Q: Some people believe that Deuteronomy 22:5, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God,” teaches that women should not wear pants, because they are a man’s garment. How can we explain this? — Ervin, from Guatemala
A: Ervin, it’s interesting that when people bring up this text, they are almost always focusing on what the woman should not wear while ignoring the part regarding what men should not wear. While this text is obviously talking about clothing, it is actually addressing a much deeper issue — that of a God-given distinctiveness between men and women that should be maintained.
In an article addressing Deuteronomy 22:5, Angel Manuel Rodriguez, retired director of the Biblical Research Institute, wrote:
“It appears that the legislation under consideration is not controlled by ancient cultural concerns that are meaningless to us, but is in fact based on a very relevant principle for Christians today: that God is a God of order, and He establishes boundaries within creation to preserve the order instituted by Him.
“The distinction between male and female was established at Creation when the human race was defined as ‘male and female.’ Anything that alters that distinction is rejected. In the setting of the daily life of the Israelites this would be a rejection of transvestism in pagan rituals. But the principle cannot be limited exclusively to that cultural expression, because it is based on the order of creation.
“This certainly impacts our lives today. Every Christian should dress in such a way as to preserve the distinction between the sexes. The details in the implementation of the principle are something that, in our complex society, should be determined by the believer in communion with her or his Lord. Although society defines the way we dress, Christians are to select from what society offers that which is compatible with biblical values.”
Does this mean that women should never wear pants? Not necessarily, for that is not what the text says. It is about maintaining a distinctiveness between the two sexes.
While we want to represent Christ in our outward appearance, we also want to represent Him inwardly by being kind and nonjudgmental toward others whose dress choices may be different than our own.