The Bible does not specify a dress code, so why do elders try to impose a certain type of dress for members when we assemble for worship? The Bible teaches that God looks not on the outward man but on the heart. Most of our younger generations of today are not aware that “casual dress” in the services of worship to God, grew out of the rebellious days of the hippies and baby boomers of the 1960s. Respect for, and submission to, authority was dealt a severe blow by the “independent” thinking of that era. Like most other things that challenged the “establishment,” the initial shock soon wore off and that which once was “unthinkable” became acceptable.
The secular world still places great emphasis on dress. Business executives wear suits to work and usually require their younger aspirants to do the same. Quality of work is usually enhanced by neat and proper dress. The reputation of the company is represented to a great degree by the way employee’s dress. The reason: A respect for those representing a company generates a respect for the company represented. Contrary to what one may think, those who respect their person, their values, and their employers command the respect of those who do not.
It is a source of genuine distress to see the lack of respect for God displayed by so many in our worship services. Preachers are no exception; in fact they should be leaders in trying to keep the congregations aware of the Divine nature of God. God should be exalted to the ultimate degree of respect, adoration, reverence, and awe before whom His children should humble themselves. Slovenly dress, casual, unkempt foot-wear, carelessness in presentation all profess that we have no awareness of the greatness of the God we profess to serve. Those who see God’s representatives in such common and presumptuous attire cannot have respect for the God they represent. It is no wonder that it is difficult to try to convince lost souls of their need to revere God, when it is apparent that He is not revered by those claiming to represent Him!
It is not a dress code that needs to be enforced. It is a desperate effort to instill in the hearts of Christians the abject respect that God’s children should have for their heavenly Father. Every example of the Old Testament, and every principle of the New Testament shows the need to glorify the God of heaven. Old Testament priests had to wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean (Num. 8:6-7).
A dress code? Not in the least! A plea to honor and glorify God in our dress? Yes!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Look around at folks in worship and observe their clothes that are not only slovenly, but are sinful. The trend began a few years ago when women decided to dress like men and traded their dresses for slacks. That began the slippery slope downward until people traded their clothing for worship with that which cost them nothing. 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. I know at least one person who wears short-shorts and a T-shirt in worship, and looking like he’s just from a pick-up basketball game. He is a high school student and one must wonder if his parents have any authority of him.
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 a 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. Should we not, therefore, present our physical selves in the most honorable and reverent manner possible? Elders must do their duty to oversee the church and make sure folks will at least dress modestly.