The Skinny on Why We Even Bother to Cover Up

Last week, walking the sandy Michigan beach in black sundress and straw hat, I felt conspicuously clothed.

Surrounded by tummy-touting females, sometimes a woman has to wonder, why not strip down, kick back, and soak up sun’s summer rays?

In The Look: Does God Really Care What I Wear? Nancy Leigh DeMoss transports us all the way back to the Garden of Eden for the skinny on why we even bother to cover up:

When God made the first man and woman, He made them without clothes: “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25).

Before Adam and Eve sinned, there was no clothing . . . and there was no shame or guilt. That’s because Adam and Eve were sinless. There were no barriers in their relationship with God or with each other.

That all changed when Adam and Eve decided to “have it their way.” The moment they ate the forbidden fruit, they experienced shame and self-consciousness: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7).

For the first time in their lives, they experienced the shame and guilt that are the fruit of sin. From this point on in the Bible, nakedness (outside of marriage) is referred to as shameful.

Adam and Eve immediately tried to come up with a way to cover their nakedness and shame. They didn’t ask God’s advice about how to dress. Instead, they came up with their own plan—they sewed fig leaves together to cover their private parts. (Did you know that fig leaves have the consistency of heavy sandpaper? Those first clothes must have been really uncomfortable!) They quickly realized that the fig leaves could not adequately solve their problem, so they hid themselves.

Mercifully, God didn’t let them stay hidden; He took the initiative to restore the fellowship that had been broken. “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).

Notice who first brought up the issue of Adam’s lack of clothing. It wasn’t God. It was Adam! In fact, his first words to God after the Fall were: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10).

God’s response demonstrates that He didn’t consider their nakedness the primary issue: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? (Gen. 3:11).

Adam and Eve’s primary concern was their nakedness; God’s primary concern was that they had disobeyed His word and that their relationship with Him had been broken. They were concerned about their external appearance; God was concerned about their hearts.

In fact, initially God didn’t even address the issue of their nakedness. First, He dealt with them about the root issue of their sin and its consequences; He dealt with the broken relationship; He gave them the Gospel (Gen. 3:15)—the promise of a solution for their sin. Then, God came back to the matter of their clothes. With loving concern and grace, God dressed the first couple.

God didn’t overlook the problem of their nakedness or act like it didn’t matter. But neither was it the first thing He addressed.

When He finally got to the clothing issue, He said to Adam and Eve in effect, “Here’s My provision for your nakedness. Your way just won’t work. You need to do it My way!” Notice that Adam and Eve’s idea of clothing (fig leaves) and God’s idea of clothing (garments of skin) were very different.

Genesis 3:7 says, “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” That word in the original language could be translated “aprons” or “belts (for the waist).”

By contrast, the “garments” that God made for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21) were “tunics” or “coats.” Various Bible dictionaries agree that this term refers to an article of clothing that covers the body at least from the neck to the knees.

This observation helps us understand that the God-created purpose for clothing was to cover the body.   

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. As the temperature climbs this summer, what will motivate you to cover up (or to not cover up)?

Come back tomorrow for super practical helps for the next swimwear shopping trip for you, your daughters, and/or granddaughters.


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About the Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller

Paula has served with Revive Our Hearts for thirteen years. She is the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There's nothing she loves to share more than the gospel-centered truths that have so transformed her own life: what it means on a daily basis to be "dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus." Paula, Trevor, and their son, Iren, make their home in New York.