From time to time I have guest bloggers contribute here on the site. I think it’s helpful for you to hear from someone else other than me every so often. This post is from my friend Austin Dixon. I agree with his thoughts here. Most of the time we’ll make sure that our tie is straight before we come to worship, but we’ve forgotten to consider the part of us that God actually looks at: our hearts. It is my hope that this article will motivate you to consider your heart…whether you’re wearing a suit or jeans. Also, maybe this will give us some restraint in our judgments of people who aren’t dressed up for worship.
There is a popular idea in the modern church, that Christians should always wear their “Sunday Best” when they worship God, and wearing anything other than dress clothes is a sure sign of a weak christian. I have heard this message taught in classrooms and from pulpits. I have worshiped at congregations that would openly criticize a man if he wore anything less than a full suit on Sundays. This year at PTP, there was an entire class on the subject, and the speaker made two claims: that God isn’t pleased unless you are wearing nice clothes to services, and that if you’re heart is right then you will want to dress up. He went on to suggest that any man not wearing a tie every time the church’s doors are open isn’t showing true reverence to God.
What I am about to say may not be popular, but I feel that I need to speak up, because what I read in the bible suggests a very different view: I don’t believe God is impressed by your nice clothes. And going further, I think that we should be very careful that we aren’t adding to the scripture what isn’t there.
Popular opinion would have us believe that if Jesus were walking the earth today, and he saw two christians walking into the building on Sunday morning, and one was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and another was wearing an expensive, pressed suit. That he would say to the man in jeans, “Go home! Come back when you are wearing nicer clothes.” And he would say to the richly dressed man, “Come sit next to me, appropriately atired brother!”
In reality, I cannot fathom Christ turning the man in jeans away, or thinking any less of him for not dressing-up to the same standard. In fact, from what I read about Jesus in passages like Luke 12, I think it’s far more likely that he would tell the well dressed man to go sell his expensive clothes, give the money to the poor, and to come in sweatpants the next Lord’s day. Consider what James had to say in his second chapter:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that wearing nice clothes to services is necessarily a bad thing. I do think however, that we should be asking ourselves why are we dressing-up? And more importantly, what is God’s attitude on the subject? Numerous verses indicate that God cares if your clothes are modest, or vulgar, or designed to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. There are no verses however that paint our Lord as one who cares about the expense of our clothes, or the fanciness of their appearance. In fact, God makes his attitude on appearance clear in 1 Samuel 16:7.
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.”
I have heard the argument made that we should wear our nicest clothes to services because that’s what we would do if we were meeting the President or going on a job interview, and isn’t God more important? It’s true, worshiping God is an infinitely more important event, and there are times and places where we should dress up. But in those examples, we are dressing up to impress other humans. And humans are known to judge based on appearance. God however does not. So when I dress-up for God, shouldn’t it be an inward matter, and not the outward dressing-up that we do for earthly men? Ask yourself, who are you dressing up for? Are you doing it because you want to give God your best? Even if God doesn’t care about your clothes, he does care about your attitude, so I see no problem with dressing-up for this reason. If you are dressing-up so other men will think you are holy though, then you’re missing the point of worship.
“But Austin”, you say. “If you have nicer clothes, why wouldn’t you wear them?” Of course, this question implies that there is something to be gained by dressing-up, and scripturally I don’t see that there is. Consider this: Maybe I don’t have nicer clothes. Maybe I’m trying to get someone to come with me to church who can’t afford nice clothes, and I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. I could be someone struggling with vanity and trying to distance myself from it. Or maybe uncomfortable clothes are too much of a distraction from worshiping. There are lots of reasons why I might choose not to wear my “Sunday Best”, and with no commandment or inference to the contrary, I should have that liberty.
If John the Baptist walked in Sunday morning, would we let him preach? Matthew 3:4 says he wore a garment of camels hair held together with a leather belt. Not exactly the clean-cut, well dressed modern connotation of a preacher, but he spoke before multitudes and paved the way for Jesus. How about this, would we let Jesus preach? Even if his clothes were dirty and wrinkled from sleeping on the ground, and if he wore dusty sandals instead of polished loafers? Or would we tell Jesus to come back when he was wearing a suit and tie? Is focusing on our outward appearance getting us closer to God as we worship? Or should we be the kind of people that worry more about bringing God attractive hearts than bringing him attractive clothes?