We are traveling and when we were packing I made the comment that I didn’t need to take any special clothes because no one dresses up for church any more. At the church we visited this Sunday I commented that a certain person on the platform was probably a member of the pastoral staff. He had shaved his head and was wearing jeans with his shirt tail hanging out. I was right. I noticed many styles of dress from beautiful suits to people who would not dream of looking so sloppy anywhere but at church. Does God care what we wear to church?
Some would say, “No. He just wants us to be there.” There is some validity there. It is better to be in church looking like you shopped in a thrift store than to be in the mall on Sunday morning buying the latest fashions. Actually I think everyone could agree with that. The problem is that the person looking down on his luck probably spent as much, or more, money getting that look as the guy wearing the fancy suit. One of the terms for it used to be “grunge.” It is an actual style. People pay good money for clothes that look abused.
So what hints do we find in the Bible?
The smallest detail in the dress of the priests was laid out in the OT. It seemed to be important. Read in Proverbs 31 about the excellent wife. She dressed a certain way and made sure her people were taken care of. We find that Jesus wore a seamless robe, the best available. Lydia was a trader in purple, a color reserved for nobility. How we dress is a statement.
There are certain factors in how we dress. What are the reasons we wear clothes? A few would be modesty, protection from the elements, group identity, class identity, showing mourning or celebration, broadcasting attitude.
Sometimes clothing makes a statement. Hats can mean defiance and rebellion. I remember one Sunday a young man came into church wearing his baseball cap. It was worn at just the right angle. Some people said he did not know any better. They said it was not big deal. Wrong. I know that for years, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, this young man has been told to take off his hat. He has had hats confiscated. Time and time again he has been confronted on this issue. He knows that wearing a hat is a sign of “in your face.” When he wears it into church he is telling you and God what he thinks of you. Deny this reality if you want. I work with this type of young person every day.
You would think Jesus would not care how we dressed. Take a look at the parable about the kingdom of heaven found in Matthew 22 starting in verse 1. You are probably familiar with the story of the king who had a son getting married and was having a big wedding celebration. When it came time for the banquet everyone began making excuses for not being there. What I want to look at are a few verses at the end of the parable.
(Matthew 22:11-13 KJV) And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.This is obviously about more than a suit of clothes but the issue presented is coming to a wedding improperly dressed. The result was eternal rejection. I don’t think it was about how expensive the clothing was. Obviously even poor people could dress correctly. In some cultures it might be something as simple as wearing a sprig of green. Attitude was reflected in clothing.
Does God care what kind of clothes we wear? As with so many other questions the answer is “yes” and “no” and “it depends.” Life is never simple. Neither is holiness.
Why did you dress the way you are dressed?
homo unius libri