[From ws9/16 p. 17 November 7-13]
“Do all things for God’s glory.”—1Co 10:31
It’s summertime. You see two young men walking on the street, carrying backpacks, dressed in black pants and white short-sleeved shirts, little black plaques on their pockets. You know who they are even from a distance and at a casual glance.
They dress that way, because they are directed to by the LDS church authority.
Now it’s wintertime. It’s Saturday morning and you see a well-dressed man in a suit and tie walking beside a well-dressed woman wearing a dress or skirt cut just below the knee. The temperature outside is 10° below the freezing point. You know who they are and you likely wonder why she isn’t wearing a pantsuit to protect her legs from the freezing cold.
They dress that way, because they are directed to by the JW.org church authority.
It seems that every year we have at least one article dedicated to telling us how to dress. That means that about 2% of all the articles we are required to study in The Watchtower deal with dress and grooming. That doesn’t even take into account the numerous Service Meeting, assembly and convention parts dealing with this topic. One would think it must be a very important topic to be given so much attention. This must be something that the Lord God Almighty wants us to give special attention to. If you think this, you will be wrong.
There are two verses in all of the in the Christian Scriptures dealing directly with dress and grooming. These are found at 1 Timothy 2:9-10. There are almost 8,000 verses in the Christian Scriptures and only two of them deal with dress and grooming. So if the Governing Body wanted to devote an entire Watchtower study to dress and grooming, but give it the same percentage of importance that Jehovah gives it, we’d get one such study article every 77 years!
So why are they so bent on controlling how Witnesses dress and groom themselves? If Jehovah’s Witnesses went door to door wearing shirts with open collars—no ties—would people reject the word of God? If sisters wore pant suits or blouses and slacks such as one sees in any business office in the Western Hemisphere, would people be aghast? Would this bring reproach upon the message?
Of course not. It would be silly to think that. Yet that is what this article is getting across, like every such article before it.
This is the message that the Organization wants Witnesses to buy into. They want to think that dressing this way and only this way makes God Almighty happy. Dressing any other way, makes him angry. This is the message that the elders are directed to enforce. If a sister shows up to a field service group in slacks, no matter how tasteful and elegant they may be, she will likely be told she can’t participate in the door-to-door work. If a brother attempts to go house-to-house without a tie on, he’ll be talked to by a pair of elders. If a Christian couple come to the meeting, him in a shirt without a tie, she in slacks, they will be pulled aside and told their manner of dress is inappropriate and is bringing reproach on God’s name.
So while the Bible’s message is modesty, the Organization’s goal is conformity.
Ironically, while enforcing such standards, it makes the claim that it does not lay down rules.
How grateful we are that Jehovah does not burden us with detailed lists of regulations about our dress and grooming. – par. 18
While Jehovah does not burden us, the Organization sure does. Take for example this brochure which was posted on the Announcement Boards at all Kingdom halls when it was first released. Such control over individual dress goes way beyond anything written in God’s word.
After reading paragraph 6, one might draw the conclusion that the Organization is concerned about cross dressers in its midst.
The Law showed Jehovah’s strong feelings against clothing that does not make clear the distinction between male and female—what has been described in our day as unisex fashion. (Read Deuteronomy 22:5.) From God’s stated direction about clothing, we clearly see that God is not pleased with styles of dress that feminize men, that make women look like men, or that make it hard to see the difference between men and women. – par. 3
However, that is not really the concern. These verses are used to try to give Scriptural backing to elders who are directed to tell sisters to leave the pant suit at home. Is the Governing Body really concerned that we might confuse a woman in a blouse and slacks for a man? Of course not. Then why do they wish to so narrowly regulate the personal decisions of members of the flock? Control.
There was a time back in the Fifties when only the rebellious element of society wore beards. Those days are long past. There is nothing modest nor immodest about a beard in Western society. Yet, in North American congregations, beards are frowned upon and strongly discouraged by the elders. A brother with a beard will likely get no “privileges” in the congregation. He will be viewed as weak or rebellious. Why? Because he isn’t conforming to the custom proscribed by the Governing Body. Yet, when you read the direction in this week’s study, you might conclude that the foregoing is a misrepresentation.
In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7. – par. 17
To the casual reader, this passage will seem perfectly reasonable and balanced. However, when put into practice, it allows elders to explain to the facially hirsute that they are “offending some in the congregation” and “setting a bad example”. Their facial hair will bring dishonor on the message of God, they will be told. The code phrase is “in other cultures or localities”. In practice, this doesn’t really refer to worldly cultures or localities, but to the accepted custom in the local congregation.
Here’s what the Bible actually says about dress and grooming:
“Likewise, the women should adorn themselves in appropriate dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive clothing, 10 but in the way that is proper for women professing devotion to God, namely, through good works.” (1Ti 2:9, 10)
Add to this the principle of Christian love that looks out for the best interests of others and you have it in a nutshell. No need for an entire study article, nor countless assembly and convention parts. You have what you need to please God. So go ahead and take the bold step of using your very own Christian conscience. Don’t allow men to control your life. Jesus is your Lord and your King. He is your “Governing Body”. No man is. Let’s leave it at that and forget about all this control silliness.
You telling the truth! I’m one of Jws myself..however I do believe that if Jehovah God and his son Jesus have blessed us enough financially, we should use those funds to dress with shirt and tie or women should wear appropriate dress when out in field service. Remember: the Israelites were told to bring their very best sacrifice to Jehovah God. Also, if you are going to be part of a group and you willingly submit yourself to following and obeying the rules and regulations of that group that is a personal choice you made . People do this all… Read more »
Welcome, Leachmar1. I agree with you that our dress should always be appropriate to the occasion and bring honor to God. When I say appropriate to the occasion, I have in mind Paul’s words that he became a Greek to the Greek and a Jew to the Jew. One has to ask, if we went from door-to-door well dressed but without a tie as is common in business attire these days, would we be visually more appealing to our audience or less? Those wearing suits are upper management, bankers, sales people, and TV Evangelists asking for money. As for our… Read more »
Despite how you feel one fact remains which some of you cannot accept. Jehovah is still blessing his Witnesses and His organization and there is nothing you or i can do about it. However If any of you feel that you can do better give it your best shot and make a better one..you better make sure your millions of followers are well trained in the scriptures and provide food at the proper time. Start organizing worldwide missionairies and schools for training..train your elders well.oh and by the way provide all your members with bibles and literature to help people… Read more »
Meekman you are right about this, there is nothing anyone can do about it . If Jehovah God and his son Jesus is behind the movement , proof is in the pudding as some will say, the watchtower is one of the most widely distributed magazines in the entire earth.. it is a bible aid but it is not the Bible itself, this is proven when the watchtower make corrections In their literature , for example, something they believed in past , they find reasons to correct it, they go back re-examine scriptures and realize it is not lined up… Read more »
What is the evidence you speak of, meekman? You seem to be saying that having millions of followers is proof of God’s blessing. Well then, the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, to name only two, are also blessed by Jehovah. You speak of being trained in the scriptures, and having missionaries and training schools. Do you imagine that only witnesses have these? Other faiths help people understand the Bible, but they also teach falsehoods like the trinity and hellfire. However, Witnesses teach 1914 and the other sheep as non-children of God. It’s all the same.
so tell me then and this applies to everyone here if all of you continue posting criticism why are you still associated with jws? If they arent teaching the truth why not excuse yourself from being witnesses? It seems to me the whole slant on every topic here is critical and negative light. Id like to see any of us trying to direct 8million plus people in the same spiritual truths. Have fun trying it. Dont be surprised how many other beroean pickets sites will come out on our behalfs. A question to everyone here Would you all have a… Read more »
Having given the matter a lot of thought and prayer over the past year I have come to recognize that there is no “true religion” out there. Not a single one fails to teach manmade doctrines that are false along with the truths of God’s Word. Not a single one. If I stood before Jehovah today and Jesus brought up this website I would not be even slightly nervous. Because I have the backing of his own word to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” KJV 1 Thess 5:21 And that is what I have been doing… Read more »
Meekman, you ask: “If you stood before Jehovah right now and Jesus brought up this site to you what would you respond? Wouldnt you be a little nervous?” Interesting that you condemn us for passing judgment as you say, yet you are doing the same here. You judge that Jehovah would disapprove of this site. You feel that pointing out the faults we see in the Organization is wrong. Yet, has not the Organization pointed out the faults in other religions for over 100 years? If it is wrong to tell people that they are being taught falsehoods, then why… Read more »
I have too have the backing of God’s word. For example Matthew 7, that we will recognize a tree by its fruit. (Psalm 26:4, 5) . . .I do not associate with deceitful men, And I avoid those who hide what they are. 5 I hate the company of evil men, And I refuse to associate with the wicked. I have come across many lies by elders and circuit overseers and have no choice but to apply this scripture, trusting God to be with me no matter what the consequence. Meekman, you raise the point about how could anyone direct 8 million people.… Read more »
Howdy Meekman. There is no denying your zeal as I believe you are genuinely trying to stand up for what you see as truth. I have only just arrived here a few days back. I have never participated in online groups about JWs as they are often peppered with Athiests and other name calling individuals that I would never want to associate with. The reason I decided to give this place a go is I thought people were genuinely trying to put JW.ORG under the lens of biblical scholarship. I didn’t see them as brothers with an axe to grind… Read more »
I think Enoch expressed the general sentiment correctly. I would only add that the forum comment guidelines ask everyone with an opinion to express to back it up with Scripture. You have made a number of assertions in your recent comments, but there is no evidence for us to examine so as to determine their veracity. Please supply it.
Don’t get me started on beards folks….always had a problem with it for the following reasons.. 1Co 4:3 Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgment on myself. 1Co 4:4 My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the one who passes judgment on me. 1. The bible speaks considerably about riches, materialism, status and greed. Yet quite rightly the society doesn’t legislate on people’s material status. How much the individual owns, how big his house is… Read more »
This was a hoot, Enoch. Thanks.
First of all there is a problem in the congregation with “inappropriate” dress and grooming thats why the study dedicated to it. So i dont understand why your criticizing the society. Are you trying to cast doubt on the society? Whats the purpose of this website? Nitpick every detail? Focus on the enormous good it has done for us and stop being sidetracked on frivolous critical criticism. Secondly the sister wearing the dress just below the knee on a cold day could be alot warmer if she wore that dress three quarters of the way down her legs. So i… Read more »
I think if you read the other articles on this site and on the original site, http://www.meletivivlon.com, you’ll see we are not nit-picking at all. Proving from Scripture that the Organization is teaching a false hope in the Other Sheep doctrine can hardly be termed nit-picking — not when the topic deals with our eternal salvation. How easily Witnesses slip into the misapplication of the account of Korah to condemn everyone who disagrees with the doctrine of the Governing Body. They fail to recognize that Korah wanted to replace Moses as God’s channel of communication with his people. Today, Jesus… Read more »
Yup, it might seem a bit over the top reading it the way you described it. Having said that maybe there is a reason why we need so many reminders on dress and grooming? The worldly standards are dropping so low its super hard to choose something that is suitable for wearing at the meetings and for witnessing. Even at the conventions you still see some really ridiculous clothing! like groups of ‘brothers’ dressed in neon coloured slim cut suits. Seriously? So, just like with entertainment and social media, internet, worldly trends are heading towards the extreme. And basically if… Read more »
Great Article Meleti! On paragraph 17, after everyone had their “opinions” on men with beards, and how they are pretty much inappropriate for witnesses (not so much Christians) I had to raise my hand and speak. These were my exact words (I have to write my comments out to make sure they are spiritually up building without offending in such a public place.) “It has always interested me that the new testament only has about 2 places where it gives comment on dress and groom (1 Timothy 2:9,10 and maybe 1 Peter 3:2-5).. However, they are general instructions.. “with modesty… Read more »
What a great comment, ChristIsMyLeaderNotJW. In what area of the world are beards currently unacceptable? Did you get any positive feedback from some of the brothers or sisters?
Thanks Meleti. I really don’t know the answer to where beards are currently unacceptable. I live in the US States and go to a foreign language congregation. A Spanish language congregation to be more exact. There was much positive feedback from the brothers and sisters. I was happy to see that, some brothers were beginning to use critical thinking. One young brother, came up to me after the meeting and said “brother, that comment pretty much summed up how we should all feel about our dress and groom, and not to mention, you pretty much rebuked the conductors closing remarks”.… Read more »
Interesting article. For the most part not too much to get upset about but this one point that has always botherd me. Specifically service dress. I live in a rural area and when ppl see us coming in our d2d service, they know who we are a mile away. Does this help the message? When I go d2d I always feel over dressed and self conscience as compared to the householder. I often wonder, might they feel the same, put off? I think many times our message is delayed or stopped because of our rigid dress in service. I would… Read more »
I think you make an excellent point. I grew up in an industrial town–shift workers everywhere. An elder–back in the days when we called them servants–went door to door dressed like a factory worker and had great success.
So the dress and grooming is a witness in itself isn’t it? Thats the whole point of dressing modestly then, so it sets us apart from the rest of the world since we are no part of it. But I must say, the only time I feel a bit awkward I guess is when I do cart & informal witnessing at the beachside in our territory. Having the long dress and blouse outfit on makes me self conscious when everyone else is in their bikini or board shorts. I just try not to focus on that too much but rather… Read more »
We have this counsel from Paul: “. . .For though I am free from all people, I have made myself the slave to all, so that I may gain as many people as possible. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law. 21 To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law. 22 To the weak… Read more »
I never thought about it this way before, thank you for explaining it so well! But I admit to being a bit confused right now about how this principle applies to being no part of the world, John 17:16. I have always been taught to be different in the way we dress (modestly), talk (no cussing or swearing), and conduct (chaste). This is how people can clearly tell that we are different to them. Honestly how am I supposed to act like “to those without law I became as without law”? Is it to pretend to be like a worldly… Read more »
Not being part of the world doesn’t require us to make a point of being different. For example, if you live in the Bible belt in the States and you find all your neighbors are born-again Christians who dress modestly, it doesn’t mean you have to dress immodestly just to be different. The idea isn’t to stand out as different as if being different is some badge of righteousness. Paul’s point was that he didn’t do things that would alienate people. To those with law (the Jews) he acted like a Jew. He observed the law. So even though he… Read more »
I have so many memories of this crazy attitude. I can still remember counseling one young brother to ‘dress down’ since his jacket resembled that of a tuxedo.
However, my greatest memories are from illustrations of Adam and Jesus being beardless in our publicatios because perfect men were considered as having no such growth. This view has continued to be a powerful reason for the present “pay attention to the pictures” decree during our bible and watchtower studies.
Thanks Meleti, for the insights you. Ring to these articles. Everyone’s comments have basically covered what’s petty within the Organisation I was speaking to a client yesterday, we were discussing staff, & his biggest issues. For him being in hospitality was dress, grooming and personal hygiene. What I think is not important, but how does God feel. Modesty was highlighted in the article. The difference between business and worship in my mind, one your being paid to work, the other it’s voluntary to worship. The problem with conformity in worship can be the motive one makes changes. Why? For God… Read more »
…Meant to say bring to these articles. Lol..sorry I’m in between jobs.
It seems to me that the problem with beards and slacks for women and similar issues is the same as over certain spiritual doctrines, namely a reluctance, or maybe even a fear, of change. We have stated this is our view, and we cannot change it otherwise we will look foolish, or just wrong. We claim to be guided by Jehovah’s holy spirit. It was right then. He does not change, so we cannot. Besides some very old brothers and sisters might be stumbled, so rather than change, we will cling to what we already have taught, and no one… Read more »
If slacks or pants are acceptable in some cultures,then it should be allowed for sisters since some appointed men have beards as their culture allows it. Again, as pointed out,which culture is implied? The culture of the territory or what? Since they mention it will not detract from the good news, the culture of the territory is invariably implied.That being so,the appointed brothers with bears were appointed in disregard to the instruction in the Ministry book that “For men, a neat personal appearance may include being clean-shaven. In areas where mustaches are widely viewed as dignified, any who wear these… Read more »
The only time in my 50 year history as a JW that an elder really got near to me was when I tried to grow a mustache. I was in his radar with no let up until I finally gave up the mustache because I didn’t need the hassle. After that his “shepherding” ceased and I never had his attention again. I was amazed at his conduct at the time but that is the training the elders get from the GB: to concentrate on the ‘outside of the cup’ and ignore what’s going on inside.
Mustaches are the devil and, …are more powerful than the Holy Spirit!
I would posit that the motive includes the element of control as well and when left up to interpretation by individual elder bodies it can become a powerful controlling element in their hands. There was a congregation in the South African city of Bloemfontein [a very conservative Afrikaner city – esp at the time of this happening] who would not tolerate anything but a white shirt and very dull unexciting tie on brothers giving public talks especially visiting speakers. And so if you pitched up to give a talk in anything but the “regulation” dress code you were taken to… Read more »
Sounds like Durban Central Cong.
The fact is that if the GB’s body main motive is to control the dress, they would proscribe exactly what one can wear, even as the LDS and Amish do. And they could turn it into a money spinner, by not only selling literature carts, but also JWorg scarves and ties… And then in different colours to match the rest of your outfit. Or special ones if you are regular or aux pioneering for the month.
Apparently, pink shirts are more powerful than the Holy Spirit.
That is why we have “The Pink Panther” …. In the Netherlands it seems to be a very mixed environment. The congregation I was in, was strict many years ago but from what I hear and had seen before I left, it became far more flexible: MS with beards, walking with the so important microphone with very short hair cut (almost bold), shirts in various colors etc. Women seem to be a bit more traditional. I know that some very much disliked these “house rules” but conformity won in most cases. The focus on clothing is not unique to JW’s.… Read more »
I disagree that the motive is control. An elder we knew well who was involved in criminal activity yet nothing was done as he was a very good assembly speaker, once told us ‘It is all about perception.’ The one reason I found it hard to leave the org was that everyone looked so nice. And it was really nice to see my husband on the platform with suit and tie. And it is really hard to think that there could be any sort of pedophilia or any other kind of filth going on if everyone looks so decent. As… Read more »
And of course that is why they are a pedophile’s paradise.
I live in a part of the world where the sub-tropical climate determines how the locals dress. It ‘s quite a casual and relaxed environment – until JWs pile onto the territory. Then it’s ‘Showtime’….lots of dark jackets, longsleeve white shirts, ties etc etc. You get the picture. Usually there’s a cluster of them, up to twenty, all seemingly feerful of leaving the group and actually knock on someone’s door. By then of course, the residents have gone into full-alert mode as they know that the only people in the world who would dress up looking like escapees from the… Read more »
Apparently, beards and tieless shirts are more powerful than the Holy Spirit!
You are right. Like sex, the gb are obsessed with clothing. As you so well reasoned, it really boils down to control. But I guess I just don’t get it. If the control slows down growth and people are turned off by this, why obsess about control? It makes no sense. Don’t they want people and their money to join the organization? As far as beards, this is what paragraph 17 really says: You can wear a beard. No, you can’t. But maybe it will be fine if you do. No, it may not be fine. You can have privileges… Read more »