I come from a southern church background and from a young age, the thought process that influenced what I wore to church was predicated on, “You always wear your best to church because Jesus deserves the best of everything.” This particular line of thought seems noble, has great intention behind it, on the surface it appears to be appropriate and in many circles, is supported biblically by preachers and churches.
The biblical model and thought process is usually based on the High Priest in the Old Testament in the spirit of [Exodus 28] and how the garments had to be of certain significance and displayed a reverence for the office, an attitude of respect for the Tabernacle, and a sign of holiness to a God who deserved the highest praise and honor. In other words, it signified an utmost respect for the highest calling of God. While I understand the nobility of thought behind using these particular Scriptures, the argument falls apart in using this example as “dressing up” being a biblical mandate.
Whether church leaders want to admit it or not, culture drives a lot of what we do. We are called to be in this world but not of this world, however, does this apply to what we wear as well? While some traditionalists bemoan the apparent lack of suits (somehow deemed to be the ultimate church attire for men) in today’s society, history shows that this is a new phenomenon. Culture has shifted proper men’s attire from robes to tunics, tunics to knickers, knickers to pants, pants to suits etc. The list has many stops in between. If someone was to walk into church in a robe from ancient history, most church people would cast a sideways glance, however, at one time those in robes would have cast shade at anyone in church in a suit. The determination of what is considered “proper clothing” has changed with culture many times over. Dressing nice and in your best is never a bad thing, but we have to ask, “Is this only in the context of what we now deem acceptable or in all options from the past?” For instance, if I have a suit that I paid $130 for the whole ensemble and right next to it in my closet I have a pair of True Religion jeans that I paid $150 and a ROAR shirt that was $90, which is my “best” to wear to church? Is it dictated on monetary value or style? If it’s monetary value, do I have to wear my most expensive every Sunday? If it’s style, why a suit and not a robe or tunic or knickers? If we start to allow any aspect of culture instead of the Scripture tell us what should be truth, we will have no end to how we must proceed.
So, let’s forget tastes, preferences and opinions and look at Scripture. While this will not be popular to say, if we are 100% honest, there is actually more Scripture for the church in regards to not dressing in “your best” than to support it. In [1 Timothy 2:9-10] the Apostle Paul warns the women about putting on costly array and dressing to impress anyone because he knew it will ultimately lead to one thing – Pride. Pride likes to think of itself as a light that outshines others and since worldly man likes to judge on appearance (according to [1 Samuel 16:7]), it was going to be easier to think of oneself greater than someone else based solely on how they dressed or presented themselves. The Apostle Paul warned them to eliminate that line of thinking and to act in humility first.
To get a clear picture of how we should dress, lets look at how Jesus operated to see where we stand in comparison with how He lived. Jesus was common while being 100% God in the flesh who lived among the most ordinary of men and fit the standard profile of His time and culturally assimilated into the fashions of His day. He was so ordinary in His appearance, He could get lost in a crowd because He looked like everyone else ([Luke 4:29-30]). As a matter of fact, the only “royal” garments we see Him wearing in his whole ministry was a purple robe his murderers threw across his bloody back to mock Him. Yet, because of that trip up Calvary, Jesus became what we no longer needed…a High Priest. Any pretentiousness, act or the necessity of looking good was now gone with one rip of the veil from top to bottom and it opened up a pathway directly to God from exactly where we are! Jesus became our High Priest and now I don’t have to approach Him hoping I meet some earthly or heavenly standard in my appearance because I can go to God whenever and however I please based not on my outward appearance but because of who is alive inside of me and my inner man being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. God is not impressed at all with my suit or my jeans, He is impressed with one thing…Jesus Christ in me. When I surrendered my life to Christ, the scriptures say in [Galatians 2:20] that it is “Christ who lives in me”. According to [Galatians 1-15-16] it pleased God when Jesus was revealed IN me. God doesn’t “need my best” or even “ask for my best” in any apparel or outward focus…He already gave his best FOR me and when He sees Jesus in me, THAT is what pleases Him!
In closing, I want to say that “dressing up” for church is not a bad thing or a good thing..it is just a thing. God is not pleased anymore with what you choose to wear, as long as it is based on modesty and biblical principles. If you feel it pleases Him to wear your “best” and “dress up” each week, by all means, go for it. However, for those who believe the satisfaction of Christ is complete by the person of Jesus Christ in us, don’t be angry or get upset if we wear something other than a suit to church. We are not an enemy, we are a fellow brother or sister in Christ and I will gladly walk side-by-side with you, loving sinners, and not making dividing lines that would break us apart over non-scriptural issues.
A sometimes (even skinny) jeans wearing pastor,