No Skirts. No Suits. No Service?
I’ve been thinking about clothes a lot this week. I have been reading a discussion online about appropriate church attire. It has opened my eyes to a huge problem within the Church today. We judge the righteousness of others based on their clothing. Yikes! Now, I’m not talking about modesty. I think it’s important but not the focus of this essay.
James 2 immediately comes to mind “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Now, I cannot remember the last time someone came to our church with an obviously expensive outfit and someone else having on “vile raiment.” I think we could apply this to our culture this way: we see someone in a long skirt and think, they must be really spiritual. Then we see someone in jeans and think, they must not know any better. We then respect the person dressed in a suit or long dress as good and righteous, and the person in jeans as inferior. It seems from this passage that the problem is not with our dress but our attitudes.
However the obvious is true as well, those in vile raiment are probably poor people. I believe we do not see extremely poor people in our churches because of our dress codes.
Whether church dress codes are spelled out or implied they keep people from coming to church. At some point it seems like what we are wearing is more important than our attendance. That’s a problem and not Biblical.
There have been times when we were coming home from a vacation and could have made it to church. However we did not go because we did not have time to change into something acceptable. We were modestly dressed but not in ‘appropriate” attire. Man’s laws and ideas about clothing kept us away.
And so we come to the poor. It has been my experience that our dress codes keep poor people from our churches. We have a mega church here in Greenville, 80% of the church is considered poor by anyone’s standards. They go to this church because they are accepted. If their best is jeans and a polo shirt, that is what they wear and it’s not an issue. I realize that there are other factors to the mega church, loud music, dancing, etc. Still, I know that when people go to a church that is super formal and they can’t afford to dress appropriately, they leave and go where they fit in. I don’t want these people to leave. I want them to stay and learn the Truth of God’s Word!
The Bible is also clear about the faith of poor people and the difficulty for the wealthy to come to Christ. The book of Matthew tells us “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” I believe this is because a wealthy person does not have physical needs and does not see their need of a Savior. It’s not impossible for them to be saved, but close because they don’t have need. Our churches are filled with people who do not have real needs. Hence the reason we often do not see many adults coming to Christ in our churches.
James 2 continues : “Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?Those who are poor are rich in faith. They see their need more easily and believe.
So at the end of this ramble I think a few things are clear. We are focused too much on clothes. We are working very hard to fit into a man made mold in order to appear righteous. In so doing we also look down upon those who do not fit our mold. This is sin.
Should our clothes be modest? Of course. Is there anything wrong with dressing up for church? Of course not.
There is something wrong with dressing for the approval of others. There is something wrong with looking down our noses at those who are not dressed “right”. In order for there to be revival in our churches we must win people to Christ. We need to love people, not what they are wearing. Grace should be applied instead of judgment.
I think the question of dress should be is it Biblical or simply a tradition?