Many Scriptures describe a woman adorning herself for the specific purpose of luring a man into sin.
Hosea’s wife decked herself with earrings and jewels to attract lovers (Hos. 2:13).
Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, setting out to seduce him, put on “harlot’s attire” (Gen. 38:14,15).
Isaiah, chapter 3, tells of the time “when Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen.” Yet some women living then seemed untouched by the awful condition of their country. They dressed themselves with:
“Tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their awls [headbands], and their round tires [necklaces] like the moon,
“The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
“The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets [perfume bottles], and the earrings,
“The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins.
“The glasses [mirrors]. and the fine linen, and the hoods [tiaras], and the nails.” Isa. 3:18-23.
What an assortment of devices these wicked women used to curl their hair and adorn themselves!
God was indignant with these women who spent all their time and energy on their appearance when issues of life and death were before them. His judgment was: “And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent: and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty” (Isa. 3:24).
It is wrong to be concerned about temporal things to the neglect of eternal matters!
God said to the women of Israel, as Nebuchadnenar’s army crouched at the city gates: “And when thou art spoiled. what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson. though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold. though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life” (Jer. 4:30).
Queen Jezebel, wife of Ahab, king of Israel, was an exceedingly wicked woman. “There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord,” I Kings 21:25 says. Then it adds this terrible statement: “whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”
A man named Jehu set out to avenge the sins Jezebel had committed. Jezebel prepared for his coming by ‘painting her face and tiring her head [arranging her hair]’ (II Kings 9:30).
What was her intent, at that time of judgment, in adorning herself? Was it to distract, perhaps seduce, God’s messenger? Or was she so warped by her wickedness that it didn’t occur to her to worry about anything but her physical attractiveness? Whatever her reason, it did not prevent her bloody and terrible death.
On the other hand, people who are suddenly convicted of their sin in the presence of God seem to lose their concern about their physical appearance. The children of Israel fell into great sin and worshipped the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai. When they came to realize the awfulness of their sin, Exodus 33:4-6 tells us they stripped themselves of their ornaments and mourned.
Men seeking God’s favor and convicted of sin often dressed in the rough garments of sackcloth. Mordecai wore sackcloth when he heard of Haman’s wicked plan to kill the Jews (Esther 4:1). Daniel, when he was fasting because of his people’s sins, put on sackcloth and ashes (Dan. 9:3). Another time he did not anoint himself for three whole weeks because he was so intent on getting God’s mercy (Dan. 10:3).
When Elisha the prophet healed Naaman of his leprosy, Naaman wanted to give him beautiful, expensive garments. Elisha refused the gifts. but his servant Gehazi determined to own them for himself. When he came back with the garments, gained by a lie. Elisha said to Gehazi, “Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments?” (II Kings 5:26). His punishment for coveting the garments and lying to get them was leprosy!
Too much care for the externals, too much concern for the adornment and comfort of the body, can lead to sin.
In recent years many teenagers have started wearing tacky. “grungy” clothing. Their clothes aren’t simply casual; they are positively sloppy. Some buy faded denim jeans with pre-cut holes in the knee (the sign in the department store proclaimed “pre-faded, pre-frayed jeans”—and the price was exactly double that of ordinary jeans). They put together “poor boy” outfits. Is a trend toward ugly clothing a sincere desire to get back to unmaterialistic values? I think perhaps it is not. Teens say that by wearing this kind of clothing they are protesting their parents’ materialistic values. (And, face it, many of their parents are materialistic.)
But the fact that such “mod” clothing costs measurably more than conventional clothing makes me question their motives, especially when the teen is willing to let the harassed, materialistic parent pay for it! The truth is, sometimes such clothing actually says, “I reject the authority of my parents.”
Where is the balance? How can we know what is too little, too much? How should we dress to make sure people looking at us know we love the Lord?
Elizabeth Rice Handford is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. John R. Rice. She has written numerous books for Christian women and young adults.