For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
- Philippians 2:21
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
- Luke 1:46-55
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
- Romans 1:21-24
For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“At The Village Church where I am a pastor, I wear blue jeans and rarely tuck in my shirt, and that kind of outﬁt seems to be standard issue for most in our church community. We’re not trying to make any kind of statement in dressing like that. It’s just what we do; it’s what we are. We’re casual when it comes to our clothes. But one year, I decided to class myself up a bit for our Christmas Eve service. I went to my closet and found some slacks from a couple of years ago that I could still ﬁt into, and I put on a nice dress shirt. It was red—Christmas-y red. And I tucked it in. Can’t say I enjoyed it all that much, but I did it. Just thought I’d dress a little special for this special service. Then I went to church and preached our Christmas Eve services.
“The day after Christmas I got an email from a young woman in our congregation-a pretty scathing email essentially calling me a sellout. Her message amounted to this:
“ ‘I grew up in a church where you had to wear dress clothes every Sunday. You had to wear a suit if you were a man. You had to wear a dress if you were a woman. And all the focus was on our external appearances, and we felt judged if we didn’t measure up. It was very superficial and legalistic. And this is one of the things I’ve loved about attending The Village: how we’re free-form and casual and don’t try to outdo one another in dressing up. But, Matt, on Christmas Eve you sold out.’
“I sold out, she said, because I wore nice pants and tucked in my red dress shirt. Can we be honest about what happened here? All this woman did was change the dress code. That’s all. She went from rejecting the idea that if you loved the Lord you’d wear suits to accepting the idea that if you loved the Lord you wouldn’t. She really just said the same thing the church of her youth told her when she was young, just about a different style of dress.
“The reality beneath her irritation was that her hyper-religious and legalistic parents had wounded her heart, and instead of doing business with that wound, she started lashing out at what she perceived to be the enemy. And that is just one example on top of more serious examples. What do we make of it when in a marriage situation one partner says, ‘This isn’t working. I think we need to get help. I think we need to get counseling. I think we need to go see somebody at the church,’ and their spouse responds with, ‘No, we’re all right. We’ll be all right. I’ll do better. We’ll work it out’?
“In both cases, there is a mental and emotional reality at work beneath the words and postures. It is, fundamentally, pride. Pride says, ‘I have it ﬁgured out. I’ve got this.’ It’s an assertion of independence and self-allegiance and special knowledge, the kind you think you get from forbidden fruit. This phenomenon is what Mary refers to in the Magniﬁcat when she says that God ‘has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts’ (Luke 1:51).”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
My wife has more of a hang up with a dress code than I do, but in a way, it is based on a concept and not a “dress code.” She was told when she was growing up, “We are going to meet the King. Dress nicely.” With that in mind, wearing grubby clothing would be an insult to the King.
More than once, she has complained that when the Pittsburgh Steelers have a home game, half the congregation dresses in authentic Steelers jerseys. She would ask, “Where are their dress shirts and dresses? Do they not have anything better to wear?” And my response was, “If you are talking about the price of a garment, I doubt if they have a more expensive shirt or blouse in their closet.”
My concern was the condition of their hearts. When you go to church in the mindset of a Steeler fan, who are you worshipping? To whom do you give the Glory? The church is less crowded than usual those Sundays because those with tickets are already at the stadium cranking up their grills and partying – even though the stadium is about a half hour away and church is usually over nearly two hours before game time. They only know that it is Sunday due to it being “game time.” They miss church even when the game is a late start.
My wife and I still dress nicely. The women that put my wife down for doing so do not speak to us anymore. Thank You, Lord, for that blessing.
But my wife is okay with people dressing the best that you can. If blue jeans and a nice shirt or blouse is the best you can afford, then that’s okay.
But one Sunday, this woman came into church with a T-shirt and what might have been painter’s pants. They were both filthy. Now, I felt they could have worn clean clothes, but my wife went on and on about how poorly dressed the woman was.
I defended the woman. Maybe that was the best she had and maybe the washing machine broke down yesterday. Then my wife replied, “Her husband owns two companies. She’s worth millions!”
Ah, an example like the one that Rev. Chandler used, but for a different reason. But what was the reason? Was it, “Do not expect me to put much in the offering plate”? What about when they are looking for volunteers, etc.
I arranged for an evangelist to put on a three-day program at our church. For once, it was very well attended. But the evangelist wanted to stay at someone’s house. I got a lady to volunteer, since she had a couple of rooms available now that the children were out of the house. But the lady nor her husband attended the first night’s festivities. I think that night was focused on the youth and the young adults. I drove the evangelist to their home. I was not expecting much. This couple drove a dilapidated fifteen-year-old car to church. It was rusting out. And the street that led to her home was in a lower middle-class neighborhood. But as I drove past the lower middle-class homes and climbed the hill, the houses were more modern and larger. It was an upper-middle-class neighborhood, hidden behind the smaller and older houses. But to get to her home, I had to turn left and go down the hill, about halfway. The street split to the left and the right. The houses were worth five times or more what the upper middle-class houses were worth. The dilapidated fifteen-year-old car was parked on the street because the two-car garage had two brand new Mercedes Benz in it.
I cannot complain; she volunteered. But why did they dress down and drive an old car?
With this couple and the woman who wore dirty clothing to church, was it humility or creating a different image, one of need instead of one of plenty?
Regardless of the clothing being wore at church, the clothing that is worn provides a non-verbal message.
Are you going to meet the King?
Are you going to glorify God or yourself?
Are you going to send a false image so that others do not expect much of you?
And the first Scripture, Rev. Chandler’s focus of the chapter, is key here. Are you going to church for selfish interests or the interests of Almighty God?
Lord, guide me. Keep me focused on You every day of the week. Help me to maintain that focus when I go to church. May I always have Your interests at heart, leaving my own interests at the foot of the cross. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
You are right how we dress matters and I think your example of people dressing in Football team outfits shows people do know about dressing for an occasion. I think your wife and you have it quite nuanced where you acknowledged that it doesn’t mean all suits if one can’t afford it, but we dress our “Sunday Best” for the Lord. Amen, good post!
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