What Does the Bible Say About Wearing Shorts?


The topic of whether it is appropriate for Christians to wear shorts or not is one that often causes debate and disagreement among believers. Some feel very strongly that shorts, especially short shorts, are immodest attire that should be avoided. Others believe there is nothing inherently wrong with shorts and the Bible does not prohibit them.

In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine relevant Biblical principles and passages to understand what guidance the Word of God offers on this issue. The goal is to thoughtfully consider what the Bible teaches so we can make God-honoring decisions about our clothing choices.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Bible does not directly prohibit wearing shorts, but it does lay down principles of modesty and decency that should guide our clothing choices.
  • As followers of Christ, we are called to be careful not to dress in a way that could cause others to stumble through lustful thoughts.
  • Biblical modesty has more to do with our heart attitudes than specific clothing items. Our dress should reflect our devotion to serving God, not attracting attention to ourselves.
  • Standards of dress are cultural and change over time. We should think carefully about the messages our clothing choices send within our cultural context.
  • Disputable matters like wearing shorts should not be a source of division, criticism or pride among believers. We need to extend grace to others who may hold different views.
nwoaomgmivy What Does the Bible Say About Wearing Shorts?

Biblical Principles for Modesty and Decency

Although the Bible does not specifically address shorts, it does lay down some timeless principles about modesty, decency and avoiding offending others that are very applicable to this discussion. As followers of Christ, God calls us to be people of holiness, set apart for His purposes. Our outward dress should align with and reflect our inner devotion to the Lord.

The apostle Paul instructs believers:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8-10, NKJV)

Paul is advocating for modesty and self-control in how women dress and present themselves. The focus is to be on living out godliness through good works, not seeking attention and honor for oneself. He makes a similar point to the church in Corinth:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NKJV)

Because we have been redeemed by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, our bodies are sacred places that should be honored as belonging to God.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul instructs:

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:13-14, NKJV)

Dressing in a decent, modest way is aligned with living intentionally for God’s glory rather than gratifying sinful desires.

Avoiding Causing Others to Stumble

One important guideline for how to dress is considering how our clothing choices impact others. Jesus Christ Himself warned:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, NKJV)

As followers of Christ, we do not live for ourselves alone but should be mindful of how we can lead others towards God or potentially become a stumbling block to their faith. The apostle Paul took this responsibility very seriously:

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Romans 14:13, NKJV)

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul elaborates on this principle in the context of deciding whether to eat food sacrificed to idols. Some believers understood that idols are not real gods so their conscience was clear to eat this meat. But others coming out of idolatrous backgrounds were very troubled to see other Christians partaking in these sacrificial meals, fearing they were participating in idol worship. Paul exhorted the more mature believers to be willing to give up their freedom to eat this meat for the sake of not causing their weaker brethren to stumble:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:9-13, NKJV)

While eating meat sacrificed to idols is not directly relevant today, the principle still holds true. If certain clothing we wear could potentially cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble through lustful thoughts, we should refrain from wearing such attire for the sake of their spiritual well-being. As Paul said, wounding their conscience is akin to sinning against Christ Himself.

Principle of Inner Devotion Over Outer Appearance

Rather than focusing on developing long lists of clothing items to avoid, the Bible points our attention to the inner posture of our hearts. Our outward appearance should reflect our devotion for God within. Peter gives instruction to women that is applicable to all believers:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NKJV)

In a similar vein, Paul encourages believers in Colossae:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:12-14, NKJV)

The emphasis is on clothing ourselves with Christlike character: mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and above all, agape love for one another. Our lives should be marked by sacrificial service, not by selfishness or vanity over appearances.

Standards of Modesty Vary Across Cultures and Time

It is important to recognize that standards of modesty and decency do fluctuate somewhat between cultures and across different eras. For example, in some warm climates it is perfectly acceptable to wear loose, lightweight clothing that covers only to the knee or elbow. But in other societies, such attire would be considered immodest. Standards have changed over time as well. Styles that were acceptable in previous generations may no longer be considered appropriate.

Biblical principles do not change, but practical application can look different in various contexts. In seeking to apply timeless truths about modesty, we should thoughtfully consider current cultural norms and what messages our clothing choices communicate within that setting. The Holy Spirit can guide each believer to discern how to best live out biblical principles within their specific context.

Disputable Matters Should Not Divide Believers

The issue of wearing shorts or specific clothing items should be regarded as a disputable matter of conscience upon which sincere believers may disagree. Paul makes it clear in Romans 14 that we should not pass judgment or show contempt for fellow believers who hold different views on these types of secondary issues. He warns:

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:4-8, NKJV)

Rather than judging one another, we should extend grace and freedom on disputable matters. Each believer must follow their own conscience as unto the Lord. Pride and self-righteousness over others has no place among those who belong to Christ.


In summary, while the Bible does not prohibit wearing shorts outright, it does lay down timeless principles about modesty, decency, avoiding causing others to stumble, and focusing on inner devotion to God rather than outward appearance. As modern day Christians seeking to honor the Lord through our dress, we should thoughtfully apply these principles from God’s Word. Standards of dress change over time and between cultures, so we must exercise discernment and wisdom for our current context. Most importantly, we should extend grace and liberty to other believers who may view this matter differently, remembering that disputable issues should not divide Christ’s church. As in all things, we hope to glorify our Savior in the way we present ourselves while avoiding prideful judgments of others.

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