Is it a Sin to Be Naked?

Michaelangelo's David

It always stuck with me how Adam and Eve strolled through the Garden of Eden stark naked in the presence of God. They had no shame and therefore nothing to be ashamed of. If humanity was in a still sinless state, clearly human nakedness itself was not sin.

God’s response is most telling; you can almost hear the unsurprised yet genuine incredulity in His voice when He asks Adam, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11) As if to say, “How do you even know that word?

It seems like nudity remained completely kosher based on the pre-Fall world, and God didn’t insist they cover themselves before giving them a complete teardown. In fact, it almost seems like His provision of garments was a last-minute afterthought before He had the sword-wielding bouncer show them the door.

Yet despite the clear implications of this primordial story, Christians today still often think and teach that nudity itself is inherently sinful and shameful. Should I feel conviction and the need for repentance every time I shower or make love to my wife or go to the doctor? And from where does this belief system originate?

Scriptural Basis?

I’ve had a hard time tracking down a clear-cut answer, but awkward rationales abound.

Should I feel conviction and the need for repentance every time I shower or make love to my wife or go to the doctor?

For example, the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible cites 2 Samuel 6:20 as a biblical condemnation of “exposure of the sex organs”. Yet even the most cursory glance at the context of this scene where Michal, David’s wife, rebukes him for exposing himself reveals that his rebuke of her was more sharp (verse 21), more righteous (verse 22), and possibly more empowered (verse 23). Suffice it to say, quoting this passage as a condemnation is certainly out of context (seeing as how this rebuke was then rebuked) and is arguably in opposition to the truth.

This pattern repeats itself with Christ who is stripped naked (Matthew 22:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, and John 19:23-24) for His crucifixion yet remains sinless until He actually dies, bearing your sin and mine. If being naked — even in a highly public setting — were sinful, would not Christ’s sinless state be compromised and His perfect atonement flawed?

One might argue that the soon-to-be Savior remained covered by a loincloth as so tastefully portrayed by paintings and sculptures for the past two thousand years, but that’s a shaky proposition. Assuming a poor man’s loincloth would survive the scourging He’d just endured, the chances of this postulated undergarment offering any covering of consequence are slim at best, even before considering its ragged state or His elevated position. To say He remained sinless because of a miraculous loincloth kept Him unexposed is downright irrational.

We see Peter partly or fully naked for work (John 21:7). We see another disciple fleeing the scene of Christ’s arrest naked yet without concern (Mark 14:31-32). We see nudity depicted as a morally neutral state of being just like hunger and blindness (Deuteronomy 28:48, Revelation 3:17, Matthew 25:31-46). And let’s not forget the very mark of a Hebrew follower of God: circumcision. This is a practice that requires public exposure and was created and ordained by God.

Some Concessions

Now, there’s the issue of the shame felt in Eden, and repeated references linking nakedness and shame throughout the Bible. Isn’t that an indication of sin? Let’s not forget that sin is not about being wrong in our own human eyes; sin is about being wrong in God’s eyes. If God makes humans be born naked, requires them to be naked to follow His command to reproduce, and repeatedly shows a casual indifference to nudity (Ezekiel 16:6-7 is deliberately illustrative on this), it doesn’t sound like sin by itself.

That’s not to say it can’t lead to sin or even be sinful in certain situations (we see this as early as Noah), but those are more focused on motivation for the state of undress than the undress itself.

I feel that the whole of Scripture is unanimous on this point: nudity itself is not sinful.

Our Western culture might resist this, but the Word of God is clear.

Photo credit: Mustang Joe / Foter / CC BY
About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.

1 Comment on Is it a Sin to Be Naked?

  1. Good start! Have a look at the amazing, thorough articles from The Biblical Naturist. He delves deep into many of the points you bring up, plus many others you didn’t!

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