Jerry C. Brewer
Today’s hip culture disdains any kind of dress code. When our local school system mandated prescribed uniforms for all students a few years ago, the snowflakes and their indulgent parents raised a hue and cry, saying their clothing was an expression of who they are and they needed to express themselves. Ironically, that is true. The grandchildren of the hippie generation now dress (or undress) to the point of nudity, in rags. Their high-fashion jeans, into which it appears they have been liquefied and poured, have holes in the knees, thighs, and other places where my mother would have promptly patched my jeans. She knew that clothes were an expression of what the wearer is. She also knew that her children’s clothes reflected her competence as a mother and would have been ashamed to send my brothers and me out in public with lumps of our skin protruding through rags.
Culture and Christianity are generally at odds. That includes the way people dress. The sloven dress of culture is not the mark of a child of God who comes to worship. About 20 years ago, Dub McClish was asked to speak in chapel at the Bear Valley Bible Institute (BVBI) when he was in a Gospel meeting in that area. What he saw during his visit did not impress him:
J.J. Turner invited me to speak and I spoke in chapel at BVBI approximately 5 years ago when I was in a Gospel meeting in the area. I must tell you that I came away disappointed in what I saw. A student led a prayer to which I could not say amen. It would have sounded very much in place in a Pentecostal religious service. Moreover, the sloppy appearance of many of the students unfavorably impressed me. I admit that I’m from the “old school” in such matters. I believe that one makes a statement by the way he dresses. I came away with the impression that the students were not being taught the seriousness of their studies and of the work for which they were preparing. I interpreted these things as a woeful lack of discipline (Letter to BVBI, 2005).
The key word in brother McClish’s letter is sloppy, which sums up today’s dress culture in one word. He also pointed out the crux of the matter with: “…one makes a statement by the way he dresses.” Keep in mind that those who “express themselves” by their clothing make a statement and not a few preachers today express themselves as hipsters in the pulpit.
Does God have a dress code? Yes, He does. Now, I know that the hills are alive with the sound of protest: “No! God doesn’t look on the outer man. He looks on the inner man.” True, but the outer man expresses the inner man’s thoughts and actions. That principle is found in David’s refusal to squeak by with a cheap sacrifice.
Because he numbered Israel David angered God and was given one of three choices for punishment—seven years of famine in the land, three months of flight before his enemies, or three days of pestilence (2 Sam. 24:11-13). David chose three days of pestilence in which 70,000 men died from Dan to Beersheba (2 Sam. 24:5). When the angel came to Jerusalem, God stopped the pestilence and ordered David to build an altar of sacrifice at the threshing floor of Arunah the Jebusite. When David offered to buy the threshing floor, Araunah told David that he would give him the threshing floor, oxen for sacrifice, and the wood without charge.
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver (2 Sam. 24:24).
The principle for us is in David’s words, “…neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” How many people come before God in worship wearing the cheapest, common, everyday things they have? Clothing worn in worship does not have to be expensive, or even new. But it should reflect reverence that ought to characterize the heart of the worshiper.
My grandparents were poor people who lost their farm in 1935 during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years in Oklahoma. My grandfather’s Sunday-go-to-meetin’ best consisted of starched and ironed striped overalls, a starched and ironed white shirt, a necktie, and straw fedora. That reflected his reverence for God in worship. In later years, he was able to afford a suit which he wore thereafter. He would never have gone to worship in the overalls he wore in the cotton field.
When Moses approached the burning bush in Midian, God told him to, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exod. 3:5). The ground around that bush was not inherently holy. It was made so by the presence of God in His meeting with Moses. The church building is not inherently holy, but we are in God’s presence when we stand before His throne in worship. Should we not, therefore, present our physical selves in the most honorable and reverent manner possible.
In an effort to “identify” with the hip generation, some “preachers” today dress for worship like they just came in from the cotton field. One example is Bryan Nix who preaches for the mainstream Wilbarger Street church in Vernon, Texas. His “dress” for worship consists of a short sleeved, open collared shirt with the tail out and hanging down, and a pair of jeans. No one can tell him he is “not hip.”
His “hipness” is further by jumping around the pulpit like a trained monkey and employing common street language to explain scripture. Recounting Saul’s entry into the cave at Engedi, the cool, hip Nix read 1 Sam. 24:3 from a version that says: “And he came to the sheep fold by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave” Here is Nix’s explanation of that verse:
So, this is a situation right out of a movie. You can’t make this up…David has been running for his life. God has said, I am going to deliver the kingdom into your hand, away from Saul and so Saul comes to take a leak (emits a slight snicker at his own humor) in the cave.
Dress and words reveal a man’s heart:
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man…But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matt. 15:11, 18-19).