According to AskMen.com, the average men’s suit of clothes can cost anywhere from $200-$1,000 (though that doesn’t sound quite like an “average” to me!).
The same Christians (pastors, writers, etc.) that I often hear say that Christians ought not to waste money and should give liberally to others (especially to missions) are the same Christians that advocate that preachers should wear a suit to preach and that men should wear the finest clothes they own or can afford to the “house of God.”
I can find admonitions for giving in the New Testament, but I cannot find a word on the formality of dress. Do you know what that means? It means that it doesn’t matter how you word it: God does not expect us to wear our most formal outfits “out of respect,” as Christians say. Earthly kings and queens and magistrates and whatever expect us to dress our best. So we do. If God did, He would have told us to do so, and He probably would have had the apostles stop by Jerusalem-Mart to get some more formal clothes to represent Him in, but He told ’em what they had one was all they needed. After years in the missions field, I doubt those clothers were too “formal” anymore, if they ever were.
I sometimes hear people advocating that things should be done lest our weaker brethren stumble. I respect that. So, I am going to advocate here that people–are you ready for this?–should not wear formalwear when saints assemble together. Now, that is my preference; I will enforce it on no one nor judge anyone with regards to it, so wear what you want to, but allow me to give my reason:
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep teh whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:1–10, NKJV
I have been to a handful of churches in my lifetime, and I cannot recall anyone ever wearing “filthy clothes.” I’ve seen how people reacted to casual clothes, let alone filthy ones. I cringe imagining the judgmental glances and murmurings that would sweep the “sanctuary” if a person walked in off the street with tattered jeans and a jacket that looks like it predates the entire youth group, the odors of his body and the street following him through to his seat.
My question is this: If that person lives in poverty but knows well enough the Bible and the manifold graces of God, would he be allowed to give a word of edification to the saints? Does a room full of suit-and-ties, dresses, and other formalwear have enough humility of heart to receive and be admonished by the words of someone who, when passed on the street, is walked by without a smile or blessing exchanged?
If I wear nice, overpriced formalwear then I am providing an opportunity for carnal Christians to prefer me over the poor. As such, I prefer my “casual clothes,” which may or may not be stained or may or may not be slightly torn or worn or whatever. If such a poor one showed up, I want to be able to relate and to minister, not to look proud and righteous before him, creating a visual segregation immediately that may be difficult to break down.
What if a person of some notoriety shows up? “We are proud to have with us today the wonderful singer Sister Grace Highnote from the Sisters in Harmony vocal group. Sister, would you please bless us with one of your songs this evening?”
Fame, riches, and talent should not–nay, cannot–build upon the foundations of the Church laid by Christ and the apostles. “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith… ?”
Does that sink in? Fill your church with poor people, and you will have an assembly populated by those who are rich in faith! Want to see revival? Forget about suits and ties. Forget about putting on a good show. Forget about pretty much everything people are saying nowadays about growing a church. Go out and bless the poor. Lay down and die for them that they might come to know Christ. Feed them. Clothe them. Give them clean, cool water to drink. Show them the love that Christ has shown to us.
And when they show up at your gathering with tattered rags, take note of the reaction of the saints already there. It will tell a lot about the spiritual condition of the church. Don’t let that grieve you, though; rather, rejoice that one chosen by God Himself to be rich in faith has grace you with his presence.
Maybe we shouldn’t be worried about what the corporate executives, heads of state, and other “fabulous” people are wearing. Maybe the hundred dollar outfits (plus more in accessories, make-up, shoes, etc., etc.) aren’t what God wants men and women to be worrying about during the time taken to prepare for an assembly. Maybe, just maybe, we can let the trends of the world move along while the world blows its resources on staying “current.” Maybe, just maybe, rather than buying a new $30 tie or $70 pair of shoes or whatever, we’ll take that same amount and personally take one who cannot afford to eat out to eat. Do it personally, and do it in love that you might share the gospel with them.
I know this is certainly something I need to do more of. And I’m fairly sure I am not alone in this.