DOES GOD CARE ABOUT HAIR?
In today’s society it’s increasingly common to see men with long hair. Sports figures, singers, actors and other artists are among those setting a bad example for young people in this and other areas. For example, many male athletes display long flowing locks, earrings, and bodies covered with tattoos. When the rich and famous, popular athletes, singers or actors have long hair, dreadlocks, ponytails, piercings, earrings, tattoos, or wear bracelets, necklaces, or a certain style or brand of clothes, the tendency is to imitate them. Others say they just like to wear their hair long; it’s a personal thing. This article focuses on men, but women are equally guilty of imitating the world’s fashions, and use the same excuses.
“Be not conformed to this world,” Romans 12:2 exhorts. Phillips in his paraphrase of the New Testament puts it this way, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” That’s exactly what happens when Christians take their cues from the world, or do as they please – which is what people in the world do.
“What’s the big deal?” some protest. “What does it really matter? I’m not hurting anyone.” “It’s my body and my hair, and no one should judge me for what I do with it.” That’s the language of the world, “It’s my body.” Women in favor of abortions say the same thing. It is understandable that unsaved people in the world would think and talk like that, but those responses are unacceptable for Christians. It isn’t a matter of personal taste because God has spoken in His Word, and if it is important to Him, then it should be important to anyone who professes to be a believer.
Some cite the Nazarites in the Old Testament, who had long hair. But they should become more familiar with Scripture before attempting to use it to justify long hair. Long hair on men today has absolutely nothing to do with the Nazarite vow in Numbers 6, which was a specific act of devotion to the LORD for a limited time, and under the Law of Moses. It was for Israel, for Jews under the Law, not Gentiles. Normally those men had short hair. It only grew out during the period of the vow, and then was cut. If someone argues that Samson had long hair, it’s true he did, he was a Nazarite for life by God’s command (Judg. 13:7). God hasn’t told anyone today to do that; that was a provision under the Law. And Samson was anything but holy. He was an undisciplined man with wandering eyes, who liked Philistine women, who had a hot temper and a vengeful spirit. He was immoral and capricious. So why cite him as an example?
The Lord Jesus did not have long hair, in spite of what religious art portrays. Christ was not a Nazarite, but a Nazarene – something completely different – from the town of Nazareth. His hair was not long, for reasons that we will show from Scripture.
Worldly hairstyles reverse God’s order established in nature, and one of the distinctions that He made between men and women. Men are to have short hair and women are to have long hair. It isn’t a matter of personal taste, likes or dislikes, or current styles. There is a divine principle involved.
W. E. Vine, well-known and respected author of the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, has this to say in another book, commenting on 1 Corinthians 11,
“These are general and basic principles relative to certain distinctions between men and women in Christ. That the reference is not to a church gathering but to continuous conditions, is shown by the fact that injunctions are laid down that men are to wear their hair short, while the women are to have long hair....”
“The basis of the injunction that the woman, instead of being shorn, should wear her hair long, is that ‘the head of the woman is the man,’ that ‘the woman is the glory of the man....’”
“...Again, there is the lesson from nature. “Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a dishonour to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her” (vv. 14-15). For her to be shorn, then, robs her of her natural glory, and sets at nought the dignity of her womanhood. The laying aside of the distinctive head-dress (veil) of the woman sprang from the motive of abandoning any mark of the subordination
of the female sex, and indications of such a motive are not wanting in the present day. The cutting of the hair was a move in the same direction.”
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine, vol. 5, page 378, Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow, Scotland, 1986.
In 1 Corinthians 11:6 we read, “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” The implication is clear, that it is indeed shameful for a woman to cut off her hair or shave her head. She should cover her hair when she prays or prophesies. In the excellent commentary What The Bible Teaches, J. Hunter comments on this point.
“In v. 6 she is told to cut her hair short, or shave it off. In so doing she would indicate her refusal to be in subjection to man, Christ or God. But seeing it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair short or shaved, let her cover her head. Since the normal Christian woman would recoil from the shaven state, let her cover her head. Two different words appear in these verses: xuraō (to shave; see xuron, a razor, Acts 21:24; 1 Cor. 11:5, 6 only); keirō (to shear, or to cut short, Acts 8:32; 18:18; 1 Cor. 11:6 only).” p. 123
1 Corinthians 11:14 says, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” In verse 6 we saw that it is a shame for a woman to cut her hair or shave her head. In this verse we see that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, i.e. hair like a woman. A. T. Robertson in his comment on the Greek text says that Paul “here reinforces the appeal to custom by the appeal to nature in a question that expects the affirmative answer (oude).” Again, J. Hunter comments,
“Paul now draws attention that by nature men and women are different, the visible indication being in the quantity of hair God has given to each, so that usually men have short hair, women have long hair. It is now stated that for a man to have long hair is a shame, a dishonour, a disgrace to him; it makes him look effeminate; he is disparaged and belittled. It tends to blur the distinctiveness of the sexes as created by God.” p. 128
1 Corinthians 11:15 continues on the subject, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” The word “but” indicates a contrast. The contrast is between men and women in the matter of hair. Verse 14 says it is a shame for a man to have long hair. In contrast, verse 15 states that it is a glory for a woman to have long hair. The man is disparaged and shamed if he has long hair, but the woman is distinguished, and her long hair is glory (Greek doxa). Her long hair is given to her [by God] for a covering. God does not give man long hair for a covering. J. Hunter comments:
“The inference from this general statement is that as nature has endowed the woman with long hair as a permanent covering.... In wearing her hair long the woman is seen to be endorsing the role given her in creation.” p. 128
By the same token, if a man wears his hair long, he is seen to be rejecting the role given to him in creation, and disrespecting one of the divinely established distinctions between men and women.
Some men (and women) reply that they just don’t understand it, and therefore they can’t do it because they don’t have the conviction. This is not a valid reason. Even if it isn’t understood, it is clear that God says, “if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him.” So, it is not so much a matter of understanding, but of believing God and trusting His judgment over our own. As the saying goes, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
Others take a more philosophical approach, like Pilate in John 18:37-38. When the Lord said, “Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice” (v. 37), Pilate responded philosophically, “What is truth?” (v. 38). Not that he was so deeply interested in knowing truth. He was merely debating and avoiding commitment. Today some men say, “Well, how long is long hair? and some women say, “How short is short hair?” Not that they’re interesting in learning, rather they are expressing disdain for the subject. Some try to find a middle ground – men let their hair grown out some, and women cut their hair some.
The result is that their hair is nearly the same length, and both are doing what displeases God. The way to keep hair from being long is to cut it, and the way to avoid it being short is to not cut it but let it grow. But these folk want to make a simple thing relativistic, a matter of opinion and personal taste. In Luke 7:38 a woman came to Jesus when He was a guest in the house of a Pharisee, and “began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head.” Later, in John 12:3 Mary anointed the feet of the Lord “and wiped his feet with her hair”. Without long hair these women could not have done so.
Another very common argument is to accuse of legalism and judging. These are the panacea of the worldly and liberal among the churches. Any appeal to Scripture and call to be obedient is labeled legalism, and any identification of those who disobey Scripture is labeled judgmental. These are erroneous responses to Biblical obedience and holy and righteous living. Clearly the Lord Jesus Christ did not consider obedience to be legalistic, but love. See John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jn. 14:21). To label insistence on submission and obedience to the Word of God as legalism either comes from ignorance of Scripture, a serious misunderstanding of Christian teaching, or is simply a devious ploy to escape personal accountability. The apostle Paul, champion of grace, pointed out in Titus 2 that the grace of God teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”. Grace teaches us to say “no” to the world and it’s desires, attitudes and styles. Our mindset as believers comes from above. Christians are clearly exhorted, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
So God’s desire, seen in Scripture, is for men to have short hair and women to have long hair. Men cut their hair to keep it short, but women let their hair grow so that it will be long. If we just keep the world and its styles and customs out of the picture and stick to Scripture all will be clear. It doesn’t matter what people in the world do or think. The Christian has been bought by the blood of Christ and he is not his own. He belongs to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He is told to glorify God in his body and in his spirit, which are God’s. The body includes the hair, and when we learn from Scripture what God wants us to do with our hair, that should settle the matter.
Romans 12:1 calls on believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable or intelligent service or worship. The word “reasonable” is the Greek word logikos, the root of our word logic – agreeable to reason, following reason, logical. The opposite is true of those who don’t present their bodies to God, but please themselves or follow the world’s styles. Such behavior is unreasonable and unintelligent – not smart – for anyone who professes to be a Christian. Verse 2 insists that we not be conformed to the world, but transformed, not squeezed into the mold of the world. This is a broad principle that covers every area of our lives and behavior. The world’s styles and attitudes should not be ours, or even of interest to us, and that includes the men’s and women’s hair.
In 1 Corinthians 11:16, when Paul concludes the subject of men’s uncovered heads and short hair, and women’s covered heads and long hair, he writes: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God”. Hunter observes: “It seems that then as now, there were those who were disposed to argue about these matters.” Rather than be contentious, we should be willing to do whatever our Lord says in His Word. If the Lord wants men to have short hair, so be it. We should be happy to keep it short, not resentful, and we should not try to find the minimum way of complying, or try to have it as long as possible. Love doesn’t behave like that (Jn. 14:15). If the Lord wants women to have long hair, they should be happy to keep it long, not resent it, nor try to see how short they can have it without violating the principle. Love doesn’t seek the minimum or try to do as little as possible. When we know what the Lord wants us to do, on any subject, we should do it as a matter of trusting Him, in love to Him, and to please Him, not ourselves. Parents are responsible before God to teach their children this and other principles of living from the outset. To allow children to adopt worldly unbiblical dress or behavior is to do them a disfavor. Parents, especially fathers, are to govern their household and have their children in subjection with reverence. God commands them to raise their children, not in tune with society
, but “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), or "discipline and instruction of the Lord" (NASB).