Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Questions and Answers: What about Attire for Worship?

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Question: 
Does the way people dress (jeans, t-shirts, shorts, etc) make a difference to God when we come to a worship service? I don’t mean if you don’t have nicer clothes because of a lack of money, but, in general, shouldn’t we be giving God our best? Does that reflect our respect for/faith in God?

Answer:

This is a difficult question and one that I think remains in the area of judgment, to a great extent. It is my judgment that we should make the best presentation that we possibly can make to our God. This would primarily include the obeisance of our hearts, the humility of our characters before Him and the respect for His authority that would cause us to strive to worship Him exactly as He has prescribed. However, I believe that most of us would naturally want to appear before Him to worship in clothing that would reflect respect and an attempt to honor Him in a way at least similar to that we would wear when being presented to an earthly magistrate. I believe, out of respect for the office of the President of the U.S. we would, if summoned, give our appearance attention and dress in the nicest clothes available.

We must, though, as in so many areas of practical Christian living, exhibit a sense of balance in our dress. If we were to attempt to wear the very best every time we worship, wouldn’t that limit our attire for worship to the same outfit every time we worship (assuming we each have one best outfit)? That seems to me to be a bit of an extreme. On the other hand, if I take no thought about preparing for the worship services, I might often appear in the same clothes I was wearing to weed the garden or clean the toilets. This seems to me to be the other extreme of the worship attire spectrum. It is my judgment that we should find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, taking care to be neat and clean and respectably dressed, but also taking pains to avoid dressing in a way that would portray an emphasis on the outward attire rather than the motivation of a pure heart. So, in short, we should determine to give God our best and follow our Word –trained consciences about what that includes.

Although I cannot tell you exactly what attire might be appropriate and what might not, I can tell you some attire-related decisions with which I’m pretty sure God is not pleased.

One is the decision made by a woman to criticize a young ball player for showing up at the gospel meeting in his ball uniform. Did she think about how blessed she was to have in her congregation a young man who, although he was an integral (you might even say crucial) player on his team, walked off the field in a late inning in a very tight game because he was more committed to the Lord than the team? Pretty sure God was not offended by his decision or his attire. I think He was glorified. And I think he was likely ashamed of the woman who made the call to criticize this faithful young man.

Another is the decision many young women make each Lord’s day to attend worship services wearing scanty clothing that surely must make it difficult for men who might sit near them or glance in their directions to keep their thoughts pure as they offer their worship. As I spoke with a friend one day about the assembly in her town, she told me that several of the men of the congregation had specifically asked not to be listed to serve communion in the “college section” of their building because these men admitted that they had difficulty focusing on the cross when the dress in that section tended to be so immodest. I’m pretty sure God was pleased with the decisions of these men to avoid the temptation placed before them. I’m pretty sure He was not pleased with the dress of the girls in that section. Just recently I worshipped at a congregation in another state and sitting at the Sunday school table with me was a college student whose V neckline plunged to the bottom of her breast line. The skirt of her dress was a good six inches above the top of her knee as she stood. I was glad she was in an all girls’ class. But then of course, we proceeded to the main event of the Lord’s Day—the worship. It was there that a faithful young man was serving the communion in her section. I feel for such young men.

Yet another is the decision portrayed in James chapter two to exalt the person who dresses in “fine clothes” and wears the gold ring, while humiliating the one who wears the dirty clothes. God’s view of this attitude is made very clear in verses one through six:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
2 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,
3 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,
4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
6 But you have dishonored the poor man.

Most of us can likely make wise choices about what to wear if we envision ourselves sitting on the pew beside the Lord when we arrive at the place of worship. Most of us can guard our attitudes about what others wear by asking ourselves what He would think. This “if-Jesus-were-here” decision monitor can help us make so many decisions if we are honest with ourselves. The key to following through with good choices is remembering that He is with us wherever we go.
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