Updated: Apr 17, 2020
What does God prefer? T-shirt or tie?
I write this from a spirit of humility, love, grace, and with the full intention to see the church that Jesus died for remain unified, obedient and joyfully fulling the call of Christ.
As a pastor and elder, I have been called to teach, preach, declare, edify, equip, cheer lead, serve, and offer protection for the body of Christ. I have also been called, as Paul so powerfully asserted to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, to not shrink from declaring anything that is profitable, not to shy away from declaring the whole counsel of God, and when needed, bring gentle but direct admonishment and rebuke. When the church begins to fix their eyes on anything other than Christ, it is the work of a pastor to help redirect that gaze back to the Word and to Jesus.
I had a wise pastor tell me once that some issues in the church are the common cold; you monitor them, but usually, they work themselves out with time. Then there are issues in the church that although they are small, if left alone, will become a deadly Cancer. They need to be snuffed out before they divide and before they kill. It seems to me that the church has a small “cold” issue that I feel if left alone will become a Cancer...a useful tool of the enemy to create unnecessary division and distraction.
AN UNHEALTHY INFATUATION
There is a segment of the body of Christ that has an unhealthy infatuation with outward appearance, particularly regarding clothing. We are warned by the apostle Paul that we are not be “dominated by anything”. (1 Cor. 6:12) We are not to allow anything other than Jesus to consume or infatuate us. We are not to put anything on the mantle of our lives above Him. There seems to be an unhealthy, un-biblical and dominating fixation on clothing that is being used to distract and divert attention away from Christ. The irony of this issue is that some feel a good indicator of one’s spiritual maturity is tied to how they dress. I am convinced that this is quite the opposite. In my experience, a sure-fire indicator of spiritual immaturity is an unhealthy fixation upon outward appearance. I believe this is evident for several reasons:
IT IS OUT OF STEP WITH THE BIBLE
Does the Bible have a dress code for Christians? Is there a “uniform” so to speak for worship services? Is God more pleased with a certain attire, fabric, style over another?
The Bible has much to say about the issue of becoming fixated on outward appearance. Physical appearance is important to God in that it reveals the glory of His creative abilities. So, we should appreciate the beauty God has given us as His most complex and amazing creation. God crafted each of us to look exactly as we do, for His own perfect reasons. God places some value on appearances; if He did not, we would all look the same. It is not a wrong thing for us to notice and appreciate physical appearance as well.
The overwhelming message of scripture is that God judges our hearts, not our outward appearance. It is the inner man that is an even greater creation. We have souls that will never be destroyed, that live on forever in heaven or hell. Our hearts, too, are capable of so many thoughts and feelings, reflections of the complexities of God. We should not fall into the trap of believing that our looks are to be a source of pride or envy. In Peter tells wives that their “In 1 Peter 3:3-5, Peter tells wives that their “beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”
Outward appearance should not be our focus. If the reason we wear certain clothes is to impress other people, then our physical appearance has become a matter of pride. If we believe that our clothes will also somehow impress God, I can assure you He is infinitely more concerned with what heart looks like. We should be humbly aware of our appearance rather than acting to conform to the world’s standards.
We must watch out for anything that draws us away from God, including the too-often extreme emphasis the world places on appearances. God does not want us to love the world or anything in it (1 John 2:15), and we are not to think as the world does (Romans 12:2). God has shown us His own amazing power and beauty and love in an incredibly diverse creation. We should be humble, not committing idolatry in worshiping the creation rather than the creator (Colossians 3:5).
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the , but the Lord looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - Proverbs 31:30
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. – 1 Peter 3:3-4
Likewise, also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. – 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. – John 7:24
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 , “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. – James 2:1-6
WHAT WE WEAR IN WORSHIP DOES MATTER
While the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we should not be fixated on our clothing and outward appearance; make no mistake, God does also have a concern for what we wear to church and in worship. Like most anything in our lives, how we come prepared for worship does speak to our relationship with God in some ways. We ought to examine our attitudes, hearts, actions, and even our attire and ask some questions? Does our attire on Sunday demonstrate we believe that He is high, holy, and lifted up, worthy of our deepest love, adoration, and respect?
We are clearly not to adorn ourselves in clothing that is dishonoring to God. We ought to apply general principles of modesty and propriety that we see in Scripture. Standards of dress are different from church to church and change over time, but we should avoid any style of dress that sends a message that is the opposite of Scripture and for holy living.
BOTTOM LINE: The Bible DOES NOT specify that one must wear a suit, tie, coat, jeans, slacks, dress shoes, button-up shirt, collars, tucked in, un-tucked, dress, pants, t-shirt., etc.… We do not see this explicit command for a defined wardrobe. For anyone to assert that there is only one acceptable attire for worship in the church is out of step with the Bible and is legalism in its purest form. We MUST NOT fall into the habit of turning our personal preferences into biblical references. We must NOT allow ourselves as Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6 of not being able to discern between our traditions and right doctrines.
For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘ honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ...Mark 7:3-9
We must be certain to dress for worship in a manner that is modest, in line with scripture, pleasing to Jesus, decent and models who we have been made to be in Jesus.
DISTRACTS FROM THE MISSION
We have been given a mission. We are to reach a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the mission and commission given to us by our Lord and Savior. To become fixated on non-essential things like clothing and outward appearance takes attention away from the essential mission. In 23 years of ministry, I have had more people than I can count or remember come into my office and complain about all sorts of things. Yet, I can tell you that ONLY a handful of times have I ever had someone in my office to complain about the fact that we are not doing enough to make disciples and reach the lost in our community. I pray God would burden our hearts for what burdens His heart. Gives us hearts that are fixated on Jesus and the mission He gave us.
Placing an unbiblical and legalistic fixation upon outward appearance or dress code places walls up for the very people we are called to reach. Our community is diverse in so many ways; ethnically, culturally, contextually, economically, etc.… To expect that everyone should adhere to the same style of dress is not only unbiblical, it is unwise. Questions of proper dress for the church may reflect a somewhat elitist attitude in affluent modern society. Even in the first century most people were laborers or farmers and could not afford fine clothing. They wore the same dirty clothing to church services that they wore to work because that is all they had. However, it is wrong to discriminate against people because of their status or clothing (James 2:1-9, 1 Corinthians 11:20-22, Galatians 3:28). Some people do not own or comfortable in suits, ties, and slacks. Others do not feel comfortable in jeans and nice t-shirts. Either way, there is room in the pew for you. There is room in the pew and church to worship God in modesty, decency, and appropriately as you are.
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Revelation 22:17
DISCOURAGES LEADERSHIP AND DIVIDES THE BODY
I am convinced that most discouragement for those in pastoral ministry does not come from the powerful “wolves” in and out of the body as Paul describes in Acts 20 but from the relentless and seemingly endless mosquitoes of pettiness, frivolousness, negativity, and immaturity that has somewhat abounded in the body throughout the history of the church. Satan uses these tools more than anything else to discourage and slow momentum for gospel’s advancement in the church.
Satan uses the most inane and petty opinions to divide the body of Christ. Imagine how this hurts the heart of Jesus. READ 1 Corinthians 3. “For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” REMEMBER… “For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.”
Jesus’s greatest desire for the church is that they would be unified, not divided over silliness. Jesus prayed for us in John 17 was that we would be “perfectly one”. Take some time to MEDITATE on Paul’s words in Romans 14. (13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.)
WHAT DO WE DO?
What if we find ourselves living in sin regarding being dominated by an unhealthy fixation on outward appearance, legalism and immaturity?
REPENT. Repentance is not just feeling sorrow for our sin, it is an action. When we see that we are believing or living in a manner that is opposite of the Word, we ask God for forgiveness and make steps to turn and change our direction.
KNOW THE WORD. Make intentional efforts to inform yourself with the Word of God. Know the truth instead of believing lies. We have a real enemy, he is the great deceiver. Combat him with the Sword of Spirit.
HUSH. Speak less when you don’t know what you are talking about. (Ecclesiastes 5:2, James 1:19) I am convinced we can avoid a lot of embarrassment, division, and heartache in our lives if we would just think more and talk less.
PRAY. Pray that God would allow you grace to grow and grace to help others grow in their walk with Jesus. Pray for wisdom in how to positively influence your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to pursue holiness and intimacy with Christ.
GET BUSY WITH THE MISSION. I do find it is harder to complain, be judgmental, criticize others when you are busier with the mission of God. When I am in the Word, living in prayer, sharing the gospel, it leaves little time to be distracted by frivolous ambitions of the enemy. Let’s get busy about the mission.
DOES GOD CARE WHAT YOU WEAR TO CHURCH? YES. He starts by looking at how you have dressed your heart first!!!!
- (George, Elizabeth)