Headwear - Men's

The specific passage of Scripture that deals with headwear in the New Testament is 1Corinthians 11:2-16. As to men it reads: "Every man praying or prophesying, having [anything] on his head, puts his head to shame" (verse 4). It should be noted that the passage refers specifically to praying and prophesying. There is no general prohibition against a man wearing a head covering. In fact, the specific prohibition would be pointless if a man was never to wear anything on his head !

It should be noted that praying is addressing God and prophesying is addressing man for God. When we get to verse 7 we are given the reason for the prohibition: "For man indeed ought not to have his head covered, being God's image and glory". Man being God's image involves that he represents God before men, so that when he addresses men for God they should be able to see him; an image covered up has no value as an image. The statement that man is God's image is of course based on what is said in Genesis 1:27: "God created Man in his image". Then man is God's glory: that in which God delights as it says in Proverbs 8:31 "My delights [were] with the sons of men" (the my refers to wisdom, but as the wisdom is God's wisdom it is effectively God that delights in men). When addressing God in prayer one should not be covering up that in which God delights. On the other hand woman is that in which man delights and is peculiarly for his pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:8). It should be noted that woman is not said to be the image of anyone. As proof that what I glory in is what I delight in, one would refer to 1 Thessalonians 2:20 where Paul says to the Thessalonians: "for ye are our glory and joy".

It will have been observed that what the apostle Paul has been speaking about is based on what we get in the beginning of Genesis, showing the importance of that part of Scripture. Some may take the view that headwear, or its absence, is not a matter of importance. However, the fact that the apostle devotes a significant section in his letter to the Corinthians about it should, one may say, make us sit up and listen to what he has to say. It is not a matter of some obscure passage where the meaning is very doubtful. Some sentences in chapter 11 may not be too clear but that will not absolve us from taking notice of those that are. Certainly headwear is an outward thing, but what we are outwardly should reflect what we are inwardly. If we are just putting on an outward show but not right inwardly we are hypocrites. However, if we say that the outward thing does not matter, then by so saying we show that we are not right inwardly.

It is important to note that the instructions in the part of 1 Corinthians 11 that we are dealing with are general; they are not specifically related to what happens when the saints come together. Instructions specifically related to the comings together of the Lord's people do not begin until verse 17. This is important because in verse five it speaks of women praying and prophesying whereas we know from chapter 14:34 that women are to be silent in the assemblies.

Turning to the Old Testament it is interesting to see that in 2 Kings 2:23 little boys mocked Elisha saying: "Go up, bald head; go up, bald head!". It is evident the prophet had nothing on his head, else how would the little boys have known that he had a bald head ? Again in Ezekiel 8:3 the prophet said: "He... took me by a lock of my head". He could hardly have done this if his head had been covered. Although not a prophet it is clear that the lover in Song of Songs 5:2 did not have anything on his head because he said: "For my head is filled with dew, My locks with the drops of the night". This passage would at least show that others than prophets did not always wear headwear. As to John the Baptist, although we are told what he wore, nothing is said about headwear (Mark 1:6). Christ's head was anointed with ointment which presumably could not have been done if he had had a covering on it (Matthew 26:7).

Today men sometimes wear hats to protect their heads from the elements - sun, rain and wind. However, a hat also keeps dust from accumulating in the hair; in other words it helps to keep one's head clean. As men and women do not wear hats so often as in days gone by (in the UK at any rate) one finds that people wash their hair more often than once a week which I think they mostly did when I was young. The need to conserve water during World War II had a bearing I think on this.