Wow! Talk about a topic that really turns heads. In fact, it’s one of the most contentious issues in the church and those who claim to have insider understanding of the subject are the most outspoken when it comes to their beliefs. The topic of how we dress for worship can be a heated one but one that we should study nonetheless.
Years ago, my grandfather passed down to me a suit coat that belonged to him. The very first time I wore that coat and searched into the pocket, I found the ticket stub to a Seattle Mariners baseball game. I found it fascinating that my grandfather would dress so formally to such a casual event, but then he was born in 1919 and grew up in an entirely different era. People just don’t dress as nice anymore and it’s trickled over into our church worship services. Or so I thought.
The idea of dressing formally for worship is not necessarily a biblical practice. In fact, it became more popular in the 19th and 20th centuries as more and more people found themselves with the disposable incomes for such luxuries as nice clothing. The Christians of the early church would typically wear the clothing of their day and likewise, we should wear clothing today that God would deem appropriate and modest.
Of course the primary reason we worship in the first place is show honor and reverence towards God. We are there to please and bring glory to Him as our utmost priority. With that being said, there should be a significant respect for the worship assembly and the manner with which we dress is part of that respect. Problems arise when Christians attempt to bind their personal preferences and traditions on others and teach their views as biblical doctrine even though they are not. We cannot allow our strongly-held beliefs to become issues of salvation strictly because we find it important (Matthew 15:1-9). And yet, it would be improper to treat our worship assembly too casually. If we deem it right to appropriately dress for other special occasions, shouldn’t we give great thought as to how we present ourselves to God?
So how should we dress? First, we should remember that God looks at our heart during worship. If you spent countless hours primping and dressing in order to draw attention to yourself, God is fully aware of where your heart lies that Lord’s day. Likewise, if you purposely dress casually or immodestly in order to gain attention or ruffle the feathers of your conservative brethren, your attitude may need to change as well. We cannot have an attitude of “I don’t care what others think” when we worship corporately. If it doesn’t build up or encourage others, we shouldn’t be doing it (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). We go to the church building not only to worship God but also to meet with our church family and their souls should be just as important as our own.
Finally, we should be concerned with how we are viewed by the world around us. Do we give the impression of a quiet spirit yearning to seek God first or does our clothing say, “It’s all about me!”? Does our exterior attire display a respect for our bodies as the temple of God, or does our clothing show a flippant disregard towards our creator and give a look of ostentatious extravagance?
In the end, if you wear a suit and tie to worship or jeans and a t-shirt, I have no place to judge. And contrary to some strongly-held opinions, God will not judge either. He only asks that we worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) and that we clothe ourselves with Jesus (Romans 13:14). I will personally be respectful and reverent about what I choose to wear to worship but I will also not place judgment on other people’s choice of attire. There are far more important things to do for God’s kingdom anyway than be the chief of the fashion police.