Does God Have a Dress Code, or Does He Allow Worshipers to Dress Like Freaks? – Jerry C. Brewer

Jerry C. Brewer

Culture and Christianity have always been at odds. That includes the way people dress. Look at 100 people in public today, and chances are that about 99 of them will be clad in shorts—both women and men—with their legs prominently displayed for all to see. They seem to be laboring under the delusion that their ugly legs (usually decorated with tattoos) are pleasing to the rest of us. The grandchildren of the hippie generation now dress (or undress) in rags to the point of nudity.

Their “high-fashion jeans” have holes in the knees, thighs, and in other places where my mother would have promptly patched my jeans. She knew that her children’s clothes reflected her competence as a mother. She would have been ashamed to send my brothers and me out in public looking like a hobo. But today people go to worship like the fellow who described Kris Kristofferson in Sunday Morning Coming Down: “…I fumbled through my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.”

When I was a kid, a carnival was a big event—the rides, cotton candy and other goodies to tickle the palate, and then there were the ever-present Barkers” urging carnival-goers to step right up and see the tattooed lady, the 14-fingered man, and the bearded lady. There were lots of sideshows where you could see all kinds of freaks, “only a dime—a tenth of a dollar!” But now society has brought the freaks to every city street, school, and church to see their performances for FREE!

The standard sloven dress today is not the mark of a child of God who goes to worship but a mark of a freak in a sideshow. In fact, that kind of dress is not the mark of a Christian in any place. Most people try to wear the most skimpiest clothes today and even short-shorts are seen in worship. There is no shame in people who go to worship before God in clothing designed to show as much as the law allows (or more). As Jeremiah said of Israel, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jer. 8:12). Why would any decent God-fearing father let his daughter dress in worship like a harlot? Why would he allow his son to dress in shorts and a t-shirt, and his hair as long as his mother’s when he worships God?

Several 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…I must tell you that I came away disappointed in what I saw…the sloppy appearance of many of the students unfavorably impressed me…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 (Dub McClish, Letter to J. Michael Hite, BVBI).

The key word in brother McClish’s letter is sloppy, which sums up today’s dress. He also pointed out the crux of the matter: “…one makes a statement by the way he dresses.” Keep in mind that those who “express themselves” do so by their clothing, and even preachers wear sloppy clothes today in the pulpit.

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.

…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 (Eddie Whitten, “Dress Code? Or, Respect for God?”, Beacon, Bulletin of the Bellview church of Christ, Pensacola, Florida, May 26, 2003).

One example is the “Youth and Family Minister” for the Wilbarger Church of Christ in Vernon, Texas—by the way, if you can find a “Youth and Family Minister” in your New Testament, I will send you $5,000. You can see him cavorting around the Wilbarger pulpit at He is usually dressed in an open-collared shirt, no tie, no suit, just unkempt jeans, and sneakers. He is what Dub McClish describes as “Laid Back, Hip—Irreverent,with an emphasis on irreverent!

Does God have a dress code? The answer is Yes! Now, I know that the hills are alive with the sound of protest saying, “No! God doesn’t look on the outer man. He looks on the inner man.” But the outer man always manifests the inner man.

God is more concerned with the inside, rather than merely with the outside, of men (1 Sam. 16:7). However, we may indicate what is inside by what we do with the “outside.” The Lord said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mat. 12:34), and we may “talk” with our attire. Have we forgotten the simple, but important, principle of doing all things “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) (written in the very context of behavior in a worship assembly, incidentally)? I am not suggesting that we turn our worship assemblies into fashion shows. I am rather urging that we, especially those who lead in worship, dress in such a way as to indicate how important they believe the worship of Almighty God and His Son is (Dub McClish, “Laid Back, Hip—Irreverent,” The Lighthouse, weekly bulletin of Northpoint Church of Christ, Denton, TX, July 1, 2012).

Scriptural Principles for a Dress Code

Consider the first scriptural principle—the very best sacrifices which God specified under the Law of Moses.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats (Exo. 12:5).

Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein (Lev. 22:19-21).

Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God (Deut. 17:1).

Of Exodus 12:5, the Passover lamb Adam Clarke wrote, Without blemish – Having no natural imperfection, no disease, no deficiency or redundancy of parts” (e-Sword).

Keil and Delitzsch wrote on the same verse,

…the characteristics were significant. Freedom from blemish and injury not only befitted the sacredness of the purpose to which they were devoted, but was a symbol of the moral integrity of the person represented by the sacrifice” (e-Sword).

On Leviticus 22:19-21, Clarke wrote,

Never was a wiser, a more rational, and a more expedient law enacted relative to sacred matters. The man who ministers in holy things, who professes to be the interpreter of the will of God, should have nothing in his person nor in his manner which cannot contribute to render him respectable in the eyes of those to whom he ministers. If, on the contrary, he has any personal defect, any thing that may render him contemptible or despicable, his usefulness will be greatly injured, if not entirely prevented (e-Sword).

And Keil and Delitzsch said,

Directions for the sons (descendants) of Aaron who were afflicted with bodily imperfections. As the spiritual nature of a man is reflected in his bodily form, only a faultless condition of body could correspond to the holiness of the priest…Consequently none of the descendants of Aaron, “according to their generations,” i.e., in all future generations, who had any blemish (bodily fault) were to approach the vail, i.e., enter the holy place, or draw near to the altar (in the court) to offer the food of Jehovah, viz., the sacrifices (e-Sword).

The second scriptural principle is found in David’s refusal to offer a cheap sacrifice to God. Because he numbered Israel, David angered God and was given one of three choices for punishment.

And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man (2 Sam. 24:11-13).

The Lord sent three days of pestilence in which 70,000 men died from Dan to Beersheba (2 Sam. 24:15). When the angel came to Jerusalem, God stopped the pestilence and ordered David to build an altar of sacrifice at the threshing floor of Araunah 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 principles 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” and God’s specifications of His unblemished sacrifices under the Law of Moses.

How many people come before God in worship wearing the cheapest, most common, everyday things they have? Clothing worn in worship does not have to be expensive or even new. But they should reflect reverence that ought to characterize the heart of the worshiper—a heart that says, I will not offer…unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”

When We Worship, We Kneel Before God’s Throne

My grandparents were poor people who lost their farm in 1935 during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years in Oklahoma. Grandpa had annual payment on his mortgage of $700. In 1935, he made one bale of cotton and the bank foreclosed on his farm that he had worked for 18 years and where my mother was raised.

Grandpa was poor, but he was reverent in worship to God and his 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 in worship. 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 but 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 kneel before His throne in worship. Should we not, therefore, present our physical selves in the most honorable and reverent manner possible? Yes, God has a dress code in worship.

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