I have a pastor friend who posts a daily question on Facebook that he has people comment on and then he likes to give a Biblical summary. We agree on almost everything, and I have a great deal of respect for him. A few days ago in his summary, he said that he felt that you need to wear your best to church because it is a sign that you are giving your best to God. Twenty years ago, I would have agreed 100%; that was the way I was raised. I still always wear a jacket and tie to church myself, but a friend of mine gave me his testimony and it gave me a lot to think about.
His testimony goes something like this. When he was a young boy, he never went to church, in fact, most weekends his parents were sleeping off the alcohol from the night before. One Sunday morning when he was 5 or 6, they had been doing some utility work in the neighborhood. There was a huge pile of dirt there. On the Sunday morning, my friend and another kid were out just playing in the dirt. They were both with out a shirt no shoes and just covered in dirt. It was a warm Texas spring morning they had been playing a little while. Therefore, they were sweaty and the muddy dirt was all over them. An older lady was on her way to church and saw the boys out there play and stopped to ask them why thy were not getting ready for church and they said they had never been to church. She asked them to go to church with her and if they did, she would make sure they got donuts before church and a coke afterwards. Of course, both boys agreed. She has them get in the back of her car dirt, mud and all, no shirt or shoes. She gets them to church she cleans there hands and faces and gives them the donuts and takes them to a Sunday school class and then takes them to church. Then after service, the church had a coke machine in the basement and she buys them both a coke. They had a great time and she tells them that if they meet her at that Conner next week she will take them to church. They both agree and they go with her to church for a couple of years. In that time, my friend became a Christian.
My jaw dropped at the story. I could not believe that my friend went to church without a shirt and that he was not kicked out. I will be honest I do not think I have ever been a member at a church that would have allowed the boys in the church door with out a shirt. When my friend told me this story I had smart off about wearing something nice to church and was offended and point blank asked me why because God did not care what we were as long as we were there. Then he told me his testimony. I was greatly convicted about my thoughts on this manor.
This week I am continuing last week’s topic of “Wearing Your Best to Church”.
I think my friend was on to something when he asked if God cared what he wore as long as he was there. My father’s church planted a daughter church in the Houston area, and in the process, they bought the building of a church that had gone under. When they went to go clean up and get things set up, my father saw a sign that said, “Men without tie and jacket and women without a dress can not enter the sanctuary.” I know this is one extreme example, but it is this kind of stuff that turns people away from the church and I know this is not pleasing to God. It is a form of legalism or man-made laws that prevent people from worshiping God; just like the Pharisee in Matt 15.
15 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
I have not been talking about having washed hands or food, but about the Biblical principle given here. That principle is that man-made rules are keeping people from worshiping, and sometimes, even finding God. A suit and tie and a dress are not going to keep you from God, but man-made laws will.
I will publish the conclusion of this article next week.
With all of the previous said, I must address something else about clothing and for good reason. The item is when women choose to wear clothing that is revealing. This is a tough subject for me as a man to discuss, but while I was a youth minister, this came up several times, especially with bathing suits around camp time. I normally would explain my concerns with the women councilors and let them take care of it, and I never had a problem. However, today, what is considered dress clothes for women is very revealing. I had a youth pastor friend that was doing a great job at getting youth from the neighborhood, but what some of the young women were wearing to youth group was just to revealing. His solution, which I love, was that he had a couple who owned a tee shirt shop in the congregation and he had them make nice tee shirts with the youth group logo on them and when a young lady came who needed extra coverage, he would give her a youth group tee shirt. Most of the other kids would have them on and he never had to ask a girl to put one on, they always immediately put them on.
The last few years I have noticed these revealing clothes are showing up in the church service itself. Some of you are asking, what is the big deal, I just made a point of saying clothes do not matter. I will put it in simple terms; it is very hard to concentrate on God and preach when the women in the front row has almost her whole chest exposed to you.
However, you say, I just made a great point about how God does not care what I wear to church. However, there is another Biblical principle at work here. You should not in your freedom in the Bible cause someone else to sin. 1 Cor. 8
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
Again, I have not been talking about food or meat, but the Biblical principle that if in your freedom of the Bible you cause someone else to stumble; then you are the one who has sinned. Thus, if by your clothing, you cause a man, who by the Bible’s own words is weak, stumble by looking at you rather than towards God, you have caused him to sin, and you have sinned.
Let me try to explain something about men and women. In seminary, I had to read a book in counseling class called, “Sex starts in the Kitchen”. This book was mainly written to men to help them understand and better appreciate there wives. You see, men are aroused by what they see and the effect is almost immediate. Women are aroused by romance. This difference is why the pornographic industry mainly uses pictures of women and not men. In addition, this is why romance novels are almost all sold to women. Therefore, men, if you want to have relations with your wife that night, you need to begin hours before, in the kitchen, and start romancing her there. That, in a few sentences, is the idea of the whole book. Now let us take this to our subject at hand. Clothes manufactures know that men are aroused by sight and therefore make clothes that attract attention. Women may not know this fact, but they enjoy the attention. Thus, I am hoping that by you knowing the Biblical principal and how men and women are aroused, that women would use more thought when choosing their clothing for church.
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I completely agree with your summary. I just wrote an article for this week's topic, "Tie", discussing this very issue. I believe too much emphasis is placed on our outward appearance on Sunday mornings, and not enough on our inward cleanliness. Keep up the great work, and God bless!
Exemplary article Dr. Brad! You nailed it. I agree that God isn't impressed with how we dress for church however any attire that distracts us or others from our purpose at worshiping Him should be reconsidered. Well done.
Dr. Black - I really enjoy your articles, but have to disagree a little with this one. I feel at the very minimum that worshippers should follow the local school dress code especially the young people who you cited in your article that they sometimes dress inappropriately with revealing attire. I will counsel those who come dressed inappropriately and ask them to follow the local school dress code. If a person gets offended and doesn't come back, so be it. The schools have a dress code both for students and teachers that should be the minimum code for church-goers.