Jesus looked on the scribes and Pharisees and admonished them: “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. . . . cleanse first that which is within . . . that the outside of them may be clean also. . . . Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity”
(Matthew 23:25-28 KJV).
The Pharisees dressed in such a way that they might look righteous and holy before the people. Jesus knew their hearts and instructed them to “cleanse first” the inward man. Far more important than the type of clothing is the condition of heart before God. Some people today do as the self-righteous Pharisees of yesterday. They not only seek for justification through their good works and modest clothing but they glory in it. Jesus taught that it was not the outward things that defile a man but the things which “come forth from the heart” (Matthew 15:17-20). If the heart is not right with God, all outward standards and works will be in vain. An outward standard to hide unrighteousness in the heart is hypocrisy.
Christ did not negate the importance of dressing modestly. Rather, He emphasized the fact that it is the heart that needs cleansing first, then the outside would be clean also. Modesty and godly dress is imputed to a person for righteousness only when it is the fruit of a clean heart. People are not saved or justified by their works but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once the heart has been changed through the power of Jesus Christ, the child of God is to follow after holiness in every aspect of life, or he will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
The salvation of the soul brings radical change. “Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). Sin, pride, lust, immodesty, etc. is cleansed and put away. “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
The preponderance of scripture focuses on the importance of the inward man, for when the inward man is in conformity to the spirit of Christ, the resulting outward fruit will be holy. The Bible does not spell out every detail of life, but it does address the principles necessary to glorify God. The foundation upon which decisions of dress and conduct are to be made is the holy principles of the Word. While worldly people rationalize and try to justify themselves, the Spirit will lead every honest, seeking individual unerringly.
The God of Heaven dwells in those who are of a “contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). The apostle Peter instructs the child of God to be “clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). As the heart is humble before God, so the outward man should reflect that inward humility. “Let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4).
Holiness is beautiful before the Lord. He is to be worshipped and honored with a holy, dedicated temple. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).