Why is it stated in the Bible that people should not wear wool and linen mixed clothing?
Within the holiness code of Leviticus 19, and in one place in Deuteronomy, we find laws for Israel against mixed fabrics in clothing (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:11). Here are the verses in question, and then I will discuss what they meant for Israel and for Christians today.
““You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.” (Leviticus 19:19, ESV)
“You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.” (Deuteronomy 22:11, ESV)
When you look at the contexts of these verses, you will find a pattern. For any Jew that follows the law, these are taken literally. But for Christians who wonder what to do with verses like these, we take a slightly different approach.
Christians must consider that there are three different types of laws in the Pentateuch, or the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Each of these laws teaches us something different about God and how we should apply these laws to our own lives.
The first type of law we find in the Torah are moral laws. These are laws like the Ten Commandments. They provide moral direction and God’s excellent and high standards that even the New Testament repeats. We are required out of holiness to the Lord to follow these laws.
The second type of law is a civic law. These laws are designed for Israel to follow. God gave these laws for the nation of Israel so they knew how to govern themselves within the Promised Land.
But how do Christians deal with these laws? The Old Testament is still attached to our Bibles. You will find many principles within these laws that help us understand holiness, purity, and separation from the world.
The third type of law in the Torah are ritual/sacrificial laws. These are laws that are found throughout Leviticus, mostly. They tell the priests and the Levites how to take care of the Temple, offer the right kinds of sacrifices that God accepts, and the duties of the priests.
Christians apply these laws themselves by understanding that Jesus fulfilled all of these laws completely. Laws about the perfect animal sacrifices without blemish show the sinless life of Jesus that must be offered to bring salvation to humanity.
Jesus is our great high priest, according to Hebrews. He is the high priest who offered once and for all one sacrifice and doesn’t have to keep doing it over and over every year. He completely fulfills all of the ritual laws and the sacrificial laws that we find in Leviticus. They all point to him in some way or another. They are foreshadowing of Jesus and his perfect ministry.
Laws like not wearing two types of fabric in your clothing fall under the second type of laws, civic laws. These are required for Israel to follow, but they have significance for both Jews and Christians.
Looking more closely at the entire verse of Leviticus 19:19, you’ll notice a pattern that gives us a clue into understanding the principle behind the law. There are three examples in the law. They are breeding cattle, sowing seed in the field, and garment fabrics.
But the key is in the law itself. Cattle cannot breed with different kinds of cattle. This would require two cattle to breed, and they would be two different kinds. The same is true in the seeds. There would be two different types of seed that are not allowed to be sown together. Finally, two different fabrics cannot be put together either.
The principle has to do with purity. The mixing of different things together produces an impure or mixed result. The Lord was teaching the Israelites, and Christians, that when he requires purity of them, they must not mix with the road, or in the case of the Israelites, with the nations around them.
God wants a pure people that are wholly devoted to him. They follow his laws and his Spirit instead of taking the best of both worlds. Christians cannot be fence sitters. We can’t decide that we like this law from the world, and this law from God.
James nails it in James 4:4-6 when he tells us that we cannot choose both sides. We must be friends of God or friends of the world. The principle of purity in our relationship with God is behind this law about the different types of fabric in garments. Christians don’t fit in the world. We are God’s people and we are fully devoted to him.