Growing up, I was raised to dress very conservatively at church.
Not only was my grandfather a preacher, but we also attended a church that was pretty legalistic.
I remember, in middle school, judging the girls whose skirts didn’t extend below their knees. Didn’t they know that wearing skirts that hit right above the knee made them look “available??”(for lack of a better word).
I was absolutely stunned the first time we attended a different church and one of the girls was wearing short shorts. This was church! Why wasn’t she dressed in her Sunday best??
Even now, as a grown-up, I have a difficult time not dressing up for church.
I’ve worn jeans a handful of times–when I was majorly pregnant and that was the only thing that fit–but that’s about it. It’s just habit. I don’t particularly care what anyone else is wearing, but I feel weird if I don’t dress up at least a little.
I stopped thinking much about it–figured it was mostly a matter of personal preference–until I spoke with some other Christians who were pretty passionate about the topic. So I figured I’d better address the issue as well.
Does God Care What You Wear to Church? Well… Yes and No.
Honestly, I think “What is appropriate to wear to church?” is the wrong question. Not only does it completely miss the point, but when you try to narrow down exactly what styles/cuts/fits/lengths are and are not appropriate, you’re pretty much guaranteed to wind up in a legalistic mess. Plus, it doesn’t take into account various circumstances and situations.
- The divorced man who is finally ready to attend church for the first time in years, but the nicest thing he owns is a pair of ripped up jeans and a wrinkly old t-shirt. Should he not come?
- The party girl who is fed up with her current lifestyle and ready to make a change, but the nicest thing in her closet is still pretty risque. Should she not come?
- The tired mom who barely made it out of the house, who didn’t have the energy for yet another clothing battle this morning. Should she not come?
- The family who is desperately struggling to make ends meet, but who has chosen to tithe faithfully even if it means they go without nice clothes. Should they not come?
The truth is, wearing nice clothes doesn’t make you a better Christian, or more holy, or any of that nonsense. In fact, wearing nice clothes may even interfere with our ability to be good little Christians when it steals our focus or makes others uncomfortable.
I love how Pamela Hodges writes in her article, Today was Easter and I almost didn’t go to church. You might be surprised why:
“When we met Jesus in the long line to get into heaven, he won’t be asking us, “Did you wear a pastel Easter dress to church on Sunday?””
How sad to think that people all over the country miss out on church every Sunday simply because they don’t have the “right” clothes to wear!
Furthermore, NOT wearing nice clothes can actually be the most loving thing to do sometimes, as Amy Reasoner points out in her thought-provoking post, Why I’m wearing the same thing I wore last Easter (and it’s not a dress):
“That’s when it hit me – Easter is also a Sunday when people who do not regularly attend church are most likely to set foot through your doors. And I knew in that moment that if someone visited our church in jeans on Easter, I most certainly didn’t want them to be the only one.” And she’s a pastor’s wife!
Or consider 1 Samuel 16:7, which says:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
BUT, the truth is, there is a big difference between someone who comes to church in clothes that aren’t as nice because they don’t have the time, energy or money and someone who comes to church in clothes that aren’t as nice because they are lazy.
And honestly, don’t most of us fall into that second category more often than we’d like to admit?
We don’t think about preparing for Sunday (or Saturday night, depending on when you go to church) until it gets here, and so when church time rolls around, we pretty much grab whatever we can find that’s reasonably clean and head out the door.
I know I’ve worn a shirt with a stain on it on more than one occasion because, for some reason, Sunday morning is the ONLY time I ever remember that all of my white shirts that match the skirts that still fit my big, pregnant belly have stains on them…
(For the record, the issue has since been remedied…)
We dress up for date nights with our husbands. We dress up for back to school night to meet our children’s teachers. We dress up to impress our friends when we get a girls’ night out. But it’s too much to ask to dress up for one hour a week to meet with the King of Kings?
Again, not that dress matters–it doesn’t–but it just shows where our heart is at.
When you go to church, do you treat it as something special, something sacred? Or is it just another day?
Do you prepare your heart ahead of time, or do you just show up? Do you remember that you’re meeting the King of Kings, or is it just another thing on your to-do list? When you get dressed, are you thinking about what will make YOU look good and draw attention to you, or are you thinking about the One you are there to see?
THESE are the questions we need to be asking ourselves. And when we do, appropriate dress will follow.
So, personally, I’m going to keep wearing long maxi-skirts with white t-shirts and flip flops. It’s dressed up enough to be nice, but not so dressed up that it would be uncomfortable or distracting. It’s modest and it’s practical (I can walk, kneel, stand, chase children etc without worry).
And when I see other people wearing things I maybe wouldn’t pick, I’m not going to judge. I’m just going to think “I’m glad you’re here” and know that God is too. Even if they’re wearing short shorts. Because I don’t know their heart or their circumstances. Only God does.