The Clothes That Make The Woman

This month we are going to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: fashion.

I know you must be wondering what clothing has to do with ministry. Apparently it is quite important because you girls ask me about appropriate dress for a minister’s wife more often than anything else.

Here is just a sampling of your e-mails:

“As a minister’s wife, should we dress even more modestly than we would if we were just a church member? How do we make those kinds of decisions?”

-and-

“I need advice on how to dress as a pastor’s wife. Please, please, please write about that soon. I need help!”

Let me state from the get-go that there are no biblical guidelines to set apart the dress of a minister’s wife from any other Christian woman. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t required to wear polyester or sensible shoes. I can confidently tell you now but early on in Luke’s pastorate, I believed this Fashion Lie.

It was 1994 and Luke and I were on our way to Kentucky for him to attend Bible College. Until that time, my wardrobe consisted of the typical things girls in their early twenties were wearing–tunics or brightly colored blazers over leggings. What wasn’t wildly patterned was black. I was quite the eccentric fashionista.

As I got more and more nervous about fitting in with the other student wives, images of my childhood pastor’s wife filled my mind and in none of them was she wearing anything resembling one thing in my closet. I decided it was time for an extreme makeover so off to the mall and the Misses Department I went – an area I had previously avoided at all costs.

While I browsed through the racks I tried to envision what appropriate preacher wife wear should look like. I was so proud to take home two pairs of pants WITH ELASTIC WAISTS and a sweater vest embroidered with bird houses and kitty cats. I have nothing against either of these except for the fact I was 23 years old and looked like I had raided my grandma’s closet. But hey, isn’t that what preacher’s wives are supposed to look like?

No. The answer is no.

Unless of course you are a woman who loves those styles and they are age and style appropriate for you. Personal, modest taste should be our guide. If you like it, wear it, provided it falls within the biblical guidelines Paul laid out for Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “Likewise I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”

Many people have taken this passage way out of context and have twisted it to mean we can not wear jewelry or anything in the least bit stylish. What they fail to realize is that Ephesus, where Timothy was at the time of Paul’s writing, was a hotbed of sexual immorality. Temple prostitutes dressed in garb that identified them as such. General prostitution was also rampant. The women of that day used clothing to communicate their availability much like women of the night still do today. Also in Ephesus were the cultural elite who used their finery to lord their position over the lower classes of people. (For an excellent full length article on this topic, see John MacArthur’s, “God’s High Calling for Women”.

Here are a couple of ways we can apply these examples to modern day:

Dress like a Mama, Not a Hoochie Mama
I am constantly amazed at women who dress scantily to attend church. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but in my opinion mini-skirts and strapless dresses are not appropriate worship attire. As a whole, women (especially younger ones) do not comprehend that men are visual creatures and that revealing and/or tight clothing–whether intended to be or not–is a distraction. How do you know if what you are wearing is too much? (or not enough): If you have to worry about your underpinnings hanging out or a button popping if you kneel down at the altar then it’s probably not a great choice.

Another disturbing trend is mothers who dress like their teenage daughters. I’m not saying I’ve never purchased a shirt out of the Juniors Dept., but as a rule, if your daughter would wear the majority of what is hanging in your closet, it’s most likely not age-appropriate for you. Kohl’s Department store happens to be my favorite because it has a great line of trendy clothes that are made for the woman who is no longer a girl but not yet a senior.

Don’t wear Armani if the average of your church is wearing Sam Walton
Personally, I’ve never known a pastor’s wife that could afford better clothes than the congregation but I’m certain there are larger church settings where this is the case. I once had the opportunity to listen to a high profile pastor’s wife–dressed to the nines–tell a group of poor girls about her and her husband’s latest extravagant vacation. I don’t think her motivation was to make us feel ‘less than’, but even though we were sisters in Christ it was obvious she was culturally elite and someone with whom we had nothing in common. In deep contrast, I have another friend whose husband has a financially lucrative ministry and yet she still shops the clearance racks and minimizes her position because she doesn’t want to be perceived as untouchable. Guess which one’s example I take more to heart? In dress and attitude, we should all strive to be the winsome, humble woman whose actions give weight to our testimony.

Ultimately, worship meetings should be a God show, not a fashion show. The entire point Paul was trying to make is that more attention should be paid towards preparing ones inside than outside. God has never been impressed with externals; however, if we keep our hearts pure I don’t think He minds if we raise our hands to Him in a great pair of shoes.

Thank you for the great questions! You can submit your own by emailing Lisa at thepreacherswife1@gmail.com.

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