While millions of humans suffer, hunger, and die, others live extravagant lives. They own the hottest gadgets, have the newest and largest houses, seek constantly new forms of entertainment, and dedicate their lives to ever-changing fashion by wearing the latest and most expensive clothes.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a story by Hans Christian
Andersen, dealing with a king who always needs the
newest things, especially clothes. Two people offer to weave
and tailor for him an incredible suit, made from extraordinary
fabric that is invisible to ignorant people. When the emperor
parades in his new clothes, the people pretend to admire
what they do not see, while a child asks, why the emperor
has no clothes on. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon comes at last to
the conclusion that all pursuit of luxury, ease, and pleasure is
in the end nothing else than vanity. This raises the question
of the priorities in life and a Christian lifestyle.
I. Principles of a Christian’s Life According to 1 Peter
1 Peter 2:21
Redeemed persons follow Christ’s example.
1 Peter 1:15; 2:12; 3:16
They live holy lives, exhibiting excellent behavior.
1 Peter 3:13,17, 4:19
In spite of suffering they seek what is right and good and do it.
1 Peter 1:2; 4:2
They obey God’s will.
1 Peter 2:12; 4:11
Their lives glorify God and help others to glorify the Lord too.
1 Peter 1:22; 2:13, 17; 4:8, 10
They love and serve.
1 Peter 4:7; 5:8
Their lives are shaped
by prayer, vigilance,
1 Peter 2:9; 3:1, 15
They proclaim the gospel
by word of mouth
and by their lifestyle,
aiming at winning others
to become children
Peter stresses that in this world Christians are strangers
(1 Pet 1:23; 2:11) and may irritate others indirectly because
they do not participate in the majority’s wild life, debauchery,
and licentiousness. They have committed their life to Jesus,
are extremely grateful for the gift of salvation, and follow Jesus’
example. John uses the term “world” to point to that
which is hostile to God (1 John 2:15-17). While Christians
cannot and do not join the world’s opposition to God and its
perversity (see 2 Cor 6:14-18; Jas 4:4), they are not called
to turn away from the world completely. God loves the world
(John 3:16), and Christians carry responsibility for it (Matt
28:19-20). Therefore, they live exemplary lives.
II. The Outward Appearance of Christians
While discussing foundational principles of the Christian
life Peter also addresses the outward appearance of Christians.
1 Peter 3:1-5
Obviously, Peter approves of adornment;
only inward, and not outward
adornment. While he rejects outward
adornment, inner adornment is to be
manifested through reverence, purity,
gentleness, submissiveness, and humility.
Such adornment is winsome
and may reach non-Christians.
In 1 Timothy 2:9-10: Paul supports inward adornment too. Outward adornment is mentioned by listing some items of jewelry. It is inward adornment such as modesty that counts.
3. In the Old Testament
Pride was one reason for the fall in heaven. Satan wanted
to be like God (Isa 14:12-14; Eze 28:14-17).
Wearing of decorative jewelry is associated with pride. God’s judgment on the haughty daughters of Jerusalem brings about a reversal of circumstances, “branding instead of beauty.”
Although jewelry was worn during OT
times, God told Israel to take it off, before
He would bring them to the Promised
Land, probably as a sign of repentance
and returning to Him. Functional
jewelry such as the one worn
by high priests and kings was not
forbidden. Obviously Scripture makes
a difference between functional and
purely decorative jewelry, allowing for
the first and rejecting the second.
4. The Example of Jesus
Jesus’ appearance was marked by simplicity and modesty.
However, His garment was of good quality, because
the soldiers decided not to divide it (John 19:23-24). Inward
values were more important to Jesus than was outward appearance
(Matt 15:18-20); yet he did not neglect the outward
(Luke 7:44). Christians follow Christ’s example.
III. Practical Principles
When discussing clothing and outward appearance, one should consider the following issues and principles:
• The principle of simplicity
• The concept that clothing must meet the highest moral standards
• The question of practicality
• The economical perspective (stewardship)
• The consideration of furthering vs. damaging one’s health
• The principle of natural beauty
Christians will strive to clothe themselves in a simple,
modest, and tasteful way. They will not go out in rags (if possible)
nor will they show off in an extreme way. They will
make a difference between what is good and what the Bible
calls “worldly” in a negative way. Sometimes it is difficult to
make right decisions, but believers can turn to the Lord in
prayer and ask Him for wisdom to make such decisions that
honor God and allow them to be effective witnesses. Then
they will live their lives happily
Ekkehardt Mueller is deputy director for the Biblical Research Institute
at the General Conference World Headquarters. This article has
been reprinted, by permission, from Reflections, the BRI Newsletter,
edited by Elias Brasil de Souza.