The Outward Appearance of God's People: Does it Matter?
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter,
but within they are full of extortion and excess."
"For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart." ~1 Samuel 16:7~
Is God concerned about the outward appearance of His people? Do our decisions about clothing, hair styles, jewelry, and other such things matter to Him?
Some Christians answer "No!" and as proof quote verses such as those above (divorced from their context, of course). Furthermore, anyone who dares to disagree and say, "Yes, God does care about outward appearance" is considered a legalistic hypocrite who strains at a gnats and swallows camels. Regardless of such accusations, I say, "Yes, God most definitely cares aout our outward appearance."
Merely changing one's hair style and clothing does not impart spirituality, of course. Nor does getting a GI haircut and putting on a uniform magically transform a man into a trained soldier. Yet the soldier-in-training is expected to conform to the military standards of dress and appearance from the first day he enters training. The Lord of Hosts has established certain standards of dress and appearance for the people of His army, and these standards are neglected by a great number of Christians today.
Outward appearance is not the real issue, of course. Outward appearance which violates Scriptural guidelines is merely a very obvious symptom of a much deeper spiritual problem. The real problem underlying the abandonment of God's standards of dress and appearance is a problem that has its roots in compromise, rebellion, and a desire for more independence than God is willing to give.
Let me explain. Most normal people do not want to be outwardly and noticeably different from those around them. Normal people do not like being stared at by strangers and viewed as an oddity. So when the world pressures God's people to abandon God's standards, it is very tempting for God's people to give in and compromise.
This compromise and world-conformity pleases the world and relieves the Christian of the stigma of being peculiar. But "friendship with the world is enmity with God" and "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Therefore the Christian who ignores God's instructions about outward appearance is actually rebelling against God and claiming his independence from the standards God has set forth in His Word. If people do not recognize this as the real root of the problem, it will do no good to try to force them to "get into uniform."
"Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter," Jesus said, "that the outside of them may be clean also" (Matt.23:26). The Lord clearly wants out outward appearance to conform to God's standards of holiness, but we must first recognize that our abandonment of God's standards is merely a symptom of our own internal rebellion against God. We resent God telling us how to dress or wear our hair. We want to decide for ourselves what is acceptable.
Once we have identified and acknowledged our rebellion as the real issue, we can let God take our rebellious nature to the cross and crucify it. We then come to the Father with a surrendered heart, willing to learn His ways and to walk in them. This will certainly change much more than our outward appearance. It will change our nature and our character, and this in turn will produce any necessary changes in our outward appearance. We will want to please our Heavenly Father. It will not matter to us whether or not our outward appearance pleases the world.
How we dress and wear our hair should never be the most important aspect of our faith. It should, however, be one of the things which identify us as one of God's children... [Next the writer quotes a number of passages and gives comments on some of them, ommitted here for space's sake]
It is obvious from the...Scriptures that outward appearance is important to God. God's remark to Samuel ("man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart") must be read in context. Samuel thought that one of David's older brothers must be "the Lord's annointed" because they were all tall and handsome. God was simply telling Samuel that when the Lord chooses to anoint someone for a task, He does not base His choice on how tall or handsome the person is, but on the conditon of his heart. This does not mean that God is not concerned about the outward appearance of His people. He is concerned, as the above verses show. If this were not so, Satan would not be so busy inspiring people to violate the Biblical standards.
We are dealing with something much deeper and more serious than clothes and hair; we are dealing with the authority of God. Those who knowingly defy God's instructions are defying God and questioning His right to command His people.
Satan's goal is to blur the distinction of the sexes, because the distinction of the sexes is a testimony to the authority God has established on earth. God created the human race as male and female. There are gender-specific roles in the family and there are gender-specific roles in the body of Christ. Satan is doing all he can to blur those distinctions, and his efforts extend even to clothing and hair styles. Working through the feminists, the sodomites, and the fashion designers, Satan changes the world's definition of what is modest, what is appropriate for men, and what is appropriate for women. A short time after the world has accepted these changes, the Church embraces them, and anyone who questions the wisdom of this is called a legalist.
Bible-believing Christians know that Satan is attacking marriages and the family. Few realize, though, that one important strategy of Satan's attack is to blur the distinction of male and female roles by persuading people that gender-specific clothing and hair styles are not important. The very fact that Satan is hard at work in this area should tell us that it must be important. This should give God's people all the more reason to take a strong stand against the unisex trend.
The enemy's attempt to blur the distinction of the sexes should cause God's people to go on the offensive and make it a special point to wear clothing and hair styles which clearly distinguish males from females...This serves as a silent testimony to Satan, to the angels, to the world, and to the Church that God has authority in the earth. Proper clothing and hair do not produce holiness, but true holiness will result in proper clothing and hair.
This subject always brings up dozens of questions. Usually the questions are raised by people like the lawyer in the New Testament who, "willing to justify himself," asked, "And who is my neighbor?" ("And who decides what is 'modest'? And who decides what is 'costly array'? And who decides what 'pertains to a man'?")
...The pupose of this article is not to deal with all the specific details. The purpose of this article is simply to awaken God's people to the fact that these things really do matter...