It matters what you wear. It mattered to God in the Garden of Eden and it mattered to the sons of Aaron. John wore camel hair, Jesus was robed in purple and we have been clothed in righteousness. Apparently, what you wear matters enough to bear frequent mention throughout scripture. And when something matters that much, we know what to expect.
In the west, it’s not hard to find a grown man who dresses like his 10-year-old son, only larger and sillier. And it’s not hard to find (and be frightened by) a woman of ample bearing splashing around a supermarket in hot pants and a pair of ill-fitting mango espadrilles.
The issue is not poverty or riches. The issue is righteousness. The issue is worship.
Clothing is an aspect of our worship. In church, it’s become fashionable to fashion yourself after the world, and so the ‘new cool’ includes ministers of the gospel dressing down to the level of their reputation while cruisy worshippers turn up in ripped denim and board shorts. Because, you know, Jesus sees my heart.
Yes, He does. We all do. It’s on your sleeve (or at least where your sleeve ought to be). And we can tell by what you’re wearing what you think is happening when we gather before the throne of grace each Lord’s Day. Nothing much.
Clothes matter because clothes are God’s idea and are representative of who we are and what we worship (1 Timothy 2:9)
We prove this every day by the choices we make. We don’t turn up to the battle in a three-piece suit and we don’t turn up to a wedding in boxer shorts and a sombrero.
Throughout the Bible, clothes are representative of our shame, our guilt and the holiness of God. Clothes represent our status before God and man and magnify either the character of God in whose image we are made, or the idols we worship.
The Minister of Cool who says that it doesn’t matter what you wear, and that God sees your heart should probably keep silent.
Such a man is not dressing without a care when he buttons up his muscle shirt, two holes from the top, and chooses which skinny jeans will match his canvas Dunlops. He is taking his dress and his image very seriously.
He is going for a look. He knows exactly who he wants to impress and he is making a very clear effort. His clothes speaketh loud and clear.
This is true in all cultures. The clothes may differ, but the categories remain the same. The swimsuit is for swimming and these pyjamas are for bed – and not the other way around. But we like to rebel.
And so our women throw away their feminine beauty in exchange for androgyny and our chiseled men aim for blah and blurr. They don’t much like the image of God, and so they disfigure it.
But the man who wants to be taken seriously will dress seriously. The woman who wants to be honoured will dress with honour. We all know these things because these are God’s things and He has shown them to us.
The young man who is following Jesus is growing wise about how he dresses. He will consider what he wears to church, work and a rugby match and is learning to make a distinction between them. Likewise, his future wife will be asking grandma, and not her 16-year-old girlfriend (Titus 2:3-5) what to wear for dinner.
They will dress this way because they are learning that honour, purity and dignity are to be prized above cool, kitsch, and crappy.
We dress according to who we are—and who we think we are. And right now, who we think we are looks pretty sad.
But the goal of the gospel is that we be clothed with dignity (2 Corinthians 5:3-4). In the gospel, Jesus covers our shame with a garment of praise and our dignity is restored. God’s design is to cloth you with honour and honour looks like something in particular.
It matters what you wear. And we all know it. And we admit we know it every time a man in a police uniform knocks on our car window and asks for our license.