Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' Clothing

On one of my email lists, someone asked a question about what type of clothing we should wear when we attend church. Should it be our best, as some argue, or whatever we are comfortable in, as others would argue? The response below, by Glenn, is much heavier on scripture quotations than most responses, and I found it interesting enough to reprint here (with Glenn's permission).

What does the scripture say?

Ps 35:13 - But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.

Sackcloth, which most of us have probably never worn, is clothing appropriate to mourning. Sackcloth is like canvas. Most Americans wear silk or fine linen suits and dresses to funerals. We seem to have this one backwards, if God's word means anything to us.

Ps 45:13 - The King's daughter is all glorious within; Her clothing is interwoven with gold.

Fine clothing, what we would call dress-up clothing like suits and flowing dresses, are for royalty who are in the halls of the King. We are a royal priesthood, but priests wore simple linen, nothing fancy. And it was everyday clothing for them.

Ps 69:11 - When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

Read this Psalm. It was haughtiness that made the psalmist a byword when he wore sackcloth. It was not because his clothing was simple or rough or un-dressy.

Pr 27:26 - The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field,

Clothing is a gift from God to be appreciated. Making it a status symbol is accepting the world's view. We are to accept God's view instead. God does not see clothing as a status symbol...and neither should we.

Pr 31:22 - She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

If you can afford fine clothing, there is nothing wrong with wearing it. But there is no special standing before God because of the clothing. Even in these verses the emphasis is on the ability of the woman, not some kind of obligation to dress up.

Pr 31:25 - Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

Strength and dignity do not require a tie and suit, nor do they come as accessories. Simple clothing worn with strength and dignity makes whatever you are wearing fit for a King.

Mt 6:25 - "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Jesus seemed to think that it is how you live and NOT what you wear that is important. If we begin to think differently, then we are NOT following Jesus.

Mt 6:28 - "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,

Jesus put clothing in its rightful place - as a blessing from the same Creator who adorns the flowers of the field. Clothing is not something to get hung up on or worry about. Remember this - the beauty of a flower is in what the flower is. If a person IS a Christian, that is where their true beauty can be seen. If they are NOT a Christian, no finery of clothing is going to change that.

Mt 6:31 - "Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?'

If anyone needs a word direct from the mouth of Jesus on what to wear, this is it. Wear what you have on. Don't sweat what you wear. It is what is within you that makes you presentable or not. Clothing is meant as a covering for nakedness, no more and no less.

Mt 7:15 - "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

People who sweat the details of clothing miss seeing who others really are. Jesus tells us that anybody can wear any clothing, but it is who they are inside that counts. Don't be fooled by clothing that fits your idea of what looks good.

Mt 11:8 - "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces!

Fine clothing is all well and good, but if that is how you discern the value of a person, you are not seeing things the way Jesus teaches His disciples to see things. Why is this so hard?

Lu 7:25 - "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces!

Fine clothes are for wearing to palaces. Maybe that is why folks spend so much on big assembly halls - so they can feel like they are in a palace. I would rather be near a lake, sitting on a beach with Jesus and eating the breakfast He just prepared for us (a la John 21) than sitting in a palace hoping He'll show up. If they had been in fine clothes, they could not have gone fishing and would have missed the opportunity for that intimate breakfast. And yet what they wore was totally appropriate to gather together with Jesus. Looks like fishing gear is appropriate for assemblies, eh? The important thing is they were together and they were with Jesus. The clothing is not even mentioned.

Lu 9:29 - And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming.

Looks like praying makes whatever you wear look amazing. Seems to me that it matters more what we are doing than what we are wearing.

Lu 12:23 - "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Does it get any more plain than this?

Joh 19:24 - So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS."

Looks like the only necessary consideration, even to these unbelieving Gentiles, was taking care of the clothing and not tearing it up. Reminds me of my Mom telling me not to get dirty before going to Grandma's house. We wore clothes for running and jumping and hugging Grandma, just so long as they were clean and not torn up. And I never wore a suit and tie to Grandma's house.

1Ti 2:9 - Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,

Amazing, isn't it, how we seem to have forgotten all about Paul's admonition AGAINST fine clothing? In Paul's view, if it was proper, it was modest and discreet clothing, NOT finery, NOT showy, NOT exceptional, and NOT adorned with gold or pearls or costly materials.

Jas 2:15 - If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

The only thing to care about is NOT am I wearing my best clothing. The thing to care about is whether all the brothers and sisters have something to wear to cover their nakedness - and don't tempt them with the finery Paul admonishes us to avoid! Clothing is meant to cover nakedness modestly and discreetly.

Forget the traditions of men that have made us forget all of these words of instruction from God. Forget the world's approach to showing respect with expensive clothes. Show respect for God by making sure others have something modest and discreet to wear. Then you, too, will be clothed with strength and dignity like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31.

As the worship leader at our gathering of Christians, I often begin the call to worship with a song that you can listen to in less than five minutes at We play it sometimes and we sing it together sometimes, but mostly we mean every word of it all the time.

"Come...just as you are...come...give your heart to God...come."

The world gets hung up on clothing and all kinds of other distractions. Our gathering is about Jesus - and NOT about whether your clothes are 'good enough'. He wants your heart, He who wore a simple linen garment to cover Himself modestly and discreetly. He who wore those dusty, dirty, everyday sandals that He had just come in off a long road trip wearing through dust and mud and up hillsides and into homes to heal the sick and leave a blessing. He wants your heart, not your Guccis. Come as you are and know the peace of a shared burden and the rest of knowing you never have to walk alone again.


Glenn, who is wearing a fine purple Tshirt and fuzzy black stretch pants and tennis shoes as he shares what the Spirit is saying to all who will listen ...

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