexual identity confusing in most cases and she would dishonor her own sex and therefore dishonor God’s order of creating man and female differently.
Further, what would be the reason a man or woman chooses to cross dress? Cross-dressing shows the man or woman does not accept or appreciate the sex that God gave them. Without question, God says it is an abomination to Him and therefore is a sin to deny the sexual identity to which they were born. A person who believes in God and seeks to follow His moral values would not dishonor themselves or God by dressing to appear in a perverted way. They would accept the gender God gave them.
This brings us another point as to what does God say about modesty in how a person dresses. God’s standard clearly states in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:
“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.”
The context of this passage is established in verse 8. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (1 Timothy 2:8) It is not addressing the practice of lifting one’s hand in the air in worship, but the spiritual condition of the worshipper. The key word is “holy” hands, meaning hands separated and free of sin. The phrase “without wrath and doubting” involves without malice towards others and in faith. Thus, verse 9-10 continues the instruction saying in like manner as to living a godly life, and woman should dress accordingly.
It is the not the type of clothing the “modest apparel” is referring, but how is is worn and cut. Both dresses and pant can be worn immodest and be seductive and ungodly. A godly woman would not wear clothes that accented or would draw attention to themselves sexually. That is the dress of harlots, sodomites and immoral women, and reflects the sinful spiritual condition of their heart.
All around the world, people have different cultures and each culture has distinctive dress. Therefore the believer who seeks to honor the Lord and live a godly life must apply the principle of the passage as it pertains to their culture.
God’s instructions for a woman is to wear her clothes and dress in a manner that would profess godliness and good works. It is not saying a woman should not dress nicely. Jewelry can be worn modestly and be appropriate for a Christian lady. It can also be worn immodest and if worn immodestly it undoubtedly shows.
If a woman feels she wishes to honor the Lord and always wear modest dresses there is nothing biblical wrong with that. However, in principles a woman who wears modest pants, made for women, is not violating God’s standard. It is the heart that God is addressing not the type of clothes men or women wear.
It is always appropriate for a man or woman to dress nicely when they attend church. In our society and culture a man is dressed up when he wears a suit and tie and a woman a nice dress. All public officials wear suits and ties and dress up as the officiant their responsibilities. It reflects on the seriousness of their position and work. Likewise, a pastor or church member shows the seriousness of worship and a respect for God by dressing up. The modern trend toward casual dress dishonors the Lord. It shows a lack of respect for God and the seriousness of living a righteous life. Preachers who wear casual dress in their preaching plainly are sending the message that worship of God is a casual affair. It further shows their worldly mindset towards God and righteousness. However, if a person studies the Old Testament example, as shown in the Temple worship, God’s instructions a dress was strictly observed. No priest would dress or dare to approach his responsibilities in a casual way in carrying out his service to the Lord. This disrespect for God brought judgment.
A Christian who loves the Lord and seeks to honor him in his/her live will seek to profess godliness and good works. Jesus’ last words to his disciples was, “witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b)
In Romans 12:1-2 God tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Dressing in a worldly or immodest way destroys his/her witness for Christ. This type of living in dress or practice by a professing Christian confuses the Gospel and God’s plan of salvation. God says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16) Being holy means being separated from sin.
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
1 It is not the purpose of this article to address sodomy. God’s word is clear that sodomy is sin and condemned by the Lord. See Rom. 1:26-27; Gen. 19:5-7; 1 Cor. 6:9; Lev. 18:22, 20:13.
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