Why Headcovering?

Why HeadcoveringThe main verses which are quoted in regards to Christian headcovering are from 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. I’m quoting it from the New International Version here.

(1) Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (2) I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

The first two verses are basically telling us to follow Christ’s example. Being a man, Christ probably didn’t wear a prayer covering, but I think this is telling us to follow his example generally – to be kind and loving, to help the poor, and to live a godly life. Verse two is telling us to remember God’s teachings, the way Paul taught them to us, and not changing them to suit our own purposes.

(3) Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

This verse is explaining the “headship order” to us. Lords of people get really hung up on the “man is the head of woman” part, and say it’s oppressing and wrong, and don’t realise that the headship order goes woman-man-Christ-God; so in “dishonouring” man, we’re also dishonouring God! In the headship order, everyone is answerable to someone else, too; except God, of course.

(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. (5) And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. (6) If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. (7) A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God but the woman is the glory of man.

This is the bit that usually confuses people. It sounds like we’re being told that long, uncut hair is an acceptable covering. But go through it and replace every time it says “cover” with “has long hair” and “uncover” with “bald” or “has short or cut hair”, and see how much sense it makes. Like this:

(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with hair on his head dishonours his head. (5) And every woman who prays or prophesies without hair on her head dishonours her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. (6) If a woman does not have hair on her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should put hair on her head. (7) A man ought not to have hair on his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Does this make sense? No, it does not. How can someone without hair be told to have her head shaved? She would already be bald. How can someone without hair have her hair cut, if there isn’t any hair to start off with?

Another note about these verses: in this context, “prophesy” means “teach”, as well.

(8) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man, (9) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (10) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

These verses, I think, say that, yes, we ought to submit to man, but we’re not inferior animals. We were created for man, to serve and to help the men in our lives. The headcovering is a “sign of authority”! We wear it “because of the angels”! Now, I don’t really know why angels are being mentioned. I think it’s one of those things that I’m not going to completely understand until I get to heaven, but it’s pretty amazing to think that I’m wearing my headcovering “because of the angels”!

(11) In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is a man independent of woman. (12) For as woman came from man, so also is man born of woman. But everything comes from God.

And neither of us can function on our own; nor can both male and female function apart from God.

(13) Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, (15) but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me? Why is it that when we see a man with long hair, we think it’s pretty weird (when men grow their hair long, it’s often sort of thin and scraggly, too), but if we see a woman or girl with long hair, we think it’s beautiful? And about verse 15, the Greek word used for “covering” here (peribolaion) is different to the word used for “covering” in verses 4-7 (katakalypto).

(16) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice – nor do the churches of God.

And here’s the verse specifically for those who would say that the headcovering practice is only for the church in Corinth. It isn’t so! The “churches of God” are mentioned here. All of them have “no other practice” (other than women wearing a headcovering to pray and men not to). That’s all Christians, not just the ones in Corinth. And if that weren’t enough to convince people that it’s meant for all Christians, look at 1 Corinthians 1:2, the beginning of Paul’s letter:

(2) To the church of God in Gorinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.

Everyone, everywhere, who calls on the name of Jesus to forgive us our sins and believes in him must comply with the ordinances (things we must do) described in 1 Corinthians. The verses from 11:17 onwards are talking about the Last Supper (communion). Do you see any Christians saying that that teaching isn’t necessary to be followed?

Of course, all this is all very well, but it brings up the question: “So why do you wear the headcovering all the time? Surely you should just wear it when you pray or prophesy?” To this, I answer with 1 Thessalonians 5:17; “Pray continually.”

I hope that I have been able to answer the questions of anyone reading this who is unsure about headcovering, without being too longwinded for those who already cover! In my opinion, it’s not a sin, per se, to not cover, but it still dishonours God – and who would want to do that?

And if all of this isn’t enough to convince someone, my thinking is, I would prefer to be wrong about this and still cover, and stand before the throne of God when I die and have him tell me, “Oh, you didn’t really have to do that”, than to be right about this and not cover, and get to judgement and have God ask, “You knew you should, so why didn’t you?”

But when it comes down to it, with headcovering being such an unknown and alien concept in today’s western world, headcovering is a matter of faith, and also one of personal conviction. Pray to God for strength, and he will give you the strength to do what you need to do. It’s not an “I cover so I’m a better Christian than you” thing, either. We all ought to do what God wants us to do, not what people and society wants us to do. Remember Romans 12:2, “Be not conformed to this world.” The headcovering is just another way of showing that Christians are different from the world; we’ve been saved and we’re going to Heaven!


6 thoughts on “Why Headcovering?

  1. […] I did a series of “Why…?” posts, such as “Why Christianity?”, “Why Headcovering?” and “Why Chooks?” I said I was going to do a post on “Why […]

  2. Jamie Carter says:

    I just don’t see it. God spared no detail about how the temple was to be made, how sacrifices were to be carried out, and even who can and can’t be allowed to be counted among the congregation. You would think that if head coverings were equally important, God would have set aside more than the first half of 1 Cor. 11 to explain it in detail, but what we have is a confusing set of unclear metaphors that are indirect. I don’t think it’s about women wearing a cloth on her head at all.

  3. Rachel says:

    And of course you’re entitled to your own opinion on these matters. I certainly agree with something you’ve said in your most recent post, that headcoverings are strictly optional. It doesn’t do to force one’s opinion on others – as Paul says in Romans 14:5, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind”. (Read in context with vs. 5-13, for example, “he who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thinks; and he who fasts, to the Lord he fasts, and gives God thanks”). Whether a woman headcovers or doesn’t headcover, she should do it out of sincere devotion to the Lord, and not judge what others do.

    That all said, I’m not quite sure the flow of your comment makes sense. Comparing the construction of the temple and the guidelines for sacrifices (found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) with the passage dealing with women’s headcovering (found in 1 Corinthians) is like comparing oranges and pears. On one hand, we have the words of God recorded by Moses given to His people in 1400BC immediately prior to Him coming down and living literally in the middle of their camp. On the other hand, we have a letter written by Paul to a seriously messed-up church in 55AD. Headcovering isn’t the only issue that only appears in 1 Corinthians – there are also passages dealing with taking fellow believers to court over petty issues, visiting prostitutes, or realising that a man sleeping with his own father’s wife is sort of a big no-no. These are all things which should seem so obvious they’re not even worth mentioning – and, indeed, aren’t elsewhere. Is it possible headcovering could fall into the same category?

    Perhaps I wasn’t emphatic enough in my final paragraph – after all, I did write this several years ago, when I was younger and less mature – that I consider this strictly a personal conscience issue. Of course I will argue my own side strongly, but I’m sensible enough to realise that I’m by far in the minority on it, particularly here in Australia. Everyone has his or her own, unique walk with God, and of course that’s going to be different for everyone and result in different outward and inward changes for everyone. Headcovering just happens to be one of my personal convictions in my own walk with God, and while I will certainly defend it and argue its legitimacy, I’m not going to force it on anyone else. My own mother and younger sister do not headcover. But, just as you would say that headcoverers should force others to headcover – and I don’t – the same should stand for non-headcoverers to not force others to stop headcovering.

    • Jamie Carter says:

      The beliefs of the pro-headcovering camp are as diverse as head coverings are. I’ve seen the best side and the worst side of them. It’s easy to get carried away on all sides. I just find it odd that God forgot to mention or hint at Creation Order in the several thousand years between creation and when the Corinthian letters were written. written, the passages that tell women what to wear don’t include head coverings, and that His word seems to say two different things – that women can pray or prophesy and that women must be silent like the law says. For a God of order, He seems somewhat disorderly.

  4. victoria214 says:

    Rachel, how recently did you begin the practice of headcovering, and how extensive is it? All day inside and out, or just for prayer and church?

  5. Rachel says:

    I’ve been wearing a headcovering for almost six years now (as of January), so… it’s not really recent. I’d been headcovering for a little over three years when I did this post. I started around my fourteenth birthday and I’m almost twenty now!

    For the first six months or so it was basically just in my bedroom and sometimes out during the day, but for at least five years it’s been all day, every day. I wear a bandanna to sleep because it’s easier for me to pray as I think of things as I drift off if I’m already wearing a covering. Like I said in the post, the headcovering is for when we pray, but we’re also commanded to pray continually. That said, I know ladies online and in real life who just wear a headcovering for church, Bible study and prayer.

    I think it really just depends on what you feel you need to do and what your individual preferences are. I know people who have scarves (you know, the thin cottony rectangle ones) and wear them around their neck and then just cover to pray. Too many loose ends bother me; I much prefer to have my hair neatly out of the way and under a secure covering all day.

    My headcovering now is a veil, a bit like the girl in the picture but plain white, lace at the front edge and much closer to the hairline.

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