Are You Guilty of False Advertising?

We often say that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But the fact is that people do form opinions about us based on our appearance—including the way we dress. It has always been so. I think of Proverbs 7:10, which describes an adulterous woman wearing “the attire of a harlot.” I don’t know just what that looked like, but both that woman and the man she seduced knew exactly what it meant. Her clothing was an advertisement for her character.

Well, what kind of character do your clothes advertise? Is it the sort of character you would want to claim? Could you be guilty of false advertising?

Before answering that question, consider something the apostle Paul says about our clothing. 1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to “adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly” (NASB). Taking for granted that these principles are important for men as well as ladies, think about the words that are used here.

  • Proper means that which is orderly, seemly, and honorable. Paul uses the same word when he says that an overseer must be “respectable” or “of good behavior” (1 Timothy 3:2).
  • Modestly indicates having both a sense of shame and a sense of respect toward others. The same word is rendered “reverence” in Hebrews 12:28. It is sensitivity to the effects of one’s conduct, both on oneself and on others. It is the opposite of brazenness.
  • Discreetly refers to soundness of mind, good judgment, and self-control. It is “conduct marked by restraint” (Kittel), the product of “inner self-government” (Trench). The same word is translated “self control” in verse 15; its root occurs several times in the New Testament as “sober,” “sensible,” or “prudent” (see 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 2:2,5,6). God wants every disciple to “think so as to have sound judgment” (Romans 12:3).

These words speak not just to the kind of clothes we wear, but to the attitude of heart with which we present ourselves to others. God says that our whole outward demeanor, including our choice of what to wear, is to be based on three things: (1) a resolve to be honorable—not just among people of the world, but among Christians, and above all before God; (2) an aim not to bring shame on ourselves or cause problems for someone else; and (3) good sense and the proper control of our desires—and by extension, as much as it’s within our power, the desires of those around us.

Propriety. Modesty. Discretion. I hope those are all qualities that you value. The question is, does your choice of wardrobe clearly declare that to the world? Or does it say something else? Consider:

  • Some Christian girls, who are trying to avoid sexual immorality, often dress in a way that sends a very different message to the boys around them. Ladies, if you wear clothes that advertise your body and your sexuality, then that’s where men will focus their attention. Is that really what you want? Instead, the Lord tells Christian women to emphasize their godly character (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:1ff).
  • Sometimes I have seen Christians (both men and women) wearing T-shirts that glorify things no Christian should be involved in: drugs/alcohol, promiscuous sex, violence, rebellion. If you wouldn’t do those things, then why would you let yourself be a walking billboard for them? Is that really the impression you want to make?

Paul described the Corinthian disciples as a letter of Christ, read by all men (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Christian, so are you. How will you show the world that Jesus lives in you if what is on you says just the opposite?