Let Brotherly Love Continue

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.

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Rick Beckman