When it comes to clothing, there are many different opinions as to what is acceptable and what is not. And it’s no different in church; some people dress very casually, and others wear more dressy clothing.
Is there some sort of church dress code? Do women have to wear dresses to church? What does the Bible actually say about how we should dress?
God Looks on the Heart
Have you ever heard this? “God doesn’t care what I wear. He looks at my heart.”
It’s absolutely true that God looks at our hearts. And it’s also true that many times people get more wrapped up in appearances than they should.
Israel asked God for a human king to rule them so that they could be like all the other nations around them. Saul became the first king of Israel and Judah, and was praised for his appearance.
“[Saul] was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?’”
The Israelites were impressed with Saul’s stature and appearance, but it wasn’t long before Saul’s flawed character caused problems for the nation.
God chose a new king (David) for His people, but when Samuel saw Eliab (David’s brother), God said: “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
James warns believers against favoring people based on how they dress.
“For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
James reminds Christians that they are wrong to dishonor a poor person who is poorly dressed and to treat a rich, well-dressed person with respect. Obviously, how we treat people matters much more than how we dress or how much money we have.
It is human nature to look at what we can see with our physical eyes. But we should strive to be like God: we need to look not at outward appearances or possessions but rather at the heart and character of people. Outward appearances change; it’s the heart that matters.
Clothe Yourself With the Right Attitudes
In the book of Timothy, women were encouraged to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.”
Apparently, the women of this congregation were dressing to impress others and show off their wealth. The Apostle Paul warned the women not to dress in a way as to attract attention to themselves (possibly from men other than their own husbands). And it’s likely that jealousy and competition reared their ugly heads as well in this church.
So is Paul against wealth and braided hair? No, but he is encouraging moderation instead of excess and decency instead of immodesty. Dressing nicely is acceptable as long as the motive is right (not wanting to show off or draw attention to oneself or one’s position).
Peter advises believers: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
Both men and women alike need to submit to one another, thinking about what they are wearing and whether it would honor God. Rather than demanding our own way, humility says, “I don’t want to draw attention to myself or offend by how I dress; I want all attention to be given to the Lord.”
Peter also taught women that instead of adorning themselves with fancy clothes, hair and jewelry that the “beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit … is very precious in the sight of God.”
God Deserves Our Best
Clearly, the condition of our heart is very important to God. But God also deserves our best, even when it comes to clothing. Of course, day to day, we should dress modestly and appropriately to honor God.
But consider this: you are meeting an important government official. How would you dress? Most likely you would put thought and effort into this decision, and you wouldn’t wear something that would be considered too casual. You probably wouldn’t wear shorts and a tank top.
What if you were attending a wedding or a funeral? These are special events in which apparel is important. In fact, it may be considered rude to dress too casually.
Likewise, when we go to church, we are entering the house of God, the Creator of all things. Isn’t the King of the Universe more important than a government official? And isn’t coming together with other believers to experience God’s Presence more important than a wedding? Of course!
Now before you become anxious, if you don’t have nice “dress clothes,” then a decent pair of jeans and basic shirt is sufficient. It’s not about the type of clothing you wear, it’s about honoring Him with the best you have.
Like anything, going to church can become repetitious or common, so throwing on something casual or comfortable is easy. But we must resist this complacency and make an effort for God.
This isn’t an issue of whether God “accepts” you or not – if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then you are accepted by God. Rather it’s an issue of respect and reverence for who God is. It’s an issue of showing Him the honor He deserves by how we dress when we come into His Presence.
~ written by Jennell Houts