Does The Bible Forbid Shorts?

When I was in 5th grade (or was it 6th?), a new kid, Mike Morrow, moved to town and showed up in my class at South School. He seemed like a pretty normal guy when I met him but that’s because it was in the winter. My perception of him changed when the weather warmed up. You see Mike never wore shorts or even short sleeved shirts because, as he explained it, his parents and his church didn’t think that he should ever expose his skin in public. Mike’s family didn’t have a television either. My 11 year old mind often wondered how one made it in life without watching sports.

That story came back to me recently when I read an ESPN story about a small, pentecostal Christian school in southwest Virginia with unique basketball uniforms. It seems that the school’s policy requires the boys on the team to wear sweatpants during both practices and games. Here’s part of the interview between the columnist (Uni Watch or UW) and the school’s principal (Wayne Elliot or WE)…

Uni Watch: A basketball team wearing long pants is new to me. What’s it all about?

Wayne Elliott: We’re a small Christian school, about 52 kids, and it’s just a school dress code that we have, based on our Biblical beliefs and standards. It goes back to dressing in modest apparel — that’s the dress code we set, and the kids abide by it here at the school and at all school functions.

UW: And that code would be “no short pants.”

WE: Correct.

UW: Please forgive my ignorance on this point, but is there a specific verse of the Bible that addresses this?

WE: There is, but I’d have to look it up — I don’t have it handy, but it’s definitely in Scripture. And I don’t know if you know this, but our girls’ basketball team dresses in skirts. [And the school’s cheerleading squad wears long skirts.]

Now you have to love the ESPN guy’s question. He asks if this practice is personal preference or if the Bible forbids the wearing of shorts. In other words the ESPN guy asks the principal to point him to his authority. And the principal can’t do it. He claims that it’s in the Bible but says that he doesn’t know where it is and then changes the subject.

But I think that you will search in vain for a biblical verse that teaches that it is inappropriate for Christians to wear shorts. So why would a school have this kind of policy?

Maybe it’s because we all have a tendency to add man made rules to what God has said.

Matthew 15:8-9
” ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

There has always been the urge by religious people to add rules to what God has said. Sometimes that’s because rules are easier to follow than genuine, heart level obedience. Such was the case of the Pharisees that Jesus addresses in the verses above. Their rules following substituted for worship.

Maybe it’s because we all have a false hope that rules will restrain sin. But Paul warns us that rules can’t change the heart.

Colossians 2:23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Maybe it’s because we all have a tendency to believe that although we began our relationship with God through faith, we now need to proceed with something different.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Maybe it’s because we are all somewhat like the Philippian church in that we easily turn the gospel away from what Christ did for us and toward our own spiritual resume.

Paul addresses that very issue in Philippians 3:3-7…

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

If you are reading this post, my guess is that you won’t fall into the exact same trap this school has fallen into. What I mean is that you probably are okay with wearing shorts. But you might be more like this school than you think.

I wonder if there are any “man made” rules that you have added to what it means to be a Christian? I wonder if you wrongly rely on rules instead of relying on Christ? I wonder if you live by rules that aren’t in the Bible?

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