Biblical Standards & Personal Convictions: Clothing

Christians often have personal convictions about things that seem biblical.

But sometimes they aren’t really grounded in the Bible itself.

It’s also important to note that it’s not (usually) bad to have personal convictions that aren’t totally rooted in widely applicable biblical truth.

But, we need to be clear in where our values lie as we live them out and communicate them to others.

We can do damage when we enforce our personal convictions on others.  

We can also do damage when we deny, downplay or mock others’ convictions.

One issue that I’ve recently been discussing with people is the subject of how we should dress when we gather together for what we call our worship gatherings – usually on Sundays.

This idea has become so culturally rooted well beyond the church world that we have a phrase relating to wearing our ‘Sunday best.’

The idea that we should wear our best clothes for our Sunday worship is simply taken for granted among many Christians.

The thing is, as far as I can see, this nice idea of wearing our best when we gather has pretty much zero support from the New Testament.

When we look at the Bible, the only aspects of clothing that seem to be mentioned (besides modesty!) are concerns about people being dressed in clothes that are too fancy!

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10

This is interesting.  It seems that some women in the early church were dressing in such a way as to call attention to themselves, which is not a particularly spiritual value.

But consider this for a moment…if these women were instructed to put on their ‘Sunday best,’ couldn’t they reasonably assume that their most expensive (nicest) clothes and good jewelry would be that ‘best?’

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”   1 Peter 3:2-5

Now, realizing the context of these concerns, and the reality that neither Paul nor Peter is writing a permanent worship handbook, we needn’t take any of this too far.

But I can’t help calling it like I see it when I say that the only concerns in the New Testament relate to people dressing up too much.  Never (that I can see) being too casual.

My point here is not to tell you to put away your tie and your nice shoes.

The point is that if something is not a biblically rooted value, we should not expect it of others universally.

That’s the biblical values part.

Now the personal conviction.

Several people whom I’ve conversed with have shared with me that that dressing in a particular way helps them bring the most focus and Godward affection and adoration to the church’s time gathered together.

That’s great.  We should not judge anyone for doing so.

Nor should we judge someone for wearing jeans.

Because this isn’t a biblical issue.  It’s a matter of personal – and perhaps cultural – preference.

We can take this even deeper perhaps by considering not only ourselves focused on worship, but also considering the others we gather with.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”      Romans 12:10

Here’s a wild idea to consider:  If you notice that several people who gather with you choose to dress differently – either a bit more formal or more casual – maybe honor them by dressing a bit more to their taste once in a while.  If you’re a jeans guy, pull one of those ties out of the closet a couple times a year.   If you’re a coat and tie person, go with a polo shirt once in awhile.

If I knew a bit more about women’s fashion, I’d make some recommendations there too.  🙂

It’s good to stand for biblical truth.

And there’s nothing wrong with having personal convictions.

What we need to avoid is morphing those personal convictions into ethical standards.

But the best opportunity we have is to love and honor God AND each other.

Grace and truth.


Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

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