Uh oh, this is one of those verses that offends a lot of people, so many just avoid it. There are quite a few verses like that in scripture. People tend to pick and choose the verses they want and leave the ones they don’t behind, as if the bible was a bag a trail mix. Admit it, you pick around the peanuts for the sweet treats. However, when feasting on the Word of God we need to eat our steamed veggies just as much as we need the steaks and the desserts.
The context of this verse is simple. It’s about cross-dressing. When a man dresses as a woman or a woman as a man it is an abomination to God. The word abomination here in the Hebrew was “tow’ebah”, it means “disgusting to God”. It was often used in scripture in describing God’s disdain for idols and unclean things or acts.
Ok, so we can see that this clearly condemns the act of cross-dressing in the eyes of God as something He sees as abominable, but what about those who say it means it’s sinful for a woman to wear pants? Let’s look at it from the context of the author, Moses. When this was written, no one that it was being written to wore pants. Moses and his mail followers wore robes, something we would liken more to a dress. However, there were distinct differences in the robes worn by men and the garments worn by women of the time. So again this isn’t a pants issue, it’s a cross-dressing gender confusion issue. Also remember that Moses, before this, was a prince of Egypt where the men wore a type of kilt, something we would think of today, as being more like a skirt. So the culture has a bearing on what pertaineth to a man and what pertaineth to a woman, however if one is dressed as the other it is wrong. So for example, if a woman is wearing ladies clothes, is modestly and appropriately dressed, and look’s like a woman then she is not sinning, even if she is wearing ladies pants. On the other hand, if she is dressed in a manner that you can not tell that she is a woman and could easily be mistaken for a man, that’s when it gets displeasing to God. Likewise, a man wearing a Scottish kilt in a funeral precession is not in sin because the people know this pertains to a man. Yet a man dressed as a woman, wearing an evening gown, pearls, makeup, and high heels is an abomination in God’s eyes. God knows the heart and he knows when the intent to confuse, deceive, or rebel is at the root of an action. Understand that ultimately, in the eyes of God, cross-dressing and transgenderism is an open declaration of rebellion to God’s will.
Now back to women and pants. Though it is ok for a woman to ware women’s pants, as that certainly pertains to a woman, personal conviction does come into play here. If God tells you personally to do something or give something up, humble yourself and submit. This is like fasting, it’s an act of obedience. Though eating is not a sin, if God tells you to fast and you don’t, then it’s wrong. However God has to give you that mandate and conviction Himself, not a man. The same can apply to any thing in your life that may not be listed in scripture as sin, yet if God personally tells you to give it up or not to do it, and you refuse to obey, it becomes sin to you.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17
There is just one more thing I’d like to address on this topic pertaining to ladies in ministry. Souls or more important then our pride, so if not wearing a dress somewhere is a hindrance to the message being received, then humble yourself and do what Paul did:
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-20
As a woman in ministry I make it a point to ware a dress when I minister in, or even just visit a new church until I know the culture of the church as to not make myself a stumbling block or cause the receiving of the message to be hindered. Yet in my own church where I know there is no hindrance, at times I will wear modest feminine apparel that may not be a dress. However, it is always a garment that pertaineth to a woman and is covering and decent. Let us always respect the house of God and also the Temple of God, which is our own bodies.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
While we never want to find ourselves in disobedience to God or His Word because we are following the traditions of men, if the tradition (like wearing a dress) does not offend or displease God, then don’t loose a soul over pride. Become as a Jew under the law that you might be received and be able to deliver the message Christ has sent you to deliver. At the same time, though we might submit to these laws, we ourselves, knowing the truth are not to impose them on others. Let our every effort be spent building God’s Kingdom, not our own.
“He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.” – John 3:30-31