Jesus Wore A Tie

By Amber

I am a member of a religious body that has a reputation for approaching the scriptures unbiasedly and honestly with consideration for context and history, and with a discernment between tradition and truth.

I deeply appreciate and respect those who read the scriptures in light of all those things, humbly putting aside their personal attachments and opinions in order to find out what is good and acceptable to God. It’s the only way I think we have a chance of any unity and more importantly, the only way we’ll be able to see God’s truth in the simple way He’s presented it.

Unfortunately, even after training myself to come to the scriptures or consider beliefs in this way, one (at least) tradition still managed to remain unsuspected: dressing up for Sunday worship (and Wednesday Bible class, and gospel meetings and singings and lectureships).

“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9

If you’ve read the gospels, you’ll remember that Jesus had much condemnation for the traditions of the Pharisees, which they bound as law. God’s word is sufficient and we should treat it as such, which is why I’ve decided to finally write this.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

So, where did this tradition (of dressing up for services) come from?

“The practice of dressing up for church is a relatively recent phenomenon. It began in the late-eighteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, and it became widespread in the mid-nineteenth century. Before this time, “dressing up” for social events was known only among the very wealthy…

…From medieval times until the eighteenth century, dress was a clear marker of one’s social class….

This changed with the invention of the mass textile manufacturing and the development of urban society. Fine clothes became more affordable to the common people. The middle class was born, and those within it were able to emulate the envied aristocracy. For the first time, the middle class could distinguish themselves from the peasants. To demonstrate their newly improved status, they could now “dress up” for social events just like the well-to-do.

Some Christian groups in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries resisted this cultural trend. John Wesley wrote against wearing expensive clothing to their meetings. The early Baptists also condemned fine clothing, teaching that it separated the rich from the poor.

Despite these protests, mainstream Christians began wearing fine clothes whenever they could. The growing middle class prospered, desiring bigger homes, larger church buildings, and fancier clothing

This all came to a head when in 1843, Horace Bushnell, and influential Congregational minister in Connecticut, published an essay called “Taste and Fashion.” In it, Bushnell argued that sophistication and refinement were attributes of God and that Christians should emulate them. Thus was born the idea of dressing up for church to honor God. Church members now worshiped in elaborately decorated buildings sporting their formal clothes to honor God.

In 1846, a Virginia Presbyterian named William Henry Foote wrote that “a church-going people are a dress loving people.” This statement simply expressed the formal dress ritual that mainstream Christians had adopted when going to church. The trend was so powerful that by the 1850s, even the “formal-dress resistant” Methodists got absorbed by it. And they, too, began wearing their Sunday best to church.

Accordingly, as with virtually every other accepted church practice, dressing up for church is the result of Christians being influenced by their surrounding culture

It is purely the result of nineteenth-century middle-class efforts to become like their wealthy aristocrat contemporaries, showing off their improved status by their clothing. It has nothing to do with the Bible, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit….

…The first-century Christians did not “dress up ” to attend church meetings. They met in the simplicity of living rooms. They did not dress to exhibit their social class. In fact, the early Christians made concrete efforts to show their absolute disdain for social class distinctions.

…In the church, all social and racial distinctions are erased

And yet, many Christians are under the false delusion that it is “irreverent” to dress in informal clothing when attending a Sunday morning church service. This is not dissimilar to how the Scribes and the Pharisees accused the Lord and His disciples of being irreverent for not following the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:1-13).

In short, to say that the Lord expects His people to dress in fine clothing when the church gathers is to add to the Scriptures and speak where God has not spoken. Such a practice is human tradition at its best.” – Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity

I almost wanted to end it right here, because this alone is so convincing to me. But, I imagine there could still be further objections, so I want to delve a little deeper.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

You can dress nicely for services and yet not be right with God, you can dress nicely for services and be right with God, you can dress like you usually do for services and not be right with God, and you can dress like you usually do for services and be right with God. Why? Because, aside from following the only admonition we have for apparel (to be modest), what you wear has no bearing on your salvation.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” – John 7:24

Especially considering that our hearts and relationships with God are so entirely removed from our dress, it cannot be said that judging by the way a person dresses for worship is of righteous judgment. Again, to dress modestly is all the New Testament requires of a person.

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3,4

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” – 1 Timothy 2:9, 10

In context, this is instruction to women but the concept of becoming a new man, putting on these godly characteristics and imitating Christ with the circumcision of the heart is applicable to all who are baptized into His body. Likewise, it heavily reflects the importance of the inward man and while the world may be concerned with outward appearances, we are now called to be set apart from the world, in our thinking, in our priorities and in our anxieties and in our judgments. We no longer will judge nor be judged by appearances.

“…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5

I just like this because it has the instruction “clothe yourselves”, yet not in reference to actual attire.

To be clear, I used to hold the opinion that we should dress up for services, admittedly with no Biblical basis. So, I’d like to answer the objections some might have, as I remember once having:

1. Reverence

My main argument was “If the president invited you to dinner, you would undoubtedly dress up. How much more should we show our respect for God when assembling to worship?”

It’s a noble thought, and humanly logical if we didn’t have the Bible to explain things more accurately. Once Christ made that sacrifice for each of us, the Law, the shadow of things to come, became written on our hearts; our service to Him became deeper than outward obedience. Though it seems logical to dress up because that is what the world has deemed important, our Father is not of this world and He sees the truth: our hearts. We can see this point stressed in James, where the Holy Spirit saw fit to declare inappropriate, the judgment of dress in the assembly. And here is where I see our tradition of dressing up as a dangerous obstacle: I know more than one person (and I’ve been this person as well), who, because of their belief in this man-made tradition, have bitterly judged those who would not dress up. That is simply sin, and should clearly be addressed as such. Likewise, I’ve heard of members who have confronted those who dress normally, asking them to change their habits, which seems sadly close to “teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” and should be taken seriously.

I have come to worship finely dressed, yet distracted and uninterested and even probably in sin at some points. I have come to worship dressed normally, yet with my mind set on things above and humble before God. We should not judge by appearances.

2. All Things To All Men

This argument seems to condemn itself, and I’d like to explain why. Some people may agree that you don’t have to dress up, but they will in order to make others comfortable, especially if they live in an affluent area (also the reason for not dressing up when, say, worshiping in the Philippines).

I can list several people (myself included), who have been/are put off by the “class” distinction. When I was a weak member, I actually would only attend on Wednesdays (when I felt comfortable dressing normally) and occasionally on Sundays because I didn’t have an appropriate or abundant wardrobe and I was embarrassed to wear the same thing too many times. Eventually, I spent the money to build up “church attire” and also received gifts from others, but I still know other people with that same mindset. And sadly, I can remember times where we (me and many other members of the church, young and old, preachers and teachers) would sit around and make fun of the “come-as-you-are” churches with their indifference to clothing. It’s difficult for me to publish that. It’s shameful. It’s ungodly. And condemning. And it certainly doesn’t embrace the heart of the “being all things to all men…so that I may win more of them!” Truly, if we could humble ourselves and be content to dress in normal attire, a barrier would be crushed between us and those who are either simply poor or who are simply not blind to the truth of the gospel like we apparently have become. We ultimately may bind this dress unspokenly, which is a sad consequence. Furthermore, a lot of us aren’t even rich! Yet we spend the money to keep up with this silly, unbiblical tradition (I recognize not everyone spends a lot- we came to love Goodwill and hand-me-downs ;)). To put it in perspective though, consider the mindset of the early church:

“According to these letters [from the Christians before Constantine], they typically dropped their general family name, which indicated their social status. They also called one another “brother” and “sister.” – Graydon Snyder

There is the biblical mindset. There is the grace and humility and love and the oneness of the body of Christ. Surely, if they set aside their names that represented their earthly distinctions, we can cast off our attachment to fine apparel out of love, wisdom, understanding, humility and fellowship.

3. We Are The Priesthood

…so, we should dress accordingly? All I have to say is that we are the spiritual priesthood, and to interpret this as something that demands a suit and a tie or a button-up or a skirt or dress shoes or anything physical and outward, is to interpret it through Pharisaical eyes.

“…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:5

“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.” – Romans 2:28

*Edit: I meant to make more plain that the very fact that specific garments were required of the priesthood in the Old Testament does not mean that we must abide by the same law, but rather shows that under the new law, it is our hearts that need to be specially adorned for Christ. Baptism, repentance and a changed heart are the special attire of today’s priesthood. Oftentimes, the spiritual requirements of today are shown through an outward and physical representation in the Old Testament. There undoubtedly needs to be preparation when we come before God – purposeful preparation of our hearts and minds.

So, am I judging unrighteously those who do dress up? No, please don’t misunderstand.

I think many of us do it mindlessly and harmlessly and I know godly people who are in the practice of dressing up.What does need to be taught and understood, however, is that it is no requirement to do it and that it can be damaging, even unintentionally. I try to dress like I would dress any other day (which sometimes means a skirt or dress), because my discipleship is not a superficial, twice-a-week event, but it is a continuous condition of my heart. But when we collectively dress up, we’re in danger of developing an unspoken code or even encouraging some false beliefs that it is wrong not to dress up. Therefore, I think it ought to be taught on, and we ought not be afraid of caring less about our appearances (especially us ladies!). Also, consider a large basis for my desire to speak against the topic:

“Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” – Acts 16:3

“But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus so that they might bring us into slavery-to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” – Galatians 2:3-5

This reflects the reason I want to speak up: when it would help the furtherance of the gospel, Paul had Timothy circumcised, no problem (though circumcision was/is not required for Christians). However, with Titus we see an issue developing: Judaizers, “the circumcision party”, were teaching that Christians were required to circumcise. Because of this, note: they did not yield in submission, even for a moment, and to circumcise Titus would have been detrimental. It was important that the truth of the gospel prevail, and this required a deliberate avoidance of the practice in question.

Similarly, a bold move may be required today. If there weren’t those teaching and thinking that we need to dress up, it would be silly for me to write this. But I feel like we are emulating the situation of Titus: there are some who actively teach that it is appropriate and more reverent to dress up and therefore we cannot enable this false and dangerous tradition(again, as with all of my articles: if this doesn’t apply to you, it isn’t meant for you: I am not saying that this is the mindset or motive or belief or condition of everyone dressed nicely for services).

By speaking on this, I don’t hope to judge those who dress up, yet do have a mind of love and understanding. By speaking on this, I hope to address a false teaching and pierce the hearts of those who are grasping tradition. Ultimately, I don’t judge your heart, God does. I simply seek to make known a portion of the Word that seems to be neglected, but this should not result in a judgment of those who do dress up! The point is that, there needs to be no judging by appearances, and then also, there needs to be wisdom and understanding and perhaps yielding on the part of some so that weaker members and outsiders are not led astray.

Finally, I want to make an appeal. Like I stated in the beginning, I worship with individuals that approach the Word of God in an admirable way, often to the ridicule of mainstream “Christians”. Nevertheless, it is this body that I’m mainly speaking to and this section is particularly for them:

Because of your wisdom I’ve been able to see through the scriptures, through the practice of the early church and through the history of tradition that musical instruments in worship are not authorized by God.

It is this same way of thinking that has convicted me so about our attire. Some of us would not be here if it weren’t for bold souls that stood out and attempted to bring “Christianity” back to the Bible. With that same mind, we often try to stand out and open the eyes of others to the truth of these traditions and add-ons in worship. I’ve admired the sound teaching against musical instruments, infant baptism, sprinkling, faith only, once-saved-always-saved, fancy church buildings, fellowship halls, ordination of ministers and more. What do each of these things have in common? 1. They aren’t taught by scripture, 2. The early church had no part in any of these, 3. We can look in history and see the years that each of these things surfaced.

As we’ve seen today, the practice of dressing up for services neatly falls into this category as well, yet we have been content to sidestep it. How can we know the “true” church? Because it’s the one we read about in the Bible? Maybe in many ways we’ve succeeded in discerning truth and tradition, but not in this area (mostly- I’m not saying there are none who have this understanding or there aren’t congregations that don’t practice this) and I don’t think we should be content to let it slide while calling others to abandon their own traditions that may be very difficult for them to accept as false.

Sometimes, even after seeing the truth of something, there is still an overbearing hesitancy. But how do we approach others when we see this hesitancy in them to accept the truth? Do feelings or habits or upbringing suddenly excuse them? No.

So, all I’m calling for is consistency and honesty and a devotion to truth. And the truth of the gospel is that God does not care what we wear to worship, and therefore we should not teach that He does or that one is more reverent wearing either attire, and we should also be careful not to compel anyone to believe this by our conduct.

“Those who glory in their looks, not in their hearts, dress to please others.” – Clement

“Instead of embellishing the outward man with adornments, we should embellish the soul with the ornament of goodness.” – Clement

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24

(Personal note: this is a sensitive topic, and I know some will disagree. I hope I haven’t spoken rudely and I hope I haven’t misrepresented myself: I want to make it abundantly clear that speaking on a truth that may condemn those who are guilty, doesn’t equate to my judgment of those people. Also, I am in no way saying that just because I found myself with a sinful attitude toward others when I believed in dressing up, that everyone who dresses up must feel that same way. I know this isn’t the case, which is why I try to stress to those who truly imitate Christ in their hearts and attitudes that I am not speaking to them. On the other hand, I do know others besides myself that are guilty of the things I’ve spoken on, and that’s really all I’m trying to expose. So, in short: dress does not matter, so no judging and no teaching that it does unless you’re speaking on modesty, and don’t be afraid to “come as you are” out of consideration for those who may not feel comfortable. :) I guess that could have made a much simpler post ;))

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62 thoughts on “Jesus Wore A Tie

  1. First of all, the English major in me wants to applaud you for your fantastic title.

    But more importantly, you’ve hit on a lot of the conclusions I’ve come to lately while evaluating my own faith. I was “raised in the church.” While I’m incredibly thankful for being raised on godly principles and knowing Christ from an early age, I often worry that I’ll fall into the trap of my worship becoming habit (which I’ve done before) and that I’ll believe something just because it was the way I was raised (which I’ve done before). I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years evaluating what *I* believe, not just what I was raised to believe.

    During a discussion about dress in worship several years ago, I heard a story about two men who went to visit another congregation. One was dressed formally, the other casually. They noticed that the only people who really talked to and welcomed them were the ones who were dressed like them. I don’t recall how, but the story was spun into a good light. For me, it was a big red flag on how members of the church *shouldn’t* act. Unfortunately, I wasn’t confident enough with my opinion on the matter to speak up at the time. Like you, I feel the need to speak up and have started doing so in recent years. I pray we both have the strength and courage to continue.

    • I really appreciate this comment. Though it was bold to post it, I’ve since been nervous about the reception and you were the encouragement we needed. I feel like you and I have been doing to the same thing, even though I wasn’t raised in the church. Either way, like the church teaches, I want us to study for ourselves and get back to the Bible and be content to follow it and Christ alone. Of course, it’s always encouraging to find others that are like-minded. Thank you, thank you for your prayer and I pray the same!

  2. I’m gonna have to humbly disagree with some of your blog. No, God is not concerned with our outward appearance, BUT our attire is a REFLECTION of our heart…1 Tim 2:9-10…suggests this. This is an issue of reverence. When Joseph was called to appear before Pharaoh, he shaved and changes his clothes to appear before the king. “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.” Gen 41:14. When Jacob went to Bethel to build an altar and worship God, he told his household to PURIFY themselves and CHANGE their clothes (Gen 35:2). When we assemble together to Worship, we are in the presence of the Almighty God and we should approach Him with AT LEAST the same reverence as our rulers.

    Now, I’m not saying that your BEST is the same as my BEST, but I am saying that it is not the same attire that we wear for everyday activities (work, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, just “hanging-out”). We carry this out even to the extent of our children. Our boys have always had “church clothes” and “play clothes”…even as babies. Changing our clothes to go to worship the Lord is a deliberate action on our part, reflecting our hearts and our attitudes toward God. Obviously, only God knows if you are “dressing up” for Him or if you are “dressing up” to impress others.

    I highly recommending JR’s sermon on Reverence in Worship
    http://www.danvillechurchofchrist.org/2010/wmv/12052010_AM_Reverence(3)_The_Substance_of_Worship_JRB.wmv

    He actually has an entire series on Reverence from 2010 which is very good. You can find them all here:
    http://www.danvillechurchofchrist.org/html/series.html

    As for those who did not “welcome” visitors who were dressed casually as opposed to formally – that is another reflection of their hearts, and they will have to answer for their actions. We must remember not to judge others, but God will judge with a righteous judgement. So I do not judge how someone comes dressed to church, but I do care enough to warn my brothers and sisters in Christ to have the proper reverence for the Lord.

    • I appreciate your kind reply. :) We’re familiar with J.R.’s sermon.

      The OT passages you share, I believe support my thought: the old testament and the physical was a “type” of the spiritual to come. The verse you shared about changing the clothes and purifying themselves seems to represent the spiritual change and purification that would come later- baptism and repentance. Whereas in the old testament there was the physical tabernacle and these physical sacrifices and physical garments, now it is on the heart and it is spiritual and daily we need to purify our hearts before God because it is not just on Sundays that we worship or are in service to him- we are living sacrifices for him each day.

      I understand your point on our dress being a reflection of our heart, however that isn’t an absolute truth and ultimately, God knows our heart so we’re only “reflecting” it for others, which isn’t necessary. All our Father has asked us to reflect is modesty and, in Timothy, “not costly apparel.”

      “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:16-18

      Finally, if our clothes are supposed to represent our heart, and if that means dressing up to reflect our service, it would seem we should dress up each day. It’s a logical idea, but my point is that it isn’t biblical and to accept it would call into question every Christian before the 1800s and before the middle class, that could not afford “Sunday best” apparel and had no concept of it. Also, it doesn’t coincide with the early Christians who fervently fought against class distinction and only commented on dressing “decently” (modestly) and “plainly.” Just as the church fought viciously (in word! :P) against the first pianos brought into buildings, even denominations fought against this new trend of fashionable wear as it crept into Christianity.

      If it were a practice that was necessary, it would be said or implied in the New Testament, but we find the opposite.

      Our hearts truly do need to be prepared each day, and especially when we come together to remember our Lord’s sacrifice, but this is something that we can teach our children with reflection, prayer and study and changing the inward man, rather than putting on an outward garment.

    • “I am saying that it is not the same attire that we wear for everyday activities” Here is my biggest problem on the issue. The expectation of my company is that I wear clothing of the same manner that my fellow worshipers expect is my Sunday Best. I’m not offering God my best. I’m offering God my labor clothes, my everyday clothes. Even if I had a set of clothes that I only wore to worship, they would be common to me. But I’m torn because I know I will distract with my dress if I choose to wear something that I hold in higher esteem.

  3. Great post! I am thankful our church is very free when it comes to dress. But at the same time I know there are people who dress up to make a statement! Your post is very relevant. The only time dress matters is when you serve. When I serve there is a dress code I follow, just as the Levites could not wear anything they wanted but had strict guidelines on the material and even the colours they had to wear.
    So again, great post!!

    Rolain.

    Rolain.

    • I dress out of respect. If you can dress to go to a party or out to dinner why can’t Christians dress to go to our Fathers House? ….respect to our Father

      • Pete, when I am in command of my own wardrobe then I will dress in a way that you might deem as “casual.” I wear dress clothes to labor in 5 days a week. That means I spend less on my “dress” wear than my “casual” wear. It also holds a special place because I’m not able to wear it as often as my “dress” wear. So, what looks like laziness to you would be presonally far more respectful for me, if I weren’t dressing to prevent you from being distracted during worship and stumbling in your faith.

  4. Very interesting and thoughtful essay. I, of, have subscribed to the “dressing up for church on Sunday to honor God as we would an earthly king” philosophy. I distinctly remember teaching it to others, also; specifically my own children (as i struggled each Sunday to get them ready for church) and other teens/preteens I’ve taught over the years in church who have asked the question, “why do we have to wear these (uncomfortable, uncool, stupid) clothes (that I don’t normally wear because I don’t like to wear them) to church?” I honestly never thought of where this tradition came from other than “it’s what my parents taught me.” What if these kinds of human traditions are exactly what drives our young people away from church?
    Your points convict me because i have also taught the scripture, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So how we dress is often just to appeal to/impress other people,without even looking at our own hearts. It’s easier to fake it than change. Does this make us “white-washed tombs?” you are correct when you say this is something we need to address in our DAILY walk with Jesus Christ.
    Thank you for giving me something to think about.
    And thanks for stopping by my blog also!
    BTW, I love the name of your blog. :-)

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad it was thought-provoking :) I definitely know many people who are put-off by the standard of dress, and I feel since it’s such an insignificant habit, surely we could put it off if it would make some of those people more comfortable and ultimately lead to their salvation.

    • There’s no “what if” about it — traditions like these ARE the things that drive young people away from the church. Not ONLY dress, of course, but the idea that the church puts such a huge emphasis on a traditionalist mindset is troubling, and is frankly what drew me away from what I would consider the “traditional” church.

      I have an extreme example of the dress code thing. It was a huge red flag that this particular church didn’t have its priorities straight. (I left that particular church within a few months.)

      I was scheduled to lead an opening prayer on a Sunday morning. The elders always requested that the men who were serving tuck in their shirts, wear a tie, and wear closed-toed shoes. This, frankly, irked me enough as it was, but when I knew I was serving, I always tried to comply out of respect. This particular Sunday morning, I was getting ready in a hurry and could not find my dress shoes, so I threw on some flip-flops with my blazer and tie. After bible class that morning, I walked to the front where the men who were serving would gather before the service, and I was informed by the elder who was in charge of the schedule that I had been replaced on opening prayer because of my flip flops.

      My first reaction was anger. I didn’t show it openly, but I was fuming inside. I knew I had to show grace toward them, but I felt like they completely withheld it from me. I knew, of course, that I had made every effort to bend to their manmade wishes, but it wasn’t to the letter, so that wasn’t good enough. I was okay with them “suggesting” a dress code, (even though I didn’t like it) but to bind it in this was was simply wrong.

      Anyway, I pray that leaders of the church think through their “traditional” mindsets. I think that so many people in this church culture consider “traditional” to be a positive thing. It isn’t. (Matthew 15:19 makes that pretty clear, among other scriptures) It’s impossible, of course, to escape tradition entirely — so much of it is built into our culture itself — but it IS important that we’re welcoming of people who don’t share our traditions.

  5. Hello Crunchy Christian, There are a whole lot of allegedly “Christian” blogs out there. But this post and a few others leads me to the conclusion that you’r is right up there with the best in terms of content and scripture. I use snowgood as outreach tool, and add reflective thoughts from scripture from time to time, simply because I don’t want to just have a Christian audience.
    Looking at your posts on clothing and considering the scripture on pearls what would you say to a wife who fancied pearls after 30 years of marriage? Or her husband for that matter?

    • I appreciate your comment! And I love that you’re trying to reach out to others through your blog as well. :)
      As for your question, I’ve grown to take 1 Peter 3:3,4 and 1 Timothy 2:9 quite literally:

      “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—”

      “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,”

      Ultimately, it comes down to discerning the heart. Why exactly do we choose to wear pearls (or whatever we choose to wear)? Are we being materialistic? Are we wishing to draw attention? Are we discontent? Are we loving the things of the world too much? Are we trying to impress someone other than our husband? And also, could we have perhaps used our money in a way that would have better glorified God?

      However, forcing anyone to not wear costly attire won’t help them in the end- their heart needs to be joyfully and willingly submissive to the will of God.

      I’m not sure what role the husband plays in the matter, though, if you wanted to clarify. :)

      • Totally agree with scripture, but just forked out and bought my wife pearls – it’s what she wanted. I suppose where it all go wrong is that we pick & choose and compare rather than just ACCEPT the word of God.
        I think you must a very special lady, and a blessing to your husband. Keep up the GOD work.

      • Haha, I can understand! We all have our little things that we enjoy or decisions we’ve regretted, but I think as long as we have our minds on the scriptures and our hearts toward God and we’re always willing to make changes for Him, then we’re on the right path.
        Thank you for being so kind, but I certainly have my areas that need growth, too (and my husband can attest to that ;))!
        I hope you keep up the God work, as well! :)

      • Dress for respect to the Father. Do you dress for a party or going out to a nice dinner? Is it just being lazy and don’t want to take the time

  6. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to response, we’ve just been busy and I wanted to make sure that I took the time to write a response that makes sense and doesn’t just jump around…hopefully I’ve done that. ;)

    First, I’d like to address your point you made near the end of your comment:“ Finally, if our clothes are supposed to represent our heart, and if that means dressing up to reflect our service, it would seem we should dress up each day. It’s a logical idea…” No, I don’t believe that is a logical idea. Yes, we are to reflect Christ in our hearts on a daily basis, but we do not Worship God on a daily basis. IF that was the case, we could take the Lord’s Supper on Wednesday nights. God commanded us WHEN to Worship Him (the first day of the week: Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2); WHERE to Worship Him (assembling of the saints: Heb 10:25); and He commanded us HOW to Worship Him (singing, praying, preaching, giving, and the Lord’s Supper). I know we don’t disagree on this, but the application you made wasn’t logical to me. There is a difference in the Worship service and in our day-to-day lives.

    Secondly, I completely disagree with the author that you quoted and I would caution against reading too many uninspired authors. I do not believe that “dressing-up” for church became a tradition during the Industrial Revolution as a class status. Now maybe that was true in the denominations, but I don’t believe that it was true in the church of Christ. In fact, we know that Christians were “dressing-up” because Paul addresses it in 1 Timothy 2:8-10: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” Obviously there were some that were going TOO FAR in adorning themselves for Worship. Paul’s not saying you can’t braid your hair or wear pearls…He is condemning the EXTREME. It’s comparable to a man wearing a tuxedo to church or a woman wearing a wedding dress to church. We agree that this is a matter of their heart not being right, Paul is condemning the idea of bringing attention to oneself, but I suggest that this also condemns the opposite EXTREME of dressing casually. There is nothing casual about entering the house of the Lord to Worship Him. I have no idea what the early Christians wore to church, but I know that they were familiar with the traditions of the Jewish law…that there were special clothes the priests adorned themselves with to worship the Lord. Who’s to say the apostles didn’t have “Sunday best” tunics…2 Thess 2:15 and 1 Cor 11:2 points out that we are to keep the traditions that were taught.

    Third, I understand that there is a difference in the Old Testament Worship (physical sacrifices) and New Testament Worship (spiritual sacrifices); however, the OT is still relevant…“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). The examples I gave were examples of their attitude, indeed a reflection of their HEART, towards what they were about to do. Lev. 19:30 “‘You shall keep My Sabbaths and REVERENCE My sanctuary: I am the Lord.” I know this is OT, but this idea is repeated in Heb 12:18-29. The Hebrew writer is comparing the reverence that Moses had approaching God on Mt Sinai to the reverence that we should have in the “general assembly”…”22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel…28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with REVERENCE and godly fear.” Reverence means to show respect for…Now, different cultures might show respect differently. In America, we generally dress up when going to a funeral, and that is done out of respect for the one who has died. When I go to church, I am remembering my Lord’s death and observing the Lord’s Supper and I should dress appropriately to show my respect and reverence.

    Fourth, we are told “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” in Matt 5:16. “Good works” can also include our dress. Example: We had only lived in our house for about 6 months, when we invited people to our house after church one Sunday evening. I drew a map for them, but failed to put our house address on it. When they got to our street, they went 2 houses down and knocked on the door. Our neighbors, who I don’t ever remember seeing, much less talking to, knew exactly who they were looking for…”the ones who go to church.” Obviously they had seen us leaving our house dressed up on Sun/Wed and because of our attire, knew where we were going. Another example…we used to eat every Wed night before church at a certain restaurant. One of the employees noticed we were always dressed up and asked us if we were going to church and where we went. We told her and invited her to services, we continued to bring her church bulletins until she stopped working there. My point is, our attire told these non-Christians something about us. Our light was shining by the way we were dressed, we “professed godliness” to them, because it is common knowledge in out country to dress up for church. Now we didn’t dress up to “be seen by men” but for the Lord; however, in so doing this, our lights were shining and others took notice and it led into conversations about the Bible. If you are leaving your house Sunday and Wed in jeans or “normal” clothing, I doubt others see it as professing “I’m going to church.”

    Fifth, the attitude of “I can wear whatever I want to church, because God is only concerned about my heart” (not directly quoting you) reminds me so much of 1 Corinthians 8 when Paul is talking about liberty in verse 9: “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” I’m sorry, but when there’s someone serving on the Lord’s Supper wearing jeans and a t-shirt, it’s a stumbling block for me. It’s hard enough to focus on Christ’s death with 2 little boys, that I don’t need another distraction. If that makes me a weak Christian, then so be it. Let me hastily point out though, that this does NOT bother me when I am visiting a congregation where I do not know the members, simply because I do NOT know their circumstances and I do not judge what I do not know. Casual attire at Worship only bothers me when I know the person has better attire to offer our Lord. The Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ. Why WOULDN’T you want to dress your best for your Groom?

    • I don’t wear special clothing to the worship services to impress anyone, or to make others feel that they must dress accordingly. I feel a compulsion to wear MY very best to the worship assemblies, because that is the most SPECIAL place that I will ever go.
      I am having a problem with some girls (and some mothers) who are dressing so casually for worship services that their undergarments are showing. I don’t have to ask anyone whether this is OK.

    • Martha – I understand your desire to dress well for what you feel is an important event: the weekly worship service at your church and I don’t disagree with your idea that some seem to make a point of dressing down out of some idea of “Christian liberty/coolness”.

      I think, however, when your rebuttal the idea in the blog that if we dress up for God, we should do it everyday, you make an error in failing to distinguished between the described and the prescribed. For example, Acts 20 does not command us to worship on the first day. Instead Luke narrates the actions of he and Paul and their companions. If you are going to derive a command from these verses, then you need to also insist that the pastor’s message lasts until midnight (vs 8). Likewise, you seem to misinterpret Hebrews 10:25 as a command WHERE to worship as opposed to an admonition not to forsake gathering together with other believers for mutual encouragement.
      Paul writes in Romans that our spiritual act of worship is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice….and this is a daily act that doesn’t necessarily take place in a church building or when one is dressed in their finest.

      One additional thought: I don’t think Jesus ever meant “let your light shine” to mean “be identified as those religious people who go to temple/church”. The verses immediately preceding are the Beatitudes – the call to be meek, merciful, pure at heart, peacemakers.

      Actually, just a few verses later, Jesus had quite a bit to say about those who made a show of practicing their religion. I’m not saying that is what you do and it is something positive that your neighbors recognize your faithful church attendance, but how much better if they had been able to say “Oh, the Currys! They are the nicest, most caring people. Let me walk you over. I haven’t seen Martha for a while and I want to say ‘hello’ and return the dishes from when she sent over a delicious dinner when I was sick last week.”

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  8. Just a few thoughts and I appreciate all of the comments:
    Along with the OT references in the NT consider the account of Peter putting on his tunic before he jumped in the water to come see the Lord. This may be more of an argument for modesty, but just in general we can see that Peter deemed something appropriate for on the boat and he deemed something else appropriate to come see the Lord.
    Also, we might consider what the Lord said about fasting. “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt 6: 16,17). Granted, the Lord is addressing extremely spiritual issues, but if we back up and look at what Jesus said about anointing one’s head and washing one’s face, basically Jesus just said to paraphrase “make yourself look presentable”.
    To look at all the descriptions concerning outward adornment, which are quite a few, to put it in a nutshell flamboyance and attention seeking is condemned. There is a difference between being presentable and being a presentation. One is respectful. One is self-glorification.
    Even the Lord acknowledged the fact that our clothing says something about us. In Matt 22 the man is condemned for not wearing the appropriate attire. Yes, we understand we are adorned with Christ and adorned in good works but in both the Old Testament and the New Testament we see that both the outward and the inward are important. One is a reflection of the other always. You cannot neglect either. The Pharisee’s problem was inward. The Lord never says though “do one and leave the other undone”.
    Nice clothing is not inherently sinful. Jesus’ tunic was nice enough to be gambled over. Was He vain for wearing it? Of course not. Can a man wear a suit seeking self-glorification? Sure. Can a man wear a suit seeking to glorify God. Yep. Do poorer clothes necessitate a lax approach to godliness? Not necessarily. But could they? Yep.
    In this day and age of “the outward doesn’t matter” though, we need to understand that everything matters. Soul and body. If we are going to be complete then everything matter. Inward, outward, and everywhere in between. (Sorry for the lengthy rant :)

    • By saying “wash your face and anoint your head” He was saying “look like what you usually look like”. It was common practice back then to anoint your head with fragrant oils and wash your face/clothes each day. If anyone were to go around fasting and hadn’t done that (looking out-of-the-ordinary), it would be a dead giveaway they were fasting (and possibly even craving attention for it.) Jesus wasn’t saying “dress up and make yourself presentable”… he was saying ACT NORMALLY. Don’t look any different when you’re fasting than you do when you aren’t fasting. Go about your normal “morning” routine. Put on your perfume, jeans, brush your teeth…or whatever it is that you USUALLY do. Our light shines via the Spirit of God. No one has ever asked me about my faith, the bible, or Jesus Christ based on what I looked like, what I wore, or how many pieces of jewelry I was wearing. But I have been given opportunities to share the Gospel with people in my pajamas, simply because Christ oozes out of my smile, speech and love for others. I’ve never worn my “good clothes” to church without being distracted by it, and distracting others. I have, however, worn my “normal” clothes to church and had countless genuine encounters with God and others. If I wear my “Sunday Best” but my heart is vile and wicked, what profit is that? But if I wear jeans and a t-shirt and someone sees Christ shining through me (because He’s in our hearts, not in our Ralph Lauren, Gucci, or Prada) and decides they’d like to know the God I serve, well that’s profitable to them, me, and the kingdom of God. Consider David, when he was about to slay Goliath. Saul tried to put him in his armor…the armor of a king, the finest available. Garments more expensive and finely-crafted than David could have afforded. David chose to wear his own clothes (a Shepard’s clothes) and slew the enemy by the power of God. The king’s expensive armor was too heavy, too bulky…a hinderance. I wonder, is your suit heavy? Is this tradition one of the reasons Christians have trouble slaying the giants in our lives? I’ll take the shepherd’s clothes any day.

  9. Thank you for the article and the comments that are posted.
    The trend that bothers me [a stumbling block?] are the people who “dress up” to attend a funeral or wedding, but leave their ” dress up” clothes in the closet on Sunday. It seems to me that their priorities are backwards.
    I especially like the comment, ” There is a difference between being presentable and being a presentation. One is respectful. One is self-glorification”.

  10. What a very strange “coincidence” that I found your blog today. I, like so many who were “raised in the church,” have wrestled with this man made tradition for a long time. For some reason it was on my mind as soon as I woke up this morning, and then your blog was the first thing I saw after logging onto Facebook. You basically wrapped up everything I think about this issue into one nice neat little package! I’ll never forget in high school when I was in a discussion with my mom about whether or not I could wear jeans to worship services. My sisters and I had never been allowed to, but I wanted to actually have a talk with my mom about it. I remember posing the question: “Do you think that first century Christians had an ‘every day’ robe and a ‘Sunday’ robe?” My mom had never thought of it like that before and after considering my point, she allowed me to dress as I normally would when going to worship. I think (for me at least) the hesitancy in bringing this up comes from a feeling that people will view this is as a rebellion AGAINST scripture, rather than a call TO scripture. I appreciated your use of scripture and your careful attitude towards both those who choose to dress up and those who choose not to.

    P.S. For the record, I now wear skirts and dresses 7 days a week, just because I love them and think they’re so comfortable!

  11. It is interesting to me that whenever modesty is spoken of in scripture, it us most of the time mentioned in the context of over-dressing, not under-dressing. If a congregation as a whole wears more casual clothing, and someone comes wearing a full suit and tie, that person may be in danger of being “immodest” because their clothing is bringing undue focus to them. There have been times when I feel I have been guilty of overdressing.

    I do believe that you hit the nail on the head that “dressing up” for worship services is a cultural thing that is subjective and changes over time. Those who seems to be “pushing back” on this thread seem to be missing this fact and are unwilling to see that the requirement that God gives in scripture about our outward clothing is that it be modest (and that’s all). Deciding what is one’s “Sunday best” as you put it is purely subjective (unless the clothing is immodest) and based on the upbringing, culture, and teaching one has received. This does go to show that we do need to be careful in how our attitudes about people’s reverence (or lack of) change solely due to the clothing that one wears. I see this concept taught against in scripture when James condemns the one who shows partiality or makes judgments based on clothing.

    Caution against extremes on both ends is important though. We need to make sure, as many on this thread have stated, that we do not take the extreme that the outward man is not important at all. This has led many to dress immodestly (not enough clothing). If we are disobeying God’s instruction on modesty, by either under-dressing or over-dressing, then our clothing DOES reflect the condition of our heart and it’s desire to obey the commandments of the Lord.

    Thanks for the well-written article!

  12. In your parenthetical “Personal Note” which followed the article, you wrote this: ” I am in no way saying that just because I found myself with a sinful attitude toward others when I believed in dressing up, that everyone who dresses up must feel that same way.” That is a thought that did not come across anywhere in the article, so it’s good it at least appeared in parenthesis at the end.

    My thoughts, before offering a word of caution. Scripture says nothing about how we ought to dress for assembly. Consequently, I don’t tell people how they ought to dress for assembly. If they come in a Corvette t-shirt and cargo shorts, I greet them with a warm handshake and a “Glad you could come today!” I do however, have my own personal thinking on the subject, that affects my personal behavior. I don’t talk about it much, but I’ll share it here. It’s similar to what you have said, but different. In our culture, we have a habit of what I will call, dressing for the occasion. Totally insignificant occasions call for nothing special (jeans to a movie with my friends, and if the t-shirt is wrinkled, I don’t really care). Slightly more significant occasions call for something a little better than that (an small business owner and his wife organize a dinner at a restaurant for his employees, and you would be more likely to see khaki pants and a nice polo or button up shirt). More significant occasions, such as the banquet I was at recently, hosted in part by the man who designed a certain car, at an event celebrating that car, or a retirement ceremony of someone in the military, or more significantly, a wedding, or a funeral — we respond to these, in varying degrees, by dressing for the occasion. My personal thought then, for me personally, is that on Sundays I am gathering to remember the sacrificial death of my Lord. That is the purpose of the Sunday gathering, and I personally will dress for the occasion. Doesn’t mean loud and showy, but accordingly.

    So those are my thoughts, which incidentally, the people I worship with have never even heard.

    But here is the word of caution for you. Your position appears to be that the middle class adopted “dress up” generally, in gatherings of whatever kind, to show off their wealth and status (which, as you have very thoroughly pointed out, is condemned by scripture). If that is your position, then I would think that you should shun all of it. No more of that nice clothing for weddings or a dinner date. That’s just showing off one’s status. And that truly would be ungodly, in any situation.

    I on the other hand think there is dressing up without it being about wealth and status. It simply marks the significance of occasions. It is not self-focused, it is outwardly respectful – respectful of the occasion.

  13. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking for a while now. I stopped dressing up for church a while back and wear what I wear everyday… usually just jeans and a nice t-shirt. It’s not a dissheveled look, nor is it a fancy dress/skirt look. I don’t believe God looks at the outside, nor even cares what we wear to church as we so like to think he does. He’s not looking at our clothes, but our hearts.

    I’ve made mention to others that the way we dress may even be off-putting to visitors who may be poor or unfamiliar with the church and think that “that’s for other people” and “I don’t fit in here.” And that’s just not right.

    If people dress up every day and they want to for church also, then so be it, but if others dress with pants and a t-shirt all the other 6 days of the week, then I see no problem that they do the same on Sunday, and if someone comes in in tattered clothes, should we judge them? I hope not!

    Your article is right on and I thank you for writing it!

  14. From my understanding and from a practical point of view. Our purpose in coming to worship is not to be seen of people. We are not to stand out and be a distraction as we come together to worship. So if you over dress, yes you will stand out and be a distraction. If you under dress, the same. Though for some it seems that dressing down is more the distraction, for myself those overly dressed stand out more. Either way we need to try help edify other and reasonably help accommodate one another. I suppose one argument about dressing up too much, is the cost, buying expensive clothes can take away from the money that you can use your fellow christian or give toward the work of the church. Then one time I over heard one the brethern say that you can buy a suit pretty cheap at such and such a place, well if it doesn’t cost so much, what then makes it your best? Is it the cost of your clothes, or is it fulfilling the cultural expectation of wherever you go to worship?

  15. Very well done, it’s interesting to read different thoughts on the matter. We need to keep in mind that God looks at the heart, man looks on the outside. As long as we dress modestly, we have fulfilled the requirements in the scripture. I always thought that congregations that expect women to wear dresses were wrong because they were discouraging to those who didn’t own dresses. Also, when wrestling children, pants are more modest than dresses. In the summer, I prefer to wear dresses with sandals because they are much cooler and comfortable. In the winter, pants are the only way to go. So, as long as our heart is right and we are not trying to cause distraction, modest apparel is all God requires.

  16. Another scripture you could have mentioned was when Jesus defended John the Baptist he said that they did not go to see someone who wore “soft clothes.” So wearing a garment of camel hair was apparently suitable attire to meet Jesus. And while the Levitical priests did have a very formal dress code for managing the temple duties, we should not confuse a gathering of Christians as equivalent to a ceremonial duty performed under the old covenant. That said, neither should we cause anyone to stumble by dressing in a way that calls attention to itself through being extreme and/or inappropriate because the kingdom of God is not a matter of clothing and fashion.

  17. I would place money that those who think we should “dress up” are middle class. I have had three separate people say they could not come to church because they didn’t have appropriate clothes. Once an older woman who didn’t have a skirt, once a young woman with swollen feet who couldn’t fit into shoes and wouldn’t go in slippers, and once a non-christian who was poor and didn’t have “church” clothes. I am sure there are lots of folks who perceive church as having a dress code. That is a sad fact for the poor and needy who feel unwelcome.

    • Agreed. I’ve had this experience with people, too. The simple truth is that people dress up for church because they’d feel uncomfortable if they didn’t. It’s nothing more or less than that, and trying to pretend like it IS something more than that just isn’t backed up by scripture.

      I also think, even in modern times, that it DOES put a “class distinction” on a church. If anyone disagrees with me, think about your church. I’m willing to bet nearly everyone at your churches are in roughly the same socioeconomic class. If that’s true, it is absolutely because people outside of your socioeconomic class do not feel welcome there. What other reason could there be?

  18. I have had someone tell me that I should wear a dress or a skirt , because women should look like women and not like a man by wearing pants. By quoting 1 Cor 11 they made their justification to me. I am interested in your thoughts about this.

  19. I recently attended a church service and wrote the following observation on top of the church bulletin: There is a direct correlation between “dressing up” for Sunday morning church and an increased level of immodesty.

    I see some of the shortest skirts and lowest tops at church on Sunday morning. Even saw a young man in a skin tight shirt recently.
    We need to accept that a suit and tie does not show reverence. It shows that you own a suit and tie.
    I minister at a congregation in the west where ALL the members wear jeans or pants to Sunday morning services. For many this is because of finances but for some it is a choice. Doesn’t it seem haughty of the ones who could afford nice clothes to wear them knowing that most everyone else can’t afford them?

    Quite frankly I could care less how grungy people dress as long as they are in services. Once you get out of the Bible Belt issues such as this are rarely even mentioned.

  20. Dear Sister in Christ,
    I first want to say AMEN to this post. I have heard the back and forth arguments of this issue around me. A fairly recent disagreement happened between friends of mine and it opened my eyes a little to the difference of “tradition” and the Truth. The arguments that you addressed that were FOR dressing up as a commandment were what were being presented in the disagreement here. So, it was interesting to me to read this post about it. :) I shared it on my FB page in hopes to bring light to this issue, i feel so many of us don’t even realize we may have.
    You addressed the issue very tackfuly and humbly. ..(is that a word!?) haha :D To take offense would be because someone did not read the whole post, or possibly just a person getting defensive. It was obvious that you were not condeming those who wear nice clothing, as that would be adding to the scriptures as well (as you mentioned). Thank for you the courage to have this blog and to share God’s word in a humble, yet effective way! I pray that you stay this way…sharing the Truth with courage and humility and that much glory is brought to our Lord! :D
    This post has been an eye opener for me, though I have recently been made aware of the wrong that I once believed, like you. ..It is still a good reminder and a reality check! Yes I may look “appropriate” for Worship.. but I must also ask myself.. “Does my inner man look appropriate?” As you said, it’s okay to look nice..it’s okay to have nice clothing, but is that were our treasure is?! It must not be our main focus and this was a wonderful reminder. Thank you. :D

    • Thank you for your kind words.

      I have to agree that I’m beginning to think the main reason for so much condemnation and disagreement is simply that it was too long for most to read.

      I wrote this a year ago so when so many people continued to accuse me of condemning nice dress, I reread it to make sure I didn’t say anything like that.

      If people can make it to the end, I think they would find that they are in agreement. ;)

  21. All important Christian truths are universal. They are equally applicable in any time, place, or culture. All you have to do to settle this issue (other than to hear the scriptures’ counsel) is to visit churches in different cultures around the world. Ask yourself “would my opinions on this subject work here?” Do it in Bangkok, in Brisbane, in Liverpool, in Nairobi, and in Moscow. Do it in the bush and in farming communities. If you find a single place where your previous conviction does not and cannot work, then it must be labeled, not a conviction, but a personal preference and a cultural artifact.

    That does not mean, however, that culture is unimportant. In America today most churches have cross-sections of at least two distinct cultures (many have 4 or 5) who could never agree about what “respectful dress” means.

    For example, my suit and tie is appropriate to my age, culture, and role. I am a 59 year old preacher. I teach the young professionals/singles class on Sunday morning, where NOBODY is dressed like I am. I asked the class one day (while studying James 2) if my formal dress got in the way of communicating the gospel. In other words, should I go more casual?

    The answer was unanimous: BE WHO YOU ARE. If you are not authentic, they counseled, no one will listen.

    Whatever the cultural currents might have been that lead me to the notion that I should dress (semi)formally to preach, they are a part of me. Respect for my task, for me, involves a coat and tie. As long as I don’t judge someone else by the standards of my own passing time and place, it’s just fine for me to do so.

    But if the day should come that my coat and tie bars the way to someone who needs to hear the gospel, then I will grit my teeth and hang them up. It will never feel quite right, I am sure, but I will have put first things first.

  22. Quite honestly, it is my belief that the issue of whether or not to “dress up” for Worship is really a non-issue that is exacerbated by the modern culture’s corporate style of worship. If the Church were to truly hearken back to its roots, when the vast majority of Christians simply met in homes to Worship and Fellowship together, the idea of dressing up for such a thing would become silly. The same goes for issues like Instrumental Worship, or people who have problems giving to the Church due to the inordinate amount of money spent on buildings.

    I truly appreciate your post for its honest evaluation. I read “Pagan Christianity” a few years back, and it is a fantastic piece of literature which would be very eye opening to many Christians on many issues. I pray that people who read your blog do not make it out to be a ‘personal attack’ on themselves, as we as humans are wont to do, but rather step back and challenge themselves on what they believe. Even if they come to the same conclusion they started with, this makes for a stronger Faith in the end!

  23. While I confess I did not read the entire stream of comments, it seems from what I did read that something critical is missed here. 1 Tim. 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 are not talking about in a church assembly. This adornment referred to by both Paul and Peter is talking about wherever a Christian might be. 1 Tim. 3:14-15, “that you may know how to behave yourself in the church of God…” is not referring to the assembly. If so, then women can teach & usurp authority over a man outside the assembly. Submission and modesty, along with “men praying everywhere…” and “women saved in childbearing”, and certainly “modest apparel”, are not assembly commands. Certainly respectful dress that reflects godliness is required along with “moderation.” Who says that is a suit and tie? If so, then wear it everywhere.

  24. The fact that we even need to wear clothes should be a reminder of the sin that needs to be covered. It is rather odd that we should have ever compared our necessary coverings.

  25. I like your article especially offering some historical context. I think society still has a strong obsession with living like looking like and being thought of like the wealthy. I would also add that as a preacher I can’t win here. If I wear a suit which I sometimes do I am applauded by some and challenged by other. If I wear a golf shirt and pants or heaven forbid jeans again I am applauded by some and challenged by others. All said those of us who are younger should keep in mind that what’s really happening is that both us who want to dress more casually and those who want to dress “up” or more formally and just wanting to wear cloths that we like and feel comfortable in to worship.

  26. The fact that this even has to be a topic of discussion is sad and humorous at the same time. I’m sure if Jesus showed up at one of our churches today he would be dressed like a hippie or a Robertson…

    It just shouldn’t matter and I’m glad I attend a church that could care less and is just glad you are there!

  27. Great article. I agree that it doesn’t matter what you wear, it matters what’s in your heart. I think it’s perfectly okay and wonderful if people want to wear their finest in the worship service as a sign of respect and reverence towards God. Your repeated use of the word “mindless” to imply that people who prefer to dress up haven’t thought through their reasons is a tad insulting. It’s a meat-eating issue — don’t judge or despise people who believe differently, but love each other. The trouble comes with the judging, not the differing practices. If everyone would simply examine their own hearts and not worry about what others are doing, leaving it up to those individuals and God, this world would be such a better place. I do think it’s driving people away, when a church gives a frosty reception to somebody in shorts and flip-flops. What does it matter? It’s between that person and God whether or not their heart is in the right place, no matter how disrespectful and irreverent it may seem to others. At least they’re at church! Jesus put up with this sort of criticism all the time – Jesus, your disciples don’t wash before eating! Jesus, you harvested grain on the sabbath! Jesus, you’re having supper with whores and cheats! Jesus, you only own one set of clothing, so no synagogue for you!

  28. I agree with most of your post and appreciate the spirit in which it us written. The only part that gave me pause was regarding music, which I realize was not the main point.

    Music is in both the Old and New Testaments.The Psalms were set to music and specific instruments. Acts records the use of songs, and Paul actually has one in of his letters.

    Having said that, music always seems to be a divisive issue in American churches.

    Thanks for your post.

    Blessings,

    Dan

    • Haha, you aren’t the first to point that out. This was definitely written to a very small, specific audience. I do find it interesting that we can see in history where instruments came into worship, and many quotes from the early “church fathers” as well as Reformers were vehemently against instrumental worship. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s sinful. Just interesting.

      I’m not sure I know what you’re referring to about Paul having an instrument – care to clarify?

  29. I agree with most of this but there are a few things *it seems* that are not considered in it. It is something we need to pray about and consider all aspects and ramifications of when we are studying God’s Word. {My same thoughts may have already been stated by you or others in all the comments, and if so, please forgive me}. There are a few things that we could consider that maybe we haven’t in light of how certain actions sometimes result in changes that weren’t originally considered. My biggest consideration about this is how the more casual society gets the lazier it gets. And in turn, unintentionally start accepting all kinds of behavior and ideas. This is dangerous for the Lord’s church. Even in my short period in this world, I’ve seen enormous change in how members of the Lord’s body behave while assembled with the saints and elsewhere AND what is accepted as true worship and the doctrine of Christ. And as you know many congregations have taken on much of the world’s views about things. Satan introduces toxic ingredients gradually, with something that may seem admirable and but behind it all, there is a much bigger problem that cannot yet be visualized. The key lesson I’ve taken from the Biblical aspect of this is that we are to be very careful of there being division or judgmental behavior because of someone not being ‘dressed up’ for worship. As long as modesty (and not just for worship but in all walks of life) is being observed, then there should be NO issue. Not everyone can afford ‘dress attire’. We are to welcome any and all that are doing the best they can to worship God in spirit and in truth regardless of how nice or homely their wardrobe is, Matt 18:1-11. If the members of a congregation are true worshippers (God knows the heart) then modest and decent wardrobe is not an issue at all. I REALLY appreciate your pointing out the error of “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men”. This has happened with very many topics and it is heart-breaking to see division being the result of it. We sometimes lose sight of Who we are following. Thanks very much for the time you put into this study. God bless you, Sister.

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