Does God really care how we dress or whether we wear jewelry? Does the Bible forbid tattoos? What principles come into play as we make decisions of about areas where we believe there is freedom in Christ?
Isaiah 3 & 4
1 Corinthians 15.1-28
Does the Bible forbid tattoos?
Comfort for the Righteous
God had sent Isaiah to warn the nation of Israel of coming judgment and the consequences of that judgment. How discouraging it must have been to the righteous people who had not turned their backs on God.
So He spoke to them through the prophet, as well. Chapter 3.10-11:
10 “Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them,
For they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
For the reward of his hands shall be given him.
Matthew Henry in his commentary says:
Some good people might fear that they should be involved in that ruin, and therefore God bids the prophets comfort them against those fears: “Whatever becomes of the unrighteous nation, let the righteous man know that he shall not be lost in the crowd of sinners. The Judge of all the earth will not slay the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25) no, assure him, in God’s name, that it shall be well with him … and he shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. He shall have divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound, and so it shall be well with him.” When the whole stay of bread is taken away, yet in the day of famine the righteous shall be satisfied … they kept themselves pure from the common iniquity, and therefore the common calamity is not the same thing to them that it is to others. They brought no fuel to the flame, and therefore are not themselves fuel for it.
Dr. Henry was a Puritan pastor who lived from 1662-1714 so the language is a little foreign to modern day readers but the depth of his understanding makes it worth the effort. Let’s look a little closer at his comments:
He shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. He shall have divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound, and so it shall be well with him.
Think about Daniel and his three friends. They were taken away as captives, but God gave them favor. He gave them wisdom and protected them from being forced to go against their consciences (Dan. 1). He intervened when they were condemned to death for refusing to worship idols instead of the One True God (Dan. 3, 6).
Before his life was over Daniel had served three kings, had been used to interpret dreams, had interceded for his people, and had impacted the kings and kingdoms he served.
When the whole stay of bread is taken away, yet in the day of famine the righteous shall be satisfied …
Just as He feeds the birds of the air, God can sustain his children in the worst economic times.
… they kept themselves pure from the common iniquity, and therefore the common calamity is not the same thing to them that it is to others. They brought no fuel to the flame, and therefore are not themselves fuel for it.
Or as Paul said in Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6.7).
What a loving Heavenly Father we serve. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13.5), to meet our needs (Matt. 6.25-34) to limit our trials (1 Cor. 10.13), and to give us wisdom (Jas. 1.5) and grace (Heb. 4.16).
God, Tattoos, and Fashion
God had been speaking in general terms in verses 10-11, but now He begins to address the women, in particular. Chapter 3.16-24:
16 The LORD says,
“The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
the LORD will make their scalps bald.”
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery. the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
instead of a sash, a rope;
instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
instead of beauty, branding.
The women of Isaiah’s day were filled with pride. They cultivated beauty for its own sake. They flirted. They wore chains around their ankles that jingled when they walked to further attract attention. They walked with minced steps—probably seductively. The passage goes on to talk about their clothing, their jewelry and their perfumes.
Does that mean it’s wrong to dress attractively, to wear “jingling” bracelets or anklets, or your favorite perfume? The question gets back to the motives of the heart.
As women we’re first and foremost to cultivate the inner beauty Peter talked about (1 Pet. 3.3-4). Certainly, there are some types of clothing and ways of wearing them that are clearly wrong. We need to be aware that we can become a stumbling block to our brothers in Christ.
But other things are harder to decide.
“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you. I am the LORD.”
This apparently had to do with pagan religious practices. According to The MacArthur Study Bible, some pagans would make deep cuts in their faces out of respect for the dead and as offerings to the gods. The tattoos may have included the names of those gods.
So tattoos would clearly be wrong if part of some religious activity, but it doesn’t mean all tattoos are wrong. In the same way, Isaiah’s admonition about tinkling anklets and bangles does not mean all jewelry is sinful. So how do we decide?
When I’m asked about tattoos, I respond with several questions of my own:
Where to do you plan to get the tattoo?
Who will place it there?
What is your purpose for getting a tattoo on that part of your body?
Who will see it?
Ladies, let’s be honest. If you have a tattoo peeking out of the front of your blouse or above the waistband of your pants, where is it leading the eyes and the thoughts of the men who see it?
It gets back to two issues. What is your motive for placing it there? And could it be a stumbling block to your brothers in Christ (and therefore not biblically loving)? The same could be said of piercings and other things.
And with clothing, what is being exposed? Are there parts of your body being exposed—either because it’s short, low cut, or form-fitting—that should be reserved for your husband or future husband?
And you men reading this—are you looking at things that either belong to another man or will be another man’s in the future? That young girl or woman is someone else’s daughter, wife, or future wife.
There is also the issue of conscience. James 4.17 says:
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
And Romans 14.23 says:
“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
If we believe something is sinful and are willing to do it anyway, to us it is sin. So don’t violate your conscience in this or any other area, but we need to be very careful not to legalistically impose our standards on others when there is not a clear command in Scripture. This doesn’t mean we never judge the biblically sinful actions of others, but where there is freedom in Christ, we need to respect that.
Today’s Other Readings:
God’s Hand in History
This psalm recounts much of the history of the nation of Israel, clearly showing God to be the author of it all. He doesn’t just know everything which will happen; He is the Guiding Hand behind all of history. That includes world events, national events and the events of our individual lives.
Verse 27, “Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.”
Completely ignoring this principle, we have become a “buy now—pay later” society. We don’t want to wait for anything. We have been consumed with “keeping up with the Jones” and having everything our hearts desire. This has led to enormous amounts of debt and, at least part of, the financial woes we are suffering individually and as a nation. This is another example of the law of sowing and reaping at work.
The Least of the Apostles
Paul made this statement early in his ministry:
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (v. 9).
Considering he wrote much of the New Testament, that was quite a statement!
Later in his ministry he called himself the “least of all saints” (Eph. 3.8), and later still, “the worst sinner in the world” (1 Tim. 1.15). So what happened? Did Paul, the great apostle, become a bigger and bigger sinner? No, but he became more and more sensitive to his own sin and his need for God’s grace!
Today’s featured resources are by Nancy Leigh Demoss:
In The Look Nancy Leigh DeMoss challenges Christians to ask themselves tough questions: Who decides what I will wear, and why? What message does my clothing communicate? And, how can I reflect the glory of God in my wardrobe?
Biblical, practical and motivating, “The Look” challenges women (young or older), parents, and teens to discover the Truth about clothing and modesty, and to make choices based on God’s eternal perspective.
Becoming God’s True Woman is a charge to women to recover what the feminist revolution has robbed them of: the God-given beauty, wonder, and treasure of their distinctive calling and mission.
The feminist revolution was supposed to bring women greater fulfillment and freedom. Yet women today feel anything but fulfilled and free because they have lost the distinctiveness and richness of their calling as women.
Now a movement is spreading seeds of hope, humility, obedience, and prayer—a call to return to godly womanhood—and its truth will resound in the hearts of readers through the powerful messages of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Susan Hunt, Mary Kassian, Carolyn Mahaney, Barbara Hughes, P. Bunny Wilson, and Dorothy Patterson. Though each author approaches the subject of godly womanhood differently, a thread runs throughout that will instill joy and delight at the greatness of God’s created order and the part he wants women to play in his grand, redemptive plan. Includes a study guide.
Lies Women Believe: Satan is the master deceiver and his lies are endless. And the lies Christian women believe are at the root of most of their struggles.
“Many women live under a cloud of personal guilt and condemnation,” says Nancy Leigh DeMoss. “Many are in bondage to their past. Others are gripped by fear of rejection and a longing for approval. Still others are emotional prisoners.”
In the best selling Lies Women Believe, Nancy exposes those areas of deception most commonly believed by Christian women — lies about God, sin, priorities, marriage and family, emotions, and more. She then sheds light on how we can be delivered from bondage and set free to walk in God’s grace, forgiveness, and abundant life.
Nancy offers the most effective weapon to counter and overcome Satan’s deceptions — God’s truth!
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