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by Pastor Jack Lash

The Bible doesn’t give us a dress code for church. In fact, there is hardly anything said in the New Testament about the issue. The one passage which does address the subject is 1Timothy 2:8-10: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”

Some Christians think you should always dress up for church. But the only passage about how to dress for church warns us about dressing too fancy, not about not dressing fancy enough.

Respectable apparel, modesty and self-control, not fussing over one’s hair or jewelry or fancy clothes. God doesn’t want us giving lots of time and attention and money to decorating ourselves so we look just right. Instead the Lord wants us to focus our attention on adorning ourselves with good works. These are the only things Christ tells us about how he wants his people to dress for church.

The main issue, of course, is the intention of the heart: Who are you dressing for? What are you after? What message do you want to send? The fact is that though there is no right way to dress for church, there is a right attitude in dressing for church, a right demeanor to reflect, a right heart to be reflected by the choice of clothing and countenance.

Some of the young ladies in our church have at times slipped their shoes off during the worship service. Some have even sung up front or played the piano barefoot. Some thought this was inappropriate. What does the Bible say? The only time the Bible makes reference to shoes in the presence of God is when God commands Moses to take off his sandals because he is on holy ground. According to this pattern, maybe we should all remove our shoes in church!

My daughter lived with a Christian family in Switzerland while she was learning French. Their church considered it showy to dress up for church. One should dress humbly when humbling oneself before God. Now the Bible doesn’t teach that idea either, but it’s just as valid as the person who believes you should dress up for church. Each of these principles is fine, as long as we follow them ourselves as our own convictions but don’t impose them on others as if the Bible commands it (see Romans 14).

The Bible makes it clear that those set free by Christ need not buy into manmade rules which people impose on themselves and others, which have to do with outward things like foods, special holidays, unclean things and one kind of people better than another kind of people. The fact is that ties are not more holy than T-shirts. Dresses are not more holy than pants. Suits are not more holy than blue jeans. Dress shoes are not more holy than bare feet. Earrings are not more holy than nose rings. Beyond the things said in 1Timothy 2:8-10, the way we dress in worship doesn’t make any difference to God. We are no more acceptable to Him dressed in our worst than in our best, as long as we’ve done it to His glory and in love for others.

Does dressing casually reflect a diminished view of God’s holiness? God forbid. If dressing our best conveys the holiness of God, then I say: Let’s all wear tuxedos to church! But this is just not what the Bible teaches. God wants us, even commands us, to enter His presence with a keen sense of His holiness, even to the point at one time of executing those who treat His holiness lightly (Lev.10:1-3). But He never suggests that this attitude has anything to do with how we dress.