Question and Answer

Women Wearing Men’s Clothes

Question:

What does the Bible say about women wearing men’s things? And what would be an example of some of those things?

Answer:

May grace be yours and peace in Christ Jesus.

The biblical principle is that men are not to wear women’s clothing, and women, men’s. In Deuteronomy 22:5 we read, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Along these lines, in the New Testament we read in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10,

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Here, it tells us that the “effeminate” will not inherit the kingdom of God. While we can debate the exact meaning of the word in this context, since it is contrasted with the abusers of themselves with mankind, it seems to indicate the kind of people who would affect the habits of the opposite sex without engaging in sexual acts themselves, and so perhaps is a reference to those men who dress in women’s clothing. In any case, the principle is clear: we are not to dress ourselves with the clothing of the opposite sex.

Having said that, the application of the principle is not as simple. For example, while in most Western countries it would seem strange for a man to wear a skirt, it seems that it was common for men in the Old Testament times to wear skirts, as we read in many passages, such as Ruth 3:9, Jeremiah 2:34 and Zechariah 8:23. And, in many other cultures and countries, it has been and still is common for men to wear skirts. The same could be said for things like earrings, as we read in Exodus 32:2 and Numbers 31:50. The Exodus passage makes it clear that the Israelite men wore earrings. About the only specific reference that I can find that would distinguish the genders is the command in 1 Corinthians 11:14–15, “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? For long hair is given to her as a covering.”

Generally, I think the way in which we are to obey this command is in line with the expectations of the culture in which we live. For example, some years ago I think it would have been sin for a woman to wear pants like a man, but, that has long since changed, and to impose a requirement that women wear skirts because otherwise they look like men would be to impose a standard which no longer exists in Western society. Some would even argue that some pants are more modest than skirts that women wear nowadays. I know that this sounds like conforming to our culture, and in sense it is, since the roles and dress of men and women are, for the most part, defined by cultures. Still, the biblical principle remains: women should dress like women, men should dress like men, and so maintain the distinction between the sexes.

As always, there is much more that could be said about this.


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