“Well there he goes again, enforcing a dress code on us.”  Perhaps that is the first reaction some have when they read the title of this article.  So let me begin by dispelling that thought.  In this article I will NOT demand that every male wear a suit or even a tie.  Nor will I dictate what type of dress women should wear, or whether they must wear a dress.  But I WILL talk about the problem of casualness.  When we understand that subject it is my hope that we will see that a “dress code” is NOT the issue.  The issue has to do with our attitude and how it affects everything we do when it comes to worshipping God INCLUDING what we wear.  In this article we will lay some groundwork principles that we need to consider.  This will be followed by another article where specific application will be made based upon these things.

What God expects.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Eccl. 9:10)  Solomon realized that if life is to mean anything, it requires that we put forth our best efforts.  That needs to apply in all things we do.    As you study the Bible you find that God has ALWAYS demanded our best.  Leviticus 22:17-33 and Deuteronomy 17:1 are just two passages that addressed the animal sacrifices the Israelites were required to offer to God. Notice that they were to give Him the first born (off the top) and always unblemished (not leftovers).  God expected the best.  Lev. 22:32 concludes this by saying, “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel.  I am the Lord who sanctifies you…” 

When God gave instructions concerning the tabernacle and priestly GARMENTS, they were to use the best of materials as they built and prepared (Exodus 25-28).

Many centuries later, after continued rejection and disrespect for God (and repentance and returning) we find Israel is once again corrupt in their worship.   Malachi challenged them in what would be the last inspired letter prior to the Lord’s return.  Early on we read, “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord  of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' "You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the Lord  is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the Lord  of hosts.” (Malachi 1:7-8) 

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord  with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase  David, later in his life, when afforded a cheap way to make an offering to God, refused saying, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:24)

In the parable of the talents in Matt. 25:14-30 a master gave “according to their abilities” talents to manage while he was gone.  The master expected them to give their best efforts and held the one who failed accountable.  Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

Friends these are just a FEW passages that demonstrate God has ALWAYS demanded that we give Him our best.  I cannot think of a single example in all of the Bible where God was pleased with anything less than the best.  He might have tolerated inferior things, but they were not what He wanted.  I ask, is that we what are seeking to emulate? Are we seeking to do just enough to be tolerably acceptable?  We ought to consider this as we prepare to worship God.  That means that we give some forethought (Ezra 7:10, Psalm 122:1, etc.) and respect to the occasion we are engaging in. Surely our God deserves our BEST when we worship Him?  Would that not include the externals, such as the effort we put forth in worship, the amount of preparation we give AND what we wear?


Why are we here?God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)    NEVER forget why we assemble!  Certainly we are edified in our worship (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12, 26) but let us NEVER forget the main reason we are here: To worship God!  Even in 1 Corinthians 14 which deals with worship, when things are done properly (i.e. decently and in order, - vs. 40), God will be worshipped.  And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” (1 Cor. 14:25)  Again, as you study the Bible you find that God has always expected us to worship him. In the life of Abraham you find a man that everywhere he went, he thought of God first.  The first mention of the word “worship” is Genesis 22:5 where Abraham is preparing to offer up his son Isaac.  We know from the context it was Jehovah God whom he worshipped.  When God gave Israel the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), you find the first 4 commandments address worshipping Him and Him ONLY.  The downfall of both Israel and Judah was their failure to remember this.  It was their idolatry and corrupt hearts (and worship) that caused Jehovah God to eventually cut them off.  Similarly, in the New Testament we find true worship and corrupted worship.  True worship is always directed TOWARD God.  Worship designed to please men or follow men’s patterns was detestable to Him (cf. Matt. 15:9, Acts 17:22-25, etc.)  Revelation 22:9 summarizes this, “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that.’ (John falling down and worshipping at the feet of an angel – TT) For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” 

So HOW do we worship Him? With reverence for the occasion.  When we assemble together consider that we are in the presence of our Creator, sustainer and judge.  This must NOT be taken lightly.  In Leviticus 10:1-3 God burned Nadab and Abihu to death for offering profane (unauthorized) fire to Him.  After this the Lord said to Aaron, the High Priest, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.” Think about that!  Our God is not just our buddy down the street or the guy we work with. He deserves better treatment than that.

When we assemble before Him we must respect the occasion and that He is there.  Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” Jesus taught us to pray with reverence.  He said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name…” (Matt. 6:9).  While these texts may not be exclusive to the worship assembly, will anyone affirm that they do NOT apply then?

Also, when we assemble to worship God, we need to remember that it is NOT for some social occasion, though that is what much of the religious world has turned the worship service into.  Every act of worship in our assemblies is directed toward God (singing, praying, studying His word, giving and partaking of the Lord’s Supper).  Paul addressed the abuse of such occasions in 1 Corinthians.  He addressed their carnal attitudes in chapters 12-14 as they with pride boasted about their gifts.  In 11:17-34 He addressed the Lord’s Supper.  In this text he noted that what they were doing was NOT the Lord’s Supper (vs. 17-20).  The reason is that they had turned it into a social meal instead of a MEMORIAL.  He tells them to eat at home (18-22, 34).  THEN he reminds them of the occasion for their assembling – to remember the Lord’s death.  After describing the significance of the emblems, Paul notes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (23-26).  But he doesn’t finish there.  Vs. 27-29 says, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  Remember the context, turning the Lord’s Supper into a COMMON meal.  What they had done detracted from the sacredness of the occasion.  The Godhead were insulted by such.  Friends, when we assemble on Sunday to partake of the Lord’s Supper, it is a MEMORIAL (i.e. a funeral) – a solemn occasion.  Our attitude AND actions ought to dictate that. 

  Even our singing and prayers are described as a sacrifice.  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”  (Heb. 13:15)  My point is that we need to take seriously the occasions we assemble to worship God.  That will be reflected not only within our hearts (which only we and God knows), but also by our demeanor, which others observe.  Let me ask: What do others see when I assemble to worship God?  Whether I want to admit it or not, WHAT I WEAR says something about me. 

Brethren, I write this because I am extremely concerned at the casual attitude so prevalent in our society.  It has found its way into the Lord’s church and has become the expected norm.  It is not just tolerated, but encouraged.  I just can’t help but wonder:  Doesn’t our God deserve better than the norm?  In our next article on this study we will examine casualness in more detail and look at what we wear says. 




Last week we began a study addressing what we wear in worship.  As I stated then, I am NOT trying to impose a dress code per se, but I am VERY concerned about the casual attitude that seems to be slipping its way into the worship service, both in what we wear and in our attitudes.  And they ARE related to one another as we shall see. 

Our last article addressed two principles that we need to consider when we assemble to worship God that ought to dictate EVERYTHING about our manners and appearance.  We noted that God demands our best and we examined why we are here – to worship God, Who is not “just one of the guys down the street”.  We need to treat Him with the reverence and respect He deserves.  Psalm 89:7 says, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.”

In this article we want to address the subject of casualness.   We live in a very casual society.  It used to be when people traveled they would dress up.  Attending formal events called for formal attire WITHOUT QUESTION.  While such is still true today, we see far fewer formal occasions.  Weddings and funerals used to be formal occasions (the solemness of the occasions was recognized and people dressed appropriately).   Business transactions were always conducted with suit and tie.  When boys went to job interviews, even to flip hamburgers, they would wear a tie and often a coat or girls would dress up appropriately as well.  (NOTE: As an aside, I tell young people, IF you want to be considered seriously for a job interview, dressing up STILL WORKS).  And when people went to worship services, they also dressed up, wearing their “Sunday best”. But sadly, such occasions are fewer now.  Why do people dress casually for weddings and funerals today?  While there may be variety of reasons, it clearly correlates with a society that doesn’t view marriage NOR funerals with the same reverence they used to have.  My point: As people “dressed down” the occasions often became less solemn.

 The business world is coming to terms with this as well.  Several years ago, many major companies began adopting “casual Fridays”.   It is said to have started on the west coast to encourage creativity.  While this lasted for a while, in time many reverted back to more formal attire all the time.  Some of the reasons included first impressions on clients, its effect on one’s self-image (i.e. how you dress can determine your attitude), as well as a change in behavior. A few years back, Dr. Jeffrey L. MaGee, a consulting psychologist did a survey of 500 companies about casual dress.  It was determined that “continually relaxed dress leads to relaxed manners, relaxed morals, relaxed productivity and an increase in complaints to Human Resources. (i.e. sexual harassment, etc - TT” Casual dress was also shown to lead to people to push the boundaries of what is acceptable.

So what is the point in this article?  It is this: How you dress says something about you and your attitude.  If it is true that one’s attire should reflect the occasion, then how should we dress when we assemble BEFORE GOD to WORSHIP HIM?  Realizing that worship is a serious act designed to glorify my Creator, Savior and Judge should not my appearance reflect that understanding?  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, it is a MEMORIAL (1 Cor. 11:23-26).  Do we treat the assembly with appropriate reverence?

What does the Bible say about dress?  Under the Old Law, when the priests were to appear before the Lord, they had specific garments they were to wear (Leviticus 8, Exodus 28-29, etc.).  Matthew 22 records the Parable of the Marriage Feast where a king arranged a marriage and invited many to the wedding.  However, those invited “made light of it and went their ways” (5).  As a result the king invited others, both good and bad, those found in the highways and hedges.  Vs. 11-14, records, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ NOTICE how those invited were expected to dress appropriately for the occasion.  Now I realize this parable is about being prepared for judgment and is not dealing with the assembly of the Lord’s Church, but the point is, occasions warrant appropriate dress.  Again I ask, what occasion is more important than when we assemble together before God to worship Him?

There are other passages that talk clothing appropriate for the occasion.  In Genesis 41 we find Joseph preparing to speak to Pharaoh.  Vs. 14 says, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing and came to Pharaoh.”  Esther 5:1 says, “Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.”  In light of these passages, consider again Malachi 1:6, “’A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And I am a master, where is MY reverence?’  Says the Lord of hosts to the priests who despise My name.” When we assemble to worship are we not appearing before our KING?  In fact, are we not appearing before one greater than an earthly king?  We understand the importance of proper attire (formal) when we appear before our president, judges and other dignitaries.  Certainly God deserves such consideration as we assemble to worship Him? 

What about worship from the heart?  The number one justification for casual attire is, “It doesn’t matter what we wear because God looks at the inside.”  That God looks at the inside I heartily say AMEN!  As we worship Him, we MUST do so from the heart or our worship is vain (Matt. 15:8-9, John 4:24)   Friend, this is why we do NOT impose a specific dress code.  There are many types of dress that are inappropriate and many types that are proper.   There is immoral dress (too short, too tight, to revealing, etc.).  The Bible speaks about the “attire of a harlot” in Proverbs 7:10.  There is also the one who OVERdresses.  Some dress to be seen by others and to show off.  This is exactly what Paul addressed in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 where he says, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” And 1 Peter 3:3Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  Friend, there are places in this world where suits are unheard of and inappropriate.  There are people whose best consists of a clean pair of overalls and an ironed shirt.  There are some who wear the same thing week after week, but it is all they can afford. There are people who show up for services in a smelly, fast food uniform (because they just got off work and did their best to get to services as quickly as they could).   There are all kinds of reasons why people wear what they wear.  We need to be careful before we pass judgment on someone because of what they are wearing (See James 2:1-4 which condemns this very thing).  BUT, that does NOT change the fact that God deserves our best and our reverence! 

A specific dress code is NOT the point.  While for many their best is not very much, it is still their best.  But there are also those who show up to services dressed sloppily or wearing jeans and a t-shirt when they could do MUCH better.  In fact, there are some who dress DOWN to come to worship services.  Friends, let us be honest!  More often than not, our dress reflects our attitude! The reason many dress casually is because they have a casual attitude.  Take an honest look and you will see that this is the rule.  The problem is NOT about what one wears.  That is the symptom!  The real problem is the attitude.

Are there exceptions to this?  Absolutely!  It goes both ways.  There are many who dress casually, for whatever reason that are very spiritually sound.  AND there are those who dress more formally who are full fledged hypocrites.  But I am talking about my overall observations and “the general rule”.  (Incidentally, it is because of these exceptions that we should NOT enforce a formal dress code.  Let God be the ultimate judge.)

I am just curious: Considering the occasion, why would one NOT want to dress up to worship God? 

So what is the big deal?  There are at least three reasons this is such a concern:

1)       The continual digression of the Lord’s church.  It is no secret that many churches are becoming more liberal in their views, direction and works.  Prevalent in a majority of these churches is a de-emphasis on what one wears.  Today it is about what we wear.  Next it will be desiring a more casual worship service.  Then a more casual approach to truth and error.  Eventually, a more casual attitude toward morality.  Brethren, we are drifting! (Heb. 2:1)

2)       God will hold you accountable if you do NOT hold Him in reverence!  Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”  Does your clothing truly show reverence?

3)       Let us think about the impression we leave with others.  We only get one first impression with others.  When one visits what they observe and the way they are treated will determine what they do as time goes on.  We need to let them know that we are SERIOUS about why we are here.  And that is reflected in our mannerisms AND our appearance.  (Matthew 5:16)


And thus we conclude our study of the importance of what we wear in worship.  May we give serious consideration to all of these things and ask if what we are wearing is consistent with our attitude and understanding of why we are here.  Are we giving Him our best? Think about it.