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Is it a sin for women to wear trousers? Should women have their hair covered in church?
Thank you so much for your honest spiritual enquiry about women and dress codes.
To answer the first part of your question,
the Bible, on the whole, does not say a great deal regarding clothing, but it does give some general guidelines.
The reason it is sometimes said that women should not wear trousers is that we read “A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). No reason is provided for this rule, but it occurs within a series of rules about public behaviour and respect for others, so it is probably a rule against breaking down accepted sexual barriers to the detriment of social attitudes about purity and respect between men and women. This is certainly a biblical principle.
In the New Testament, Paul writes that...women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
The biblical principle is that, in whatever culture we may live, we should observe high standards of public decency and especially keep our dress standards free from any overt and tempting sexual message. There was a time in the early decades of the last century when western women wore crudely adapted men's trousers as a sign of cultural and moral rebellion. Now that trousers are designed both for men and women and are not sexual symbols in that previous way, most Christians would regard them as suitable for women.
However, there may be a number of ways in which clothing can send inappropriate sexual messages and both women and men should avoid doing so. Also, Christian teaching includes the belief that God made men and women complementary to each other - different in certain physical and psychological ways that should be respected and honoured.
The apostle Paul gives his opinion on a similar issue in his ancient cultural world when he writes: does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).
However, the Bible also tells us that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). God is much more interested in what is going on in our hearts, than He is about what we wear. So, in general, I would suggest that ‘modesty’ is the key word in our clothing and that that we all should seek God’s wisdom and use our common sense.
To answer the second part of your question, the passage of Scripture where the apostle Paul speaks about ‘head coverings’ for women is 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. There has been much debate about it over the centuries. A married woman in Paul's culture wore a distinctive ‘head covering.’ Some think it was only a cultural sign of married respectability, and don't regard it as necessary now. Others believe it was a sign of submission to the husband as 'head' of the marriage and that it is still a rule for Christian wives, and even all women when in church. It is impossible to go into more detail here in this answer but I suggest there is not a clear enough meaning for us to understand and to draw conclusions.
However, I suggest there are much more important issues on which a believer should focus. One important insight is that we should not disturb the unity of our local church. On that basis, it might be appropriate for you to follow the established practice there as long as you are in the fellowship, even if privately you don't agree with it. This, I am sure, would be pleasing to God.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
In summary, women (and indeed, men) should dress with what represents in their culture, modesty and self respect, and should be models of faithfulness and respect, whether or not that is shown by a special item of clothing. God is more concerned about our hearts than the details of our clothing.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- 1 Peter 3:3-4
- Proverbs 31:30
- Romans 12:2
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*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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