A lot of conservative Christian groups in Africa frown upon the wearing of trousers by women, and consider the act a direct violation of Scripture and therefore a sin. More liberal Christians however don’t see anything wrong with women wearing trousers. The wearing of trousers by Christian women has thus become a sharp wedge that has created a deep division among Christians. What exactly is the position of Scripture on this divisive issue? This article seeks to explore Scripture to answer this question.
The singular verse of Scripture quoted by those who consider the wearing of trousers by women a sin is found in the 22nd Chapter of the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination to the LORD your God.
A cursory look at this verse reveals that the Mosaic Law was against women and men exchanging items of clothing. There were obviously garments meant for men and those meant for women among the Jews. The exchange of garments between the sexes was considered an abomination. This law was alright for Jews who lived under the Old Covenant. The question is, how does this portion of the Mosaic Law affect Gentiles in the New Testament?
From various portions of the Apostolic writings, we understand the Gentile believers are not under the Law of Moses. The Covenant God made on Mount Sinai was with Israel, not Gentiles, and it has been abolished and replaced by the New Covenant ratified on Mount Calvary by the blood of Jesus Christ. The abolishing of the Old Covenant made with Israel on Mount Sinai means that all the terms and conditions of that contract are of no effect on believers of the New Covenant. Kindly refer to my teaching on “The Relationship Of The Gentiles To The Law of Moses” published earlier on this blog, for a detailed explanation on this issue. The summary of this teaching is that, the Gentile believers in Christ are not subject to the Law of Moses. Their conduct and behaviour should therefore not be judged by any portion of the expired and abolished Mosaic Law, including the commandment of Deuteronomy 22:5.
It’s rather comical to observe that those who use Deuteronomy 22:5 to condemn the wearing of trousers by females (as a garment meant for males) conveniently ignore other commandments given in the same chapter of Deuteronomy. Let us look at other verses in this Chapter of Deuteronomy that has been used to divide Christians.
Deuteronomy 22:9 You shall not sow your vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of your seed which you have sown, and the fruit of your vineyard, be defiled.
Deuteronomy 22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.
Deuteronomy 22:11 You shall not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together.
In the same Chapter of Deuteronomy where women are forbidden to wear garments meant for men (and vice versa), the Mosaic Law forbids farmers from planting different types of crops in the same farm. The Chapter also forbids plowing with different types of animals yoked together. More glaringly, this portion of Scripture equally forbids people from wearing clothes made from different materials or fibres (eg mixtures of cotton, linen, nylon, wool, polyesters etc).
Now, why do those who insist on keeping the fifth verse of Deuteronomy Chapter 22 conveniently ignore verses nine, ten and eleven of the same Chapter? Why do they not condemn the planting of different crops in the same farm? Why do they allow the use of different farm animals ploughing a farm? And most importantly, why do they wear clothes made from a mixture of different materials? These were all abominations under the Mosaic Law. Why do those who single out one verse of Deuteronomy for observance consider these other practices no longer abominations, but retain the interchange of garments between the sexes still as an abomination? Where is the Scriptural authority to decide on which portion of the expired and abolished Mosaic Law to keep and which portion to discard?
The Apostolic writings are very clear about those who seek to obtain right standing with God by keeping any part the Mosaic Law. Such people are expected to go back and keep the entire Law of Moses, for unless you keep the entire Law, you are under a curse!
Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Galatians 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Galatians 3:12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them.
To keep a part of the Law, while ignoring other parts, automatically puts one under a curse and out of God’s grace! To go back to any part of the expired and abolished Mosaic Law (containing over 600 commandments and ordinances) for justification and right standing with God is a clear sign that one has fallen away from God’s favour!
Galatians 5:2 Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
Galatians 5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect to you, whoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.
The purpose of the Law was clear: it was a stopgap measure brought in to keep God’s people in check until the coming of Christ.The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Christ having come, we’re no longer under a school master and we’re not subject to any of its ordinances anymore!
Galatians 3:24 Why the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
To attempt to go back to any portion of the Law while in Christ is to abandon liberty and return to bondage. How crazy that is! How can some people deliberately want to take themselves back to slavery, having been delivered by Christ from the bondage of the Law? But that’s exactly what those who seek to be made right with God by keeping any part of the Mosaic Law are doing! They are taking themselves back to slavery!
Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?
Galatians 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a female slave, the other by a free woman.
Galatians 4:23 But he who was of the female slave was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise.
Galatians 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which engenders to bondage, which is Agar.
Galatians 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Galatians 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Galatians 4:28 Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
Galatians 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
Galatians 4:30 Nevertheless what said the scripture? Cast out the female slave and her son: for the son of the female slave shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.
Galatians 4:31 So then, brothers, we are not children of the female slave, but of the free.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
The Law of Moses is a yoke of bondage. It can only bring death, not life. To attempt to keep any portion of it only brings curses, not blessings, for then we would be expected to go and keep it in its entirety! But we are dead to the Law, and it has no authority or jurisdiction over us! Let no man judge you by any portion of the Mosaic Law!
Romans 7:1 Know you not, brothers, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
Romans 7:2 For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Romans 7:4 Why, my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God.
Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit to death.
Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
So, if believers in Christ are dead to the Law of Moses and are not subject to it, where should we look for guidance in matters of faith and conduct? To the Gospels and to the Apostolic writings! The Gospels and Apostolic writings provide the laws governing the conduct and lifestyle of the New Testament believers. Let us then go to the Apostolic writings to see how Christian sisters (and indeed all believers) ought to dress.
1 Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.
1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
1 Peter 3:2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
1 Peter 3:4 But 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 3:5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands:
The Apostolic writings make clear the goal in dressing: modesty, decency and sobriety! The purpose of clothing is to cover our nakedness and shame. We must therefore be modest, decent and sober in the way we use clothes to cover our bodies.
Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:9 And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you?
Genesis 3:10 And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
Genesis 3:21 To Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
When Adam and Eve found themselves naked after sinning, they made a feeble attempt to cover up their nakedness with fig leaves. That wasn’t good enough for God who had to make clothes of lambskin and cover them properly. Since the fall of man, God has always wanted his people properly and decently clothed. The only people we find in Scripture who roamed about naked were demon-possessed lunatics. And once the demons were cast out and they came back to their right minds, we find them taking great pains to be properly clothed.
Mark 5:15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
So, it’s actually an act of insanity for one to be indecently exposed in public. It’s a great lack of shamefacedness and sobriety to dress scantily and indecently in public. Jesus always enjoins those who are naked to come to him for proper clothing, because he hates and detests nakedness, both physical and spiritual.
Revelation 3:17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
Revelation 3:18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
The sin in dressing is not therefore the wearing of trousers by women. The sin is in the indecency and immodesty of a woman’s dressing, whether she’s wearing skirts, gowns, wrappers or trousers. The type of dress a Christian woman wears is immaterial. What matters is the way the dress covers her private parts while she’s in public. If she’s properly covered, then there’s no problem. If she’s not properly and decently covered, even if she’s wearing a flowing gown, then she has violated the Christian code of dressing. She has sinned. A woman may wear a flowing gown that touches the ground, but it could be transparent or slit and thus exposing her private parts.That certainly isn’t modest, decent or sober dressing.
The problem with the dressings of most Christians today is that they try to copy the trend-setters of the time, as they seek conformity with the world. Most Christian ladies look up to Hollywood/Nollywood (and all the other “woods”) for fashion inspiration. Rather than look to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God for guidance in all matters (including dressing), we seek to copy the world. For, how else can we justify dressings in public that expose the breasts, armpits, abdomen, buttocks and tighs? How does one justify the wearing of clothes that reveal the underwears? Unless the goal is to seduce and entice, there is absolutely no justification for a professed Christian to do that! Certain attires are designed for harlots only!
Proverbs 7:8 Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
Proverbs 7:9 In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
Proverbs 7:10 And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.
Proverbs 7:11 (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
Proverbs 7:12 Now is she without, now in the streets, and lies in wait at every corner.)
Only prostitutes dress to entice, seduce and “kill”! For if you dress indecently and expose yourself for men to lust after you, you are an accomplice to sexual immorality in the sight of God, though you may be a virgin!
Matthew 5:27 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Christians are not to copy the world in its fashion. Rather, we are to copy and follow the Word of God and be a shining light to a corrupt and depraved world. We are to help the lost find their way back to God, and not allow the spiritually blind to influence and lead us into sin.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
In conclusion, no where does the New Testament forbid the wearing of trousers by women. The portion of Scripture quoted in Deuteronomy to condemn the wearing of trousers by Christian women is obsolete, expired and of no effect whatsoever upon the New Testament Gentile believers, since it is a part of the expired and abolished Law of Moses that does not have jurisdiction over Christians. The Gospels and Apostolic writings that provide the rule of faith for New Testament believers admonish decency, modesty and sobriety in dressing, whatever type of clothing one chooses to wear. Believers should dress to cover their nakedness, and should not expose their private parts in public. Neither are we to dress to entice and seduce, for that makes us accomplices to sexual immorality. We should seek, at all times, to glorify God in our bodies (with our dressings, among other things), which belong to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:20 For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
God bless you!