Jump Start # 3507
1 Corinthians 11:14 “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him.”
Our verse today is a tough one. It’s found in a series of tough passages. The covering. Length of hair. A lot of discussion, debates, and pages upon pages have been written about these verses. Growing up in the ‘60s, the hippie movement, the British invasion and the rise of rock ‘n roll, led many preachers to the pulpit with this passage in mind. I remember my dad telling me as he left for work one day to get a haircut. When he came home that evening, he said, “Why didn’t you get your haircut?” I told him, “I did.” He immediately said, “Go get another one.”
Our thoughts are not about hair but just what does nature teach us. Paul uses nature as one of his arguments about hair. “Even nature teaches you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor.” The use of nature is interesting. This is not the first and only time this is done.
In condemning the sexual practice of homosexuality, the Romans were told: “…God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” And, in the following verse, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman…” Natural, or nature.
Even earlier in Romans one, the apostle wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (1:20). Nature points to God. Throughout the Psalms, nature is included in praise and adoration to God. The sun, moon, stars give honor to the Lord.
In nature, a male lion has a long mane and a female lion doesn’t. Wouldn’t this turn what Paul said upside down? The images of many of the male Greek gods had long hair. The Spartan warriors were known for their long hair. However, in Corinth, it was known for women to have long hair and men short hair.
So, what are we to learn from nature?
First, nature sets forth some guidelines that are obvious. The question that always comes from this passage is, “How long is long and how short is short?” Nature doesn’t answer that question. A man’s hair doesn’t automatically stop growing once it has reached the “long” length. A man’s hair and a woman’s hair will continue to grow until it is cut. I’ve seen men whose hair was down to their waist. That’s not the point Paul is making. In nature, males are males and females are females.
The use of nature is to tell us that certain things are obvious. Looking out my window, I see cardinals at the bird feeder. The male is bright red. The female is brownish red. There is an obvious difference. Nature shows that. Male and female—you can tell them apart.
The point in Corinth and the point missing in our culture is that men are to be men and women are to be women. Don’t cross those lines. Don’t confuse the two. Women had long hair. Men had short hair.
Second, we must be careful in allowing our understanding of “nature” to become God’s law. God doesn’t use our intuition, feelings, ideas to become His will. God reveals. God is specific. God says. God uses words that can be defined, understood and taught. Without understanding this, it’s a small step from what I see in nature, to what I “believe” is right, or what I “feel” is right. How many times have we heard someone declare, “I think God wants me to be happy,” or, “I just know God likes this?” How do they know that? It’s all based upon what they want and how they feel, not what is revealed in Scriptures.
Remember, all Scriptures are inspired of God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). All Scripture, not nature. Not what I think. Not what I want. It is Scripture that sets forth doctrine.
The troubles in Corinth came from newly converted women liberated in Christ, now setting aside head coverings. It is important to note that Paul doesn’t really describe what the covering looked like. Was it a little lace on top of the head? Was it a long veil? Was it covering even the face, like orthodox Muslims wear? We are not told. It seems that they understood what the apostle was talking about. He wasn’t introducing a new concept. He was telling them to continue doing what they had been wearing, even though you are now a Christian. Women are women and men are men. Nature teaches that. God teaches that.
For some, anything longer than the ole’ crewcut for a male is too long. And, for them, it will be a crewcut. But, be careful in insisting that all men must have crewcuts because nature teaches that. Truth is, nature doesn’t teach how long long is. Long hair is a dishonor for men. Why? It makes them look like a woman.
My friend Kenny Chumbley wrote, “God’s work—nature –teaches it’s a shame for anyone to think men are women and/or women are men. And to this, God’s word says, ’Amen.’”