Getting Dressed is a Religious Act

Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

Today’s gospel reading is one of my favorites because it is a call to live a radical life of faith in God. It reminds us to put the first things first and the second things second. The person in the gospel had a choice to make–he could keep his current possessions or sell it all for the treasure. Out of joy he sells it all to make the purchase, it says. It was not hard for him to make the call, it seems. He knows which is the more valuable and acts accordingly. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like that–much more valuable than whatever worldly goods we would exchange for it–with joy we should make that exchange too.

When we choose to sell all for the Pearl of Great Price, this means everything–we hold nothing back from God. Everything in our lives comes under his Lordship. Our relationships, finances, even our clothing choices.

We are commanded by God to not commit adultery. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He is telling us that it is not enough just to avoid sinful acts. We have to root out the evil in our own thoughts and feelings before it leads to outward sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in #2339 that “either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” When we practice self-mastery, we gain the freedom to choose the good.

As Christian women, if we are finding our worth in being a beloved child of God, we don’t need to dress in the morning to get as many men as possible to commit adultery in their hearts when they look at us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:6 that, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” I don’t think a millstone is very sexy. I am not saying we should go around wearing burqas, but we should not dress with the goal of leading others into temptation. If we love God’s people, we will want their good. If we will their good, we don’t try to make things harder for them, but rather, remove any burden we can.

When Christian women buy clothing and get dressed in the morning, they should be asking questions like these:

“Would I wear this in front of my pastor?”
“Would I want my daughter wearing this?”
“Would I want my husband or boyfriend to work next to someone dressed like this?”
“Would Our Blessed Mother have worn this if she were living today?”
“Might this tempt a weak brother if I wear it?”
“Jesus, do you approve of this?”

The Christian life is a paradox–by giving it all away to God, our deepest desires are fulfilled in return. When we seek to please God rather than men in our attire, we become even more beautiful and confident, which is much more attractive and desirable to most men than big exposed behinds and desperate cries for attention.

2 thoughts on “Getting Dressed is a Religious Act

  1. Perhaps women could also consider questions like: Does this clothing reflect that I respect and care for myself? How will this outfit support my goals for today (ie being comfortable, feeling focused, feeling confident)? How does this clothing make me feel?

    In my experience, many men that view women as eye candy vs. fellow humans to honor and respect will not be deterred by modest clothing. Further, the fact that they view women in this way is not my responsibility to manage. If I look beautiful, there is room for a man to appreciate that way before he starts lusting. Whether he chooses to cross that line is never any one else’s responsibility but his own. This is why I am more inclined to consider how my clothing choices serve my needs for the day and my need to honor and respect myself, and therefore honor and respect my body. This usually leads to clothing choices that are neither too loose or too tight, neither too revealing nor covering myself up out of fear.

    May we as women be empowered to live within our bodies with confidence and clothe ourselves accordingly.

    1. When I wrote this post, my purpose was to consider how we can put God first in everything, including clothing ourselves. I think it is a loving thing to do to consider how my choices may affect others. When choosing our clothing, I agree with you that our considerations should include: is this appropriate for the activity I am going to do, will I feel comfortable moving around freely (very important to me personally), and also, will this call attention to my shape or certain parts so as to tempt someone to look at me inappropriately? I agree that it is ultimately each individual’s responsibility to control their own passions, and for those who aren’t trying to behave in a Christian manner, our clothing choices may not matter much. But for the men who are struggling against this temptation, they would probably find it easier to keep their minds pure if we act and dress more modestly. We certainly shouldn’t go out of our way to draw lustful attention to ourselves, as some people do. We need to question the fashions our society puts forth and choose appropriately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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