How Should Christians Dress?

As disciples of Jesus, shouldn’t we follow his example?

Though probably not literally.

Jesus, like most all men (and probably similarly for women) wore two basic garments: a tunic shirt and a cloak (outer garment).

My research indicates that the tunic was most typically like a poncho style – two pieces sewn together with holes for the head and arms. Some of these could be woven as a single garment rather than sewn (John 19:23-24)

Over this, the outer garment would be worn. These could have varied somewhat in size, style and color depending on wealth.

In the world of Jesus’ time, wealth was often represented by clothing in a couple of ways.

One was in the length of the garments. Most men wore their tunics around knee length which would have been appropriate for work. Farmers, fisherman, carpenters and the like would surely have worn them at this length.

Only wealthy and privileged men would have worn the longer garments.

At one point, Jesus criticizes the teachers of the law for wearing long, flowing garments that would command admiration and respect:

Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces

Mark 12:38

Evidently Jesus and his disciples did not wear the type of clothing that he criticizes here.

The outer garment – cloak, stole, coat – was typically fairly basic non dyed wool. Wealthy people could call attention to themselves by wearing a garment colored with expensive dyes.

Jesus seems quite unimpressed and uninterested in ‘fancy’ clothes.

Speaking in the context of John the Baptist (who wore some crazy camel hair clothes Elijah style), Jesus says:

If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.

Matthew 11:8

Those who wear ‘fine clothes’ are in kings palaces.

John – a great prophet – didn’t wear anything fancy.

Neither – to every indication – did Jesus.

He probably dressed like a good Jewish carpenter.

Also, someone like Paul who was an artisan, would have worn practical clothing.

Good enough for Jesus; good enough for me.

What might this mean for us as his disciples today? On the whole I find the takeaway to be, dress like an average, working class person.

There is little to be commended – spiritually speaking – to wearing anything that would be conceived as being ‘fancy’ on a regular basis.

There may be an exception for something like a wedding (Matt 22:11-12) but this equally likely refers to a cleaner, nicer version of something similar.

It should go without saying, but probably doesn’t, that this applies to preachers / ministers as well. After all, we aren’t more important than Jesus!

Some people’s workplaces may have particular clothing policies or expectations, but that’s another matter.

Can we wear fancy clothes? On the whole, I think we see the caution of being careful that we don’t try to impress people or portray wealth or ‘success’ with our clothing. Many of us may have the financial resources to buy just about whatever clothing we want, but many cannot.

This applies to both men and women.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes

1 Peter 3:3

Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

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