What Does Your Clothing Say?

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Matthew 22:2-14


I.         Take a look at these pictures and tell me what you think.

            A.        Men

                        1.         Who is the most rebellious?

                        2.         Who works hard?

                        3.         Who doesn’t care what others think?

                        4.         Who is the most practical?

                        5.         Who is the most studious?

                        6.         Who is the most fun loving?

                        7.         Who is most interested in girls?


            B.        Women

                        1.         Who is the most rebellious?

                        2.         Who works hard?

                        3.         Who is the sassiest?

                        4.         Who is the wealthiest?

                        5.         Who is the most practical?

                        6.         Who is most interested in boys?


            C.        What is it about these people, whom you never met, to cause you to make judgments about their character and background?

II.        Our choice in clothing reflects our thoughts

            A.        A while back, Andy Rooney, a commentator on a news show called 60 Minutes berated his fellow news commentators because the men were appearing without ties. He pointed out that their casual dress was inappropriate for what they were doing because it said they didn’t take the news they were delivering seriously.

            B.        Marketers know that most kids start building brand loyalties at the age of ten and by the age of fifteen those loyalties are basically fixed. So they develop images designed to attract customers. They offer music, articles, and news all geared to a particular characteristic. This includes clothing manufacturers.

            C.        Warren Berkley speaks of a man he knew, named Luther. “He was a member of the church where I was working; a good and generous Christian who died of cancer. Luther was one of these men who said exactly what he thought. One Sunday evening after services several people came to Luther’s home for refreshments. Among the group was a teenage boy who had a very strange haircut, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Luther said to the boy, ‘Adrian, why do you have your hair fixed that way?’ The young man gave an immediate answer, ‘Mr. White, I’m expressing myself!’ Luther said, ‘Why don’t you just tell people you’re stupid?’”

            D.        Many people become offended when people make decisions about them based on what they are wearing.

                        1.         “No matter what outfit I put on, I’m still the same person inside!”

                        2.         When a person is forced to wear uniform clothing, it is true the clothing doesn’t say much about the person’s character. But when a person has the freedom of choice, the things they select do announce what is on their mind.

                        3.         Matthew 15:16-20, outward actions are a reflection of inward thoughts.

            E.        In the parable of the wedding feast, why was the king angered by the dress of a man who came to his feast? - Matthew 22:11-14

                        1.         The man came to a wedding feast, but he was not dressed for a wedding.

                        2.         His clothing stated that he didn’t care about the wedding.

                        3.         He could not respond to the king because the evidence against him was clear.

            F.        Genesis 41:14 - Joseph showed care in how he appeared. Though summoned to the king, Joseph took time to make sure he gave the proper impression.

III.       “That’s not what I intended”

            A.        It is amazing how many people either don’t understand this simple concept or purposely ignore it.

            B.        Consider this article written by high school educator Elizabeth Schuett.

             Sally’s standing in front of my desk, tugging at her painted-on mini skirt, the one that’s smaller than my favorite dishtowel, and complaining. “Arthur is sexually harassing me.”

I hate it when that happens. Occasionally, I regret encouraging 14-year-olds to read. Too many seem to think Grandma’s grocery store tabloid is the Midwest equivalent of The Wall Street Journal.

But I’m obliged to investigate. “What has Arthur done?”

“He looks at my legs.” I try not to splutter or roll my eyes. Objectivity is my job. “He said my skirt was too short.”

I encourage her to get on to the harassment part. She says that’s it.

We have a dress code where I teach, and most of our kids come to school looking just fine. Of course, there are a couple of guys who have bought into what someone has told them is the gang look. They come to school dressed like derelicts with their outsized pants dragging the floor.

Kind of makes you wonder if their mothers watch them going out the door looking like that or if the kid is changing clothes in the alley, stashing his Levis in a handy hedge.

They want to wear their ball caps turned around backwards because they think it makes them look “really bad” and continually test and protest the school rule of no hats in the building.

Sally’s skirt is too short. And it’s too tight. I ask her if it’s comfortable.

“Oh sure. It’s great.”

“Then why are you constantly tugging at it?”

Are you ready for the answer? “Because that’s what they do in the movies. Guys like it.” Being an educator is an education.

“Then maybe Arthur was doing exactly what you wanted him to do,” I suggested.

You know what she says? She says it wasn’t Arthur’s attention she was trying to attract.

I explain to her that virtual nudity is not selective and if she’s going to go around with her backside hanging out she’ll have to learn to deal with unprogrammed responses.

Sally says I ought to do something about Arthur. I ask her what she would suggest. Paint his eyeballs black and buy him a guide dog?

Sally’s not too happy with my lack of sympathy and informs me, rather shortly, that her mother encourages her expressions of individuality. I suggest her search for singularity is going to land her in the pneumonia ward.

Sally demands to know what I’m going to do about Arthur. I tell her nothing. I ask what she’s going to do about her skirt. She says she’s going to tell her mother on me.

Sure, why not? I’m thinking. Briefly, the question crosses my mind: Is this what I went to college for? So I can explain to somebody’s out-to-lunch mother why her daughter, the one with her fanny fanning the breeze, has no harassment case?

If there’s a victim here, it’s Arthur. He’s got hormones, too, you know.

The problem as I see it, is the simple fact that I’m not Sally’s parent. I’m her teacher. It is my responsibility to see to it that Sally can read, write, and enjoy literature. I’m professionally bound to introduce Sally to three-point, five-paragraph essays and descriptive writing. Compare, contrast, write a letter to the editor; that’s what I do, and I feel twice blessed if I can help her enjoy it along the way.

However, it is not my job to have to explain to a grown woman why her teenage daughter should not come to school wearing clothes that would be more appropriate on a street hooker.

I’d like to let her know the injustice she’s doing her daughter by not only allowing such absurd behavior but encouraging it and then, when the outcome doesn’t meet expectations, blaming it all on Arthur. I’d like to accuse her of depriving her daughter of a childhood and causing a 14-year-old to make grownup decisions.

But most of all, I guess I’m curious to know why she’s willing to sit back and let someone else raise her child.

            C.        What is wrong here? Sally set out to lure a particular guy and she is upset that someone else took the bait.

                        1.         And notice that because it wasn’t her intention to draw Arthur’s attention, it is, therefore, Arthur’s fault for being attentive.

                        2.         But tell me, should a fourteen year old girl be seeking anyone’s sexual attention?

                        3.         Yes, “sexual” because that was the bait she chose to use. She knew it because she said that Arthur’s looking at her was “sexual harassment.”

            D.        I Timothy 2:9-10

                        1.         “Modest” (komios) refers to things that are orderly, showing good behavior, or respectible.

                        2.         “Propriety” (aidos) refers to having a sense of shame, bashfulness, or reverence.

                        3.         “Moderation” (sophrosune) refers to sobriety, having good sense, a soundness of mind, and a display of self-restraint.

                        4.         Tell me, though you didn’t see Sally’s outfit, did she demonstrate any of these principles?

                        5.         Looking at the women’s pictures, which most likely matches these ideas? Which least likely matches these ideas?

                        6.         Looking at the men’s pictures, are there problems with any of their clothing?

            E.        Titus 2:11-12 - God teaches us to deny worldly lusts; yet, many state by their clothing choices that they are pursuing them.

IV.      We may consider ourselves independent, but our choices are heavily influenced by those around us.

            A.        The influence will always be there. But what is influencing your choices?

            B.        The world?

                        1.         Do not be conformed to the world - Romans 12:2

                        2.         Friendship with the world is opposed to God - James 4:4

                        3.         The world does not have your best interest at heart - I Peter 4:1-4

            C.        Your conscience?

                        1.         The problem is that the conscience is trainable.

                        2.         It can be numbed to what is wrong - I Timothy 4:2

                        3.         Israel got to the point of not being embarrassed by her sins - Jeremiah 6:15

                        4.         The worldly are in the dark and calloused to sin - Ephesians 4:17-19

            D.        Your peers?

                        1.         It is not wise to compare ourselves to others - II Corinthians 10:12

                        2.         Just because it is popular, it doesn’t mean it is right

                        3.         Don’t follow the crowd into sin - Exodus 23:2

                        4.         Peter succumbed to peer pressure - Galatians 2:11-13

                                    a.         Notice that he had only himself to blame, not his peers

            E.        Or do we follow God?

                        1.         God has taught us what we need to know - II Peter 1:3

                        2.         From the Lord comes wisdom - Proverbs 1:7

                        3.         Show your wisdom by what you do - James 3:13

V.        Be honest with yourself, what statement are you making with your clothes?

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