I wandered into an interesting conversation yesterday. A friend was discussing proper church clothes and how you should “wear your best” when you go to worship.
As my friends might guess, I am not in total agreement with that thought. I respect it, as I respect the beliefs of all of my fellow believers, but I am not sold on the idea that God cares what I wear when I go to the building where we hold church services.
I grew up when “church clothes” were the norm. I treasure the memories of growing up in the church but, as I grow older, I find my faith becoming more contemplative. Spending quality time with God is much more important than going to church to be seen—yet I go to church almost every week.
I go to church to worship, teach, and fellowship. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing nice—I love wearing a tie or a button down. I like to dress nice but I wear nice clothes to work all week. So, dressing up for church isn’t putting on my best, it’s routine. Wearing a pair of nice jeans and a polo, for example, would be my special clothing because it is my favorite attire and I rarely get to wear it. So, putting on my best for church means something different to me.
In the conversation, we all agreed that it is about the heart and being respectful. Most things related to faith are about the heart, so that is no surprise. One person in the conversation, a pastor, pointed us to 1 Timothy 2:9 which I had not considered. It talks about dressing modestly. That’s a good point to remember.
Church is not a fashion show, a concert, a motivational speaker, or a private club where we hide from the world. If your choice of attire causes you, or your neighbor, to stumble then change clothes. For example, if you are wearing a nice sport coat, dress pants, and nice shoes (men’s shoes are expensive) and someone slides in next to you with worn looking jeans and a t-shirt you should not judge them—even if their shirt doesn’t have out of context scripture all over it.
What if that person IS wearing their best, or their only, clothes that day? For all you know, they may not even know where their next meal is coming from. They may be worried about how their family will eat that afternoon. Will you make them feel welcome or judged? If that “I can’t believe they wore that to church” glare you gave them makes them leave the church never to return, God is going to care about that a lot more than how much your shoes cost that morning.
It’s all about the heart. If you feel led to dress a little nicer, go for it. If church, to you, is about being seen then you have missed the point. Welcome everyone equally. I’m reminded of the story of the poor widow who gave the smallest denomination coin as her offering. The rich men, dressed in their church clothes, all snickered at her for giving so little. They tossed in their proper percentages with great show but it was the poor widow who was praised. Her gift came from her heart and it was her all. Their gift came out of obligation.
Wear whatever you wear to church in a humble and respectful manner. Do not boast and do not judge. Faith is about the heart, not obligation.