What should we wear to church?


I have read through your Bible study on appearance. I was surprised that the issue of Sunday dress wasn’t covered.   In this day and age of casual business dress, it is less and less rare to see men without suit and tie. What is the scriptural answer to this?


The Bible Course on the Christian’s Appearance deals with modest dress. There are several aspects to consider about other matters of proper dress for church.

First, Jesus condemned the religious leaders who walked around in their fancy religious garb. Luke 20:46, 47 says, “Beware of the scribes, which DESIRE TO WALK IN LONG ROBES, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.” Matthew 23:5 says, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: THEY MAKE BROAD THEIR PHYLACTERIES, AND ENLARGE THE BORDERS OF THEIR GARMENTS.” Some people dress up to impress people with their position (wearing the long robes and making the phylacteries extra wide — much like the garb worn at graduations). God condemns dressing up in such a way to impress people, because that is a matter of pride.

A second thing to consider is that it is wrong to show disdain for the poor, and it is often their clothes that reveal their financial condition. James 2:1-9 says, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also A POOR MAN IN VILE RAIMENT; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?   But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

There are two important things to consider in this matter of the poor. First, being poor is not an excuse for being immodest. Good Will or the Salvation Army or Garage Sales are sources for inexpensive clothing, but some shopping is necessary to find modest clothes. Secondly, a poor person can still wear clean clothes, even though they may not be fancy. Exodus 19:10, 11 says, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and LET THEM WASH THEIR CLOTHES, And be ready against the third day: for the third day THE LORD WILL COME DOWN in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.” It is not right to dress-up to go to church just to impress other people, but it is right to put on some clean, modest clothes to go worship before the Lord.

The casual dress emphasis of churches today is not a financial issue, but a spiritual issue. Churches today are building huge, multimillion dollar facilities that are carpeted, air-conditioned, and outfitted with the latest in high-tech electronics. Are those churches built by the poor? No, they are built with money (or pledges) from the middle-class (or above).   Why is then this emphasis today on casual attire for church such a hot issue? It is rare when a contemporary church’s advertisement does not contain something about casual attire. The reason is our lack of teaching the fear of God today. God is not someone to fear today — He is just everyone’s good buddy.

Church services today, for the most part, do not teach the fear of God; instead, they are geared for the pleasure of man. When Rick Warren changed from hymns to contemporary music, he did not quote one Scripture verse guiding his decision. Instead, he took a poll of his congregation. 96-97% of them listened to pop-rock, so he changed the services to rock music. Thus, he made a decision based upon pleasing his people — not based upon pleasing God.

Rick Warren also found out that his congregation like to dress-down on the weekend, because their jobs required them to dress-up all week long. Is that not strange? That God’s people would honor their bosses above God? They will dress-up all week long for their bosses and for the sake of making money and putting across a good image to their customers, but when it comes to God and church, people want to have it their own way. But that is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Psalms 89:7 says, “God is GREATLY TO BE FEARED IN THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SAINTS, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.” God was not created for our pleasure — we were created for His. Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and FOR THY PLEASURE THEY ARE AND WERE CREATED.”

Some people dress-up fancy to impress people at church — they are wrong.   Some people dress-down when they go to church, because it’s the weekend, and they are going to relax and no one is going to tell them what to do (meaning they are not going to go to a church where they get “preached at”) — they are also wrong. Other people dress-up (meaning they put on some clean, decent clothes) because they are going to worship God — they are Scripturally right. Exodus 19:10, 11 says, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and LET THEM WASH THEIR CLOTHES, And be ready against the third day: for the third day THE LORD WILL COME DOWN in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.”