How should Christians dress for worship? This episode tackles the controversial question of what we should wear to worship. It addresses common opinions and justifications used to say we must dress up, examining problems like adding traditions as requirements, showing favoritism to the well-dressed, and binding personal convictions on others. Issues like legalism, stewardship, and unity are explored as they relate to this topic.
The discussion centers around biblical principles of modesty, humility, love, and avoiding distractions in our corporate worship. Concepts about the Restoration plea to focus on Scripture alone are emphasized. Perspectives are given to thoughtfully consider cultural norms and changes over time, while staying anchored in spiritual truths not bound to any time or place.
This episode was originally published on Chris McCurley’s Dear Church Podcast. Chris graciously allowed us to share it with you. We hope you enjoy this conversation and that it helps all of us learn to love like Jesus.
Links and Resources:
- Watch this episode on YouTube
- Chris McCurley’s Dear Church Podcast
- Chris McCurley preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ
Transcript (Credit: Beth Tabor)
WES: Welcome to the Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast. I’m your host, Wes McAdams. Here we have one goal: Learn to love like Jesus. Today’s Bible study was actually first aired on Chris McCurley’s Dear Church podcast, and if you’re not already subscribed to that podcast, I would encourage you to check that out, but Chris and I discussed the subject of what we wear to worship. Does it matter what we wear to worship? How should we think about the clothes that we wear? How should we talk about that? How should we think about what other people are wearing to worship? That’s an interesting subject. It might be a controversial subject, certainly one on which many people have opinions, but we wanted to dive into what scripture actually says about this topic.
I want to start today by reading 1 Timothy 2, starting in verse 8. “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.”
As always, I hope that this Bible study and this conversation helps all of us to love like Jesus.
CHRIS: Dear Church, let’s talk about what we wear to worship. Hello, and welcome to the Dear Church Podcast. I’m your host, Chris McCurley. My good friend, Wes McAdams, joining me today.
Wes, this might as well just be kind of a host/co‑host kind of arrangement, because whether it’s your podcast or my podcast, I feel like this happens often, and, honestly, I’d be okay if it happened more often.
WES: I like it. I like it. Sounds like a plan to me.
CHRIS: Yeah. Thanks so much for coming in. Hey, you’re pretty happy ‑‑ your wife is even happier ‑‑ because of the Rangers winning. I mean, that was exciting.
WES: No doubt, no doubt. We did not think it would happen, even up to the last, because we’ve been one strike away before, and until the game was over, we weren’t counting our chickens, for sure.
CHRIS: Exactly. So I grew up a Cardinals fan, still a Cardinals fan. Got closer to, you know, my roots by moving up here, and, you know, I remember well living in Texas, watching Nelson Cruz and cheering on the Cardinals as they beat the Rangers, you know. So we won’t bring that up.
WES: Yeah. Well, we’re finally at a place where we can almost talk about that, you know.
CHRIS: Yeah. And so your son’s still playing baseball. How’s that going?
WES: Yeah. No, he’s doing great. Yeah, he’s having a blast.
CHRIS: He’s not with the Rangers yet?
WES: No, but he imagines that the next time they’re in the World Series, he’ll be with them, so…
CHRIS: And your youngest son, Noah, he’s doing well?
WES: Yeah, he’s doing great. He’s in a play that he’s about to do, so, yeah, they’re both doing fantastic.
CHRIS: Fantastic. And Wes is at the Church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano. Work is going well there. I know you had a family conference recently. How are things at McDermott Road?
WES: Oh, they’re going great. We’re incredibly blessed. Great congregation. Just so, so blessed to be here.
CHRIS: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you taking time to come on the podcast. We jokingly said, before we got on here, that, you know, we’re not intending to stir the pot, but it’s probably going to be stirred. But this is a topic that I see come up every so often just on social media, as Christians, preachers, you know, they tend to, you know, have some real opinions about this topic. And I think that’s an important thing to point out, that it is opinion ‑‑ this is not doctrine ‑‑ and it’s about what we should wear to worship, a very polarizing topic. Don’t think it should be, but it is. So let’s just kind of start there. Why does this matter? Should it matter?
WES: You know, it’s funny you started with that idea of it being an opinion, and I’m perfectly okay with anyone who wears almost anything ‑‑ almost anything, within reason ‑‑ to worship, but I’m not okay with taking opinion and making it doctrine, and that’s what so many people have done, and that’s where my blood pressure goes up a little bit, is when we take our opinion and we make it doctrine, where we say, this is the way that it is, this is the way you have to do things, this is ‑‑ and we’ve done that over the last couple hundred years.
People don’t recognize, I think, that this is a fairly recent phenomenon, this idea of specifically dressing up for Christian worship. That’s not something that predates the Industrial Revolution. So with the Industrial Revolution, all of a sudden, people who were not people of means were able to dress like they were people of means, and they were able to dress up for certain events, but they really dressed up for almost every event. They dressed up ‑‑ we were talking about professional baseball. If you go back and you look at some of the pictures from the ’20s and ’30s, people were wearing suits and ties to baseball games.
So somewhere around mid‑1800s, this phenomenon ‑‑ maybe even late 1700s, this phenomenon became popular, first in Europe, then in the United States, with people wearing nice clothes to worship. And it’s interesting that, in the beginning, preachers really hammered how wrong it was to dress in the finest fashions to go to worship. Alexander Campbell was very negative against this. Most preachers were negative about this, this idea of wearing your finest clothes to come to worship, because it did not display the sort of humility that Christians were supposed to display. Christians are supposed to be humble people, and when we are putting on our finest jewelry and clothes to come to worship, nothing could be more contrary to the message we’re supposed to be embodying.
CHRIS: Yeah. I mean, if you go to other countries, do mission work ‑‑ I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I went to El Salvador and it was told to me, “Do not wear a suit and tie.” These are not people of means, and so, therefore, you adapt to the culture, and that’s really kind of what we’re talking about, right? I mean, it kind of has become a cultural thing. It’s been kind of passed down through the generations. I appreciate you bringing up the history of it.
But we’ve taken something that is kind of cultural and we’ve made it rather doctrinal, to an extent. And I hear it all the time, “Well, you know, Daddy always taught us,” or “Granddaddy always said, you know, you wear your best to worship.” But how do you really define that, right? How do we determine what our best is? Because I think that’s pretty fluid and, obviously, subjective, and I think that’s really where this kind of gets out of hand, right?
WES: Yeah. Well, that’s exactly right, and I think that ‑‑ I always jokingly say, “So if I own a tuxedo, should I wear that to Sunday worship?” Or, “If I could afford a tuxedo, should I wear that to Sunday worship?” And, of course, nobody would think that you should. Or if somebody is a millionaire, should they really purchase a $10,000 suit to wear? I mean, it could get really ridiculous, and it is subjective, but I think that one of the things that concerns me the most is that we’ve taken the clothes that we wear and we’ve made this a sixth act of worship, and we’ve said, “This is an offering to God.”
Well, we come from a fellowship that says you are not at liberty to invent your own acts of worship, so if you’re going to offer an offering to God, it needs to be something that the New Testament has authorized you to offer to God. That’s what we’ve always said, if not for the sake of what God expects or does not expect, but for the sake of unity. And so what we’ve done is we’ve said that what you wear is an offering to God and it is a part of your worship and that you are obligated to offer this act of worship of wearing your best clothes to the assembly, and we’ve added to scripture, and we’ve created not only an act of worship that’s not there in the New Testament, but we’ve added to the word of God.
And, again, one of the things I love about churches of Christ is that we say we speak where the Bible speaks and we’re silent where the Bible is silent. Well, the Bible says nothing about wearing your best clothes to worship. Certainly, we should give the best of ourselves to God, but that’s not something that’s limited to the assembly. That’s not something that’s limited to what we do in formal worship. This is ‑‑ it’s talking about our life. Our life, our entire body, Romans 12, is an offering to God. So the idea that the clothes that we wear is some sort of a sacrifice of worship or a sacrifice of praise, it’s just something that the New Testament says absolutely nothing about, so we need to be really careful with that idea.
CHRIS: In fact, the only time we read in the New Testament anything about wearing your best to worship, it’s with James, saying don’t, or be careful. Be careful about wearing your best to worship because it brings undue attention to yourself. And, you know, a lot of this is reminiscent ‑‑ you said, you know, what kind of makes your blood pressure rise. What bothers me about it is it’s very reminiscent of the Mishnah and the law.
WES: Yes, right.
CHRIS: You know, the Pharisees and the scribes, you know, they had the law and then they had the oral traditions, and these oral traditions were kind of fence laws, or hedge laws, around The Law, and maybe came from a good place. You know, they just wanted to make sure that they weren’t even butting up close to anything that would be a violation of the law. But at the same time, they became burdensome. These fence laws became things that were just illogical, unreasonable, silly, and they came up with all sorts of restrictions and boundaries. But the biggest problem was that these oral traditions didn’t come from God and yet they were elevated to the same level as scripture, and I think we do that. I think we do it with other things, but I think some, not all ‑‑ some have certainly done that with this particular topic, don’t you think?
WES: Well, that’s exactly right, and that’s what Jesus was condemning, was the idea of taking a tradition, which in and of itself may not be wrong, but when you take that tradition, and because you’re trying to honor your tradition you violate what God actually told you to do ‑‑ for instance, they had this tradition of Corban, and they had this way of devoting their finances, their belongings to the temple, to God. And then when their elderly parents came along and said, “I need you to take care of me,” they said, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. All of my stuff belongs to the Lord.” They were violating the commandments of God for the sake of their tradition.
And we do the same thing. As you pointed out with James, James is very harsh on the church who is playing favorites towards those who are dressed in fine clothing. Or Paul talks to Timothy about how women need to not wear braided hair and gold and jewelry. And so the New Testament has a lot to say about what we wear or the favoritism we play towards those who wear fine clothing, and we end up, for the sake of this tradition, violating the very commandments that God’s given us, so we need to be very careful. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a suit and tie, necessarily, but if you play favorites towards the guy in the suit and tie versus the guy wearing jeans and a t‑shirt, then you have violated the word of God for the sake of your tradition, and that’s exactly what Jesus said not to do.
CHRIS: Yeah, and it breeds ‑‑ this opinion breeds all sorts of justifications, right? And all sorts of ways in order to justify the doctrine, if you will. And so some of the things that I’ve heard, and I’d like you to speak to. So somebody says, well, you know, you wear a suit and tie to a wedding, you wear a suit and tie to a funeral, so you’re going to honor the deceased, or you’re going to honor the groom and the bride more than you’re going to honor God by not wearing a suit and tie to worship? You wear a suit and tie to work, but you won’t wear a suit and tie to worship. What would you say to that?
WES: It’s such a great question, but I think that it ignores the fact that we worship at more times than just in the Sunday assembly. If I pray right now, I’m worshiping. If I pray while ‑‑ you’re a big fisherman. If you pray while you’re out in the boat, you’re worshiping God. I mean, you could sing a song while you’re out in the boat or while you’re doing lawn work or a farmer’s out on his tractor and he’s praying. Would anybody tell him, “No, no, no, I’m sorry, Mr. Farmer, sir, you’re not wearing the right clothes to come before God. You need to wait until you get home and you can put on your very best clothes before you can pray. You’re not allowed to go into the presence of God and pray if you’re wearing your work clothes.” Well, of course, nobody would say that.
And so we tend to dress for the people that are around us. We understand, I think ‑‑ I think we understand, in spite of the arguments we use sometimes, that God looks at the inward man. He’s not concerned with whether or not we’re wearing fancy clothes. God is not concerned with that. We dress ‑‑ whether it’s a wedding or it’s work or it’s whatever, we dress to respect the people that we’re around and to respect the sort of situation that we’re in. If we’re working, we wear work clothes. If we’re going to a ballgame, we wear ballgame clothes. But none of that ‑‑ none of that prevents us from going into the throne room of God because of what God in Christ has done for us. Because of Jesus, I am clothed in white robes. Whether I’m wearing jeans and a t‑shirt or not, I’m clothed in the white robes that Jesus has made white by his blood.
And so we need to recognize not only the inconsistency of what we’re saying, but the theological implications of what we’re saying when we say that the outward clothes that we wear prevent us from going into the throne room of God. That’s an idea that the New Testament simply doesn’t support.
CHRIS: No, I agree. And one that I hear quite often, maybe you have as well, that plays off of what you just said is, well, you know, the Old Testament priest ‑‑ you look at the ephod and you look at what they were required to wear when they came in the presence of the Almighty. It’s the same concept when you come over to the New Testament. And, of course, I immediately respond by saying, you know, when we talk to someone of a different faith about instrumental music, and they say something to the effect of, well, they used them in the Old Testament, they used them in the Psalms, they used them in the Old Testament in worship, and you say, yeah, but ‑‑ our argument is, yeah, but that was the Old Testament; all we’re concerned about is New Testament worship.
So we’re doing the same thing that we chastise someone else for doing when it comes to like an issue of musical instruments, or whatever it is, drawing from the Old Testament when we should be concerned about New Testament worship. It’s the same kind of argument, isn’t it?
WES: Yeah, well, that’s exactly right. I think that when we take the symbolic temple worship that represents what’s going on in Christ for us, and then we take that and then we try to justify what we want to do ‑‑ because at the end of the day, people want to wear what they want to wear to worship, and some people want to wear jeans and a t‑shirt, and some people want to wear a suit and a tie, and I understand that, but then when we go to scripture and we make bad arguments to support what we want to do, we don’t understand that we’re undermining our own hermeneutics. We’re undermining the gospel, at some point, and so I think that ‑‑ it’s fine; if you want to wear a suit and tie, fantastic. But don’t try to say that God has prescribed this.
God was very specific with the priests about what they needed to wear and he prescribed those priestly garments because they were symbolic. Now, God hasn’t prescribed a suit and tie, so if you want to say, well, all priests need to follow the Levitical regulations on clothing, well, then that means all of us are going to have to wear, specifically, the priestly garments that were prescribed in Leviticus, not a suit and tie. That’s not a one‑to‑one equivalent any more than some of the other things that people want to justify. So, again, it’s not necessarily that people want to wear a little bit nicer clothes on Sunday morning. Fantastic. But don’t abuse scripture and twist and pervert scripture in order to do that, especially when we catch ourselves, like you said, accusing others of wrongdoing when they use the Old Testament temple worship to support what they want to do. We’re doing the exact same thing, and it’s really a double standard that so many times is used.
CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. You know, I’ve been accused more than once of being a little too relaxed in my dress as a preacher. You know, there is a contingent of folks out there who believe that the preacher should be wearing a suit and tie every time he gets up in front of the congregation. Maybe on Sunday night he just takes off the tie or maybe just removes the jacket but leaves everything else. And, you know, I come from West Texas, where ‑‑ I spent 14 years there. It’s 180 degrees in the summertime. I never saw any sense in wearing an undershirt, a long‑sleeved shirt, a tie, and a jacket to preach in and just sweat to death. So part of it, for me, was just comfortability and being able to breathe, right? I don’t wear a tie. I’m not saying that I never would, I just ‑‑ I don’t wear a tie. My elders here don’t hold me to that. You know, they didn’t at Oldham Lane, either. Sometimes I wear a jacket, you know, depending on the weather, but most of the time, I dress nice; I just don’t wear a suit and a tie, and that has been a source of concern for some, I guess, over the years.
But, also, another reason for me was, when living in Abilene and I did the television program, we would have people come through quite often to visit our congregation because they saw the television program, and I would dress like this to do the TV show because I felt like I’m trying to reach a wider audience that may not be as formal. And they would come to church and they wouldn’t be dressed in a suit and tie, and I realized that they were pretty intimidated by that. And so I thought, you know, I’m gonna split the difference here. You know, I’m certainly not gonna be in my pajamas. You know, that would be the most comfortable. But at the same time, I’m not gonna put on a suit and tie. I’m gonna split the difference. I’m gonna look nice, but I’m also gonna be, you know, a little less formal so that I am more approachable. I know you’ve kind of taken on the same kind of mentality.
WES: Yeah. Well, I think that that’s exactly the mentality that we should have, that you’re really dressing not just for your comfort, but, more importantly, for the comfort of other people, to not make them uncomfortable, to not make them feel unwelcome. And I think that’s exactly where we have to realize that the New Testament is really concerned about unity. Whether it’s James or Paul, they’re concerned about the unity of the church, and the fact that we have this natural tendency to have a pecking order based on socioeconomic status, where the rich people are at the top and the poor people are at the bottom ‑‑ we do the exact same thing now that they did in the first century. And when we do that sort of thing, then poor people feel unwelcome in our assemblies. If there’s anybody who should feel welcome, it’s the poor, it’s the hurting, it’s the marginalized. Those people should feel the most welcome.
If you really read the New Testament, rich people should feel a little bit uncomfortable here. Rich people should feel convicted. Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom. And so that’s not to say it’s impossible, because Jesus says everything is possible with the Lord, but there should be some discomfort. And so poor people should come into our assembly and say, “These are my people. I feel blessed.” Blessed are the poor. That’s what Jesus says, and so they should feel like this is a place where I can learn and I know that these people love me and I’m welcome. If they walk in and they say, “I don’t fit in here. These are not my people. This group of people really are looking down on me and I’m not welcome,” then we have not done our job and we have not presented ourselves the way that the gospel teaches us to present ourselves.
So it’s less about what sort of clothes does God expect us to wear, because God has prescribed nothing other than don’t be ostentatious, you know, don’t put on airs. But it’s more about what will communicate the fact that we love people and that they’re welcome in our assembly.
CHRIS: Yeah, very true. And you mentioned something earlier that I want to go back to, and that is this cultural aspect. Like, you know, in the ’30s, people would wear ‑‑ men would wear a suit and tie to a ballgame, and a hat. You know, it used to be that you dressed up to travel on an airplane. You know, that was kind of the cultural standard, you know, and things have changed. And if there’s one thing I think I know about the church, we don’t do a real good job of adapting and adjusting, overall. We have a hard time with changing anything. We tend to live in the past. I mean, let’s be honest; we tend to do that. And this is one of those aspects that we have to kind of pivot because this is just not the culture anymore. It used to be, and if you attended a church growing up where everyone wore a suit and tie and that was the expectation and it was the unified front that you had there, then great, fantastic. You know, it’s not a source of doctrine, but it was a source of keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, and fantastic. But one thing that is true today is that’s not the case, that our culture is changing.
I was in Missouri last week doing a gospel meeting and I was staying with an elder friend of mine in Cassville where I first ‑‑ my first preaching job, and my friend there is president and CEO of a bank and we had breakfast together every morning. His wife cooked us breakfast, and we’re sitting there at the table and he had on a polo. And I said, have you given up the suit and tie? And he goes, “Yeah.” He said, “I got tired of fighting it.” He said, “Our employees were saying, ‘Can we just get rid of the tie? Can we go to polos?’ And the customers even were like, ‘Y’all are still wearing ties?'” And he said, “I just ‑‑ I had to adapt and adjust because that’s the culture today.” And it really is, overall, and that’s much to the chagrin of some folks who came from a generation where you always dressed up in a suit and tie, but at the same time, you’ve got to be able to pivot. You’ve got to be able to say, you know, that worked for the time, or that was kind of the overall cultural mindset, but it’s not anymore.
WES: Well, I think that so many people will hear what we’re saying and say, “Well, you’re just acquiescing to the culture. You’re allowing the culture to shape you. I can’t believe you’re talking about giving into the culture.” What they don’t realize is they’ve already done that, that the reason that they feel like they should wear a suit and tie is because culture told them to do that, not because God told them to do that. They didn’t get that from scripture. They got that ‑‑ even the idea of giving their best clothes to God or wearing their best to worship, that didn’t come from scripture; that came from culture. And so we have already acquiesced to culture, and some of that is inevitable. It is part of our American 21st century culture to wear certain clothes. We don’t wear robes, we don’t wear tunics, we don’t wear togas. I mean, there’s so many things that are culturally appropriate and culturally inappropriate.
And so just as there has been a shift in clothing because of cultural changes and cultural norms over the last 200 years, that’s going to continue to shift. And when we try to conserve or preserve culture, we can find ourselves, again, violating the principles and commands that God has given us in order to try to be conservative of cultural norms. We should try to preserve and conserve the Biblical mandates that we have but not try to preserve cultural norms. There’s no sense in trying to hold on to 1950s America. By trying to preserve 1950s America, we are not preserving New Testament Christianity. New Testament Christianity predates all of those things. So we have to try to be really careful of what we’re trying to preserve and what we’re willing to let go of because it’s no longer appropriate, given our changing culture.
CHRIS: Yeah, totally agree. And I think it boils down to authority, and you’ve said this many times already, but I hear this quite often. “Daddy said,” “Granddaddy always taught us.” Those who know my story know I wouldn’t be here today if I had just defaulted to everything Granddaddy said. I questioned my upbringing, which is why I’m here today. And while Daddy and Granddaddy had some really good things to say and probably some really good precepts to pass along, you know, they would have to adapt and adjust just like anybody else because that’s what’s required, right, to live in a society, to function well, to be successful. And, certainly, when it comes to the church, there are great things that our parents taught us, but you still have to adapt and adjust, and if they were still alive today, they would have to do that, as well. And so remembering who the authority is ‑‑ you’ve said it. It’s scripture and it’s God, and that really sets the precedence for all this, right? Because if it’s not binding in scripture, then some other person, no matter how much we respect, shouldn’t be binding it, either.
WES: Yeah. That’s really the beauty of, I think, the Restoration Movement is that idea that says, in spite of how we grew up, in spite of the traditions that were passed down to us, in spite of what other people may say, in spite of religious tradition, we’re gonna go back to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles and we’re gonna try to figure out what did Jesus, what did the apostles teach followers of Jesus to do in the first century, and we’re gonna do our best to follow that, not only for the sake of pleasing God, but for the sake of unity. And that’s always been the plea, the vision of the Restoration Movement. That’s what I love about the Restoration Movement.
So when we take these kinds of things and we treat this like it’s gospel, and we say, well, but my parents said X, Y, and Z, or my grandparents said X, Y, and Z, or if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me, it’s like that is antithetical to the Restoration Movement and the Restoration plea of let’s get back to what did Jesus and the apostles teach us to do? And, sorry, wearing your best to worship is not part of New Testament teaching. You can sort of do that sometimes as long as you’re not violating the principles of scripture, but when you try to bind that on someone else and tell somebody that that’s doctrine, you have gone beyond what is written in scripture. And for the sake of pleasing God and the sake of unity of the church, we’ve got to stop talking like that.
CHRIS: Absolutely. And there is a sense which we can absolutely shoot ourselves in the foot here. And I take the approach that “I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here.” So first and foremost, more than anything else, more than what you wear or anything else ‑‑ like you said, what we wear can be a distraction. Obviously, there is a logical and a reasonable stance here. So given that, “I’m glad you’re here, and I certainly don’t want to run you off because you didn’t live up to some preconceived standard that I had for you when it comes to what you wear.” I mean, is that really what we want to be about? Is that really the message that we want to send, or are we just grateful that you are here to worship God and to fellowship with the saints?
WES: Yeah. I mean, that’s James’ whole point is that if you ‑‑ if you make someone unwelcome because of what they’re wearing, then you’ve sinned against them. You’ve showed partiality. You’re not acting with the character of God, and so we’ve got to be very careful. And, of course, we can go so far the other way, that someone who is more traditional or, you know, grew up with a certain mindset and shows up in a suit and tie, that they feel unwelcome, and we don’t want that, either. But we want to make sure that we’re not trying to look at people’s heart and judge their motives based on their clothes. We’re welcoming everyone regardless of their background, regardless of their culture. And I like the saying ‑‑ people say, “Well, what’s the dress code?” And somebody says, “It’s clothes. Like just wear clothes. Like that’s the dress code.”
And yes, of course, we have to make sure that what we’re wearing doesn’t distract people one way or the other, but that can go so far the other direction, that when we’re dressing ‑‑ we often say “Dress to impress.” When we dress to impress ‑‑ if you’re impressed with your own clothes, you need to change. Like that’s a problem, because pride ‑‑ pride is one of the biggest problems that we deal with. And so if you’re proud of what you’re wearing and you hope other people notice it, then you need to change your clothes. The last place in the world you should wear that is to the worship assembly. I’d argue you probably shouldn’t wear that anywhere.
WES: Like we shouldn’t be dressing to impress ourselves or impress other people. And when we are proud of the way we look, that’s the real danger here. That’s even a bigger danger than, oh, well, we’re being too casual or we’re being too flippant. If we’re being too proud, that’s the real problem.
CHRIS: Yeah, totally agree. And I think there might be some who are listening to this podcast, thinking, well, what about the young lady that wears immodest clothing or revealing clothing and things of that nature? I’ve even had an older gentleman, many years ago, say, “When are you gonna preach on modesty?” And I thought, “Well, I mean, you know, we can certainly do that. What did you have in mind?” And come to find out, his idea of modesty was every woman should wear dresses down to their ankles and men should all wear suit and ties. That was his idea of modesty. So, you know, even that is a very subjective topic, and I think that that’s really at the heart of this, right? Is recognizing the subjectivity of it, that it’s a self‑imposed standard.
And you have to understand ‑‑ we can all recognize the extremes, right? If somebody’s wearing a bikini to church or, you know, something like that, obviously, that’s going to be something that draws attention and that’s not good. But all those extremes set aside, we have to understand the subjectivity of it and understand that, as Christians, we are not the fashion police. It’s not our job to police everyone else and how they dress or even how they behave, right?
WES: Yeah. Well, that’s exactly right. And I think that the idea of modesty has multiple different applications. It essentially means to be humble, wear humble clothes. When Paul talks about modesty in I Timothy 2 and he’s talking about women wearing modest clothing, he’s not talking about chaste clothing. He’s not talking about what we think of as suggestive or revealing clothing. He’s talking about not wearing braided hair, not wearing gold and jewelry. Like that’s what he meant by modesty.
Now, modesty also applies to those who are wearing revealing clothing, but, again, it comes back to pride. If you’re trying to show off your wealth or show off how religious you are or show off your body, then you’re not being modest. If you’re showing anything off, if you’re trying to impress people with your body or you’re trying to impress people with ‑‑ even men wearing a shirt that’s too tight so that it shows their muscles, that’s immodest because you’re trying to impress people. You’re trying to show how strong you are. Anytime we’re trying to show off for people, even if it’s trying to show how pious we are by our clothing, all of those things are immodest. And so the person who wears the suit and tie and who dresses to the nines and wears their Easter suit or their Easter dress, they very well might be immodest because they’re trying to show off and impress people with how seriously they take this and how upstanding of a citizen they are or what a great Christian they are. That’s immodest.
And so we need to recognize that anything that’s trying to impress people, anything that is trying to show off is immodest, and we need to be humble, both in our internal attitude and in how we display ourselves and present ourselves.
CHRIS: No doubt. And it begins to bleed over into a stewardship issue, because to wear my best ‑‑ okay. So I’m going to spend an exorbitant amount of money to dress in ‑‑ I mean, because your best would be like an Armani suit, I would think, and a Rolex and things like that. I mean, you get into some really ‑‑ some really dicey sections of scripture that talk about stewardship and talk about things of that nature because now we’re looking at, okay, well, is this the best use of my money, to buy things that looks so nice so that I can dress to the nines, like you said, and come to worship? And whether that’s to impress God or impress other people, is that really the best use of my funds and things of that nature? So, I mean, it bleeds over and causes all sorts of other issues.
But let’s take this and wrap it all up and put a bow on it. So if we’re concluding this, where should we land, Wes? Where do we land on this? Everything we’ve said, let’s put it all together here and boil it all down.
WES: I think it comes back to speaking where scripture speaks and being silent where scripture’s silent. I think it comes back to what has God told us to do? What has God told us that he wants? Well, God has always told his people what he wants: To love mercy, to do justice, to walk humbly with him. That’s what God wants. God wants pure and undefiled religion. Care for the widows, care for the orphans, keep yourself unstained from the world. Welcome one another without favoritism. These are the kinds of things that God wants. That’s giving your best to God.
So if somebody says, “God wants us to give our best to him,” I say, “Amen and amen.” And what he wants is your best. He wants a sacrifice of praise. He wants your praise. He wants your heart, and he wants you to care for your neighbors. He wants you to welcome people into your assembly. He wants you to not show favoritism. So that’s ‑‑ those are the things that we need to focus on. That’s what it looks like to give God your best. Giving God your best is not about wearing an Armani suit and a Rolex watch. Again, to your point, where does that stop? Why stop at clothes? Why not, well, are you driving your best car to worship? Because I think you could afford a better car. Why don’t you upgrade your car so you can really give God your best car to come to worship? I would dare to suggest that, as you pointed out, what God wants us to do with our finances probably is more about caring for the widows and orphans, taking care of your brothers and sisters that can’t feed their families. How about you share with them rather than upgrading your clothes, your wardrobe, your watch, your car, and care for your neighbors? That’s giving God your best, by serving others, by loving one another as God has loved you in Christ. That’s giving God your best more than the clothes that we wear.
Yes, in a practical sense, show respect. Show respect for people. When you show up to anyplace, show respect. Don’t try to impress people. Don’t try to make people feel like they don’t live up to your standard. Don’t try to draw attention to yourself. Show respect to people. Dress in a way that doesn’t bring attention to yourself. But at the end of the day, giving God your best is more about what you do on Monday through Saturday than it is how you dress on Sunday.
CHRIS: Absolutely. And don’t bind it. You want to wear a suit and tie? Fantastic. But where you’ve crossed the line is when you bind that on someone else and you make that subjective standard a doctrinal stance.
Wes, thank you so much for coming on, and I want our viewers and listeners to know ‑‑ I’m sure they do already because we have a lot of people who comment on our podcast about Wes’s. He’s got the Bible Study Podcast. You can find it at RadicallyChristian.com. Great website for blogs, posts, and articles. Obviously, you can go back to McDermott Road’s website and you can watch past sermons, as well. There’s a lot of sermon archives there that will do you well.
Wes, anything else you want to plug that you’re doing right now? We want to highlight the good here, so anything else going on that you’d like to tell us about?
WES: No. I just want to say I appreciate you, Chris. Thanks for this conversation. Thanks for your willingness to tackle subjects, and thanks for your work in the kingdom, Brother.
CHRIS: Absolutely. Well, thank you for the same thing, Wes. The feeling’s mutual.
And thank you all for tuning in. If you have a specific question for this episode, or any episode, really, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a specific question for Wes, we’ll forward it to him and I’m sure he’d be glad to answer, and we just thank you so much for tuning in. Wes, thank you for being with me.
WES: Thanks, Brother.
CHRIS: Until next time, may the Lord bless you and keep you.