O Do Not Our Suit Disdain…

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September 17, 2014 by Chris French

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?

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3 thoughts on “O Do Not Our Suit Disdain…

  1. Vickey Setters says:

    You have made some good points but I would like to add some thoughts to why I dress as I do. I don’t dress to please or impress anyone. I dress for myself and I remember at the baccalaureate sermon in 1947 when I graduated from a small school in North Alabama the juniors of that class sang “Give of Your Best to the Master”. If the best I had was a ragged dress, I would still attend service but God has blessed me in many ways and I have better clothing. I don’t look down on people who dress differently except for this fact: women, in particular wear clothing that is suggestive – short skirts and even shorts, low necklines that expose parts of their body, tight clothing and in fact look like street walkers. I do not believe God is pleased with that sort of dress and I know they can afford better. It seems they are dressing for other reasons. Men also come to services looking like they walked off the ball field or mowing the lawn. I don’t believe that is necessary.

    My husband who is 90 years old has never attended a service in the Lord’s church that he was not properly dressed. He did not do this for those attending but like me he feels like we should give our best to the Lord. If the only articles of clothing he had were bib overalls and flannel shirts he would still attend for he was giving his best in that regard.

    It hurts me to see people arrive at church who look like circus employees when if we see them at weddings or other occasions they put on their “Sunday” best.

    Dress has become more casual, it is as if some people are trying to make a point by saying “I am as good as the well dressed and I want to show to the world that I can come looking like something out of a cornfield and prove my point”.

    Please don’t try to make those of us who still have personal respect for ourselves and God look like we are the ones who are doing the wrong thing.

    • Chris French says:

      Vickey thanks for your comment! I know you and Raymond well enough to know your hearts and to see that you don’t fall under the purview of the point of this article. Some, however, seem to be very concerned with appearing righteous and not really caring if they are actually righteous. They hide behind nice dresses and expensive suits. Obviously this is a multifaceted discussion involving the liberty and unity Paul talks about in Romans 14.13-19 among other things.

      You’re right, our culture is moving toward a more casual dress in worship, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (within limits. It’d be a good call to pick the corncobs out of someone’s hair). I posted this article to stimulate study on this subject. I certainly don’t think anyone is wrong for “dressing up” for worship, but as the culture moves we need to realize that appearing nice isn’t enough to attract anyone to Christ anymore. We have to be righteous.

      I hope you and your family are well! Thanks for reading and thinking with us!

    • Austin says:

      I appreciate your comments Vickey. I understand that many people feel strongly that “giving God their best” must include wearing a certain type of clothing to worship. I wouldn’t discourage someone from “dressing up” if that is how they feel, and I can certainly understand the sentiments behind the idea. I simply wanted to point out that dressing up for worship is a modern cultural idea, and not something found in scripture. So if we teach that one has to dress up to please God, we are adding to scripture what isn’t there. And if we look down on people who don’t dress up, then we are disobeying a direct commandment.

      Personally, even though I do own a couple of suits, I usually prefer to dress casually to worship. Sometimes a polo shirt and slacks, other times a t-shirt and sandals. Not because I lack respect for myself or lack respect for the importance of worship, but because this is what I feel the most comfortable wearing. If I thought there was a shadow of chance that it would please God for me to wear something different, than I would. But from my studies on the subject, every passage I can find reveals God isn’t interested in what style of clothes I wear, so I choose to wear what makes me comfortable.

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