Glamorous models strut down the runway, svelte and chic, draped in haute couture fashions of exotic fabrics. Agog, the audience watches on the edge of their seats.
That’s what we expect at a fashion show. But the one I attended recently by an evangelical mission departed radically from the norm. Fashion show, you say, for a mission?
Yes, this fashion show demonstrated the growth of a mission to Bibleless peoples. Teachers on a visit to JAARS, the technical support center of Wycliffe Bible Translators, enjoyed the show as they ate lunch. Young girls dressed in stunningly beautiful attire from various nations spun around the room as a narrator read the mission’s history. The girls, daughters of missionaries, represented Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, then the Philippines, Ghana and other nations. They passed by in chronological order of the mission’s advance, one country after another. Sweet and shy, the little women lined up for the finale. Most of them humbly eyed the floor, but in their hearts they felt proud to present a great work of God.
It made me wonder what God thinks of fashion shows. Does He find us women sometimes frivolous and silly? Is He oblivious to the beautiful clothes and jewelry that catch our eyes? I think not. Numerous passages in the Bible mention adornments that interest women. In Ezekiel 16:10-14, God tells allegorically how He showed His love for Israel by making her beauty “perfect”:
“I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. … You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
But later, when Israel was unfaithful to her God, He vowed to strip women of what made them proud and turned them away from Him.
The LORD says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. … In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls” (Isaiah 3:16, 18-23).
These passages prove that God knows about all the items so many women love to buy and wear.
As I enjoyed the mission fashion show and thanked God for bringing His Word to the world, I pondered what a fashion show would look like if He planned it. If God were to show us what He finds beautiful, what women would He pick as models and what kind of clothes would they wear?
Certainly, the humble and modest models He would chose would shrink from standing before us as examples. However, in His Word, God has set before us many worthy women.
For example, the unnamed woman in chapter 31 of Proverbs undoubtedly would be in the lineup. “Clothed with strength and dignity,” she is of noble character. She works hard, occupied with the affairs of her household and business. “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
We do not know if this woman was physically beautiful, but in any case, verse 30 settles the issue. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” She is commended highly because she loves God and serves Him enthusiastically in all she does.
Our second model is Esther. Chosen as a candidate for queen, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments: six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. The king was attracted to her more than to all the other women so she must have been exceptionally beautiful. But her good looks were not the reason God chose her. He saw that she would be faithful to His will, even putting her life on the line in order to save her people, the Jews.
Dorcas is another model worthy of our attention. A disciple of Jesus, she fell ill one day and died. The Apostle Peter was called to pray for her. When he arrived, “all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:39). Through Peter’s prayer, God raised her back to life. This beloved woman provided for widows, probably at her own expense. Her love for God compelled her to care for the poor.
People found Dorcas, Esther and Mrs. Proverbs admirable because they did beautiful things for God. They modeled His heart.
How about us today? If we desire to be one of God’s models, what shall we wear? First of all, God has told us not to worry about clothing. In Matthew 6:28–30, He says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
In truth, our wardrobe needs one basic garment, a garment He gives us freely if we ask. Galatians 3:27 says, “… for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Yes, we are to wear Christ, His robe of righteousness, red from the blood of His sacrifice on the cross. Julian of Norwich, an anchorite (woman hermit) in the 1300s said, “He [Christ] is our clothing that lovingly wraps and folds us about; it embraces us and closes us all around as it hangs upon us with such tender love” (Revelation of Love, p. 9). We rejoice in these garments of salvation and know that, to God, we are beautiful in His Son.
Dressed in Christ, we can go out confidently to love and help others. We don’t have to be shy, fearful or weak because He clothes us with power too. In Luke 24:49, Jesus promised the indwelling Holy Spirit to his disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” As we wait on Him, He fills us with His Spirit so we will be strong to do His will.
As beautiful as our clothing is in Christ now, our future clothing will transcend it. One day, our whole being will be clothed imperishable in pure white robes. 1Corinthians 15:54 says, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ While we wait for that day, we groan, longing to be clothed with this heavenly dwelling.” Our earthly nakedness will be covered for eternity with God’s celestial raiment purchased by our Lord Jesus.
In the meantime, there is important work to do. We must put on—every day—a suit of armor that God provides for spiritual battle. There’s the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, and shoes ready to go into all the world with the gospel of peace. We protect ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, praying as we walk down the runway of life. An audience is watching—people who need to know God loves them and wants to save them from self-seeking worldliness and sin.
Every woman can be a model for the Lord. We are beautiful to Him because we wear the righteousness of Christ. He fits us to face life’s challenges and difficulties so as to prove the grace of God. So let’s stand tall, smile, and go out assured of God’s love and power. We can show the world that, for us, modeling our lives on God’s Word will never be out of fashion.