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How Should Christians Dress While Attending Church?

Thu, Jul. 20, 2017 Posted: 04:17 AM

Generally, Christian congregation members dress up for church, wearing at least business casual attire out of respect for the religion and other congregation members. But how important is dress to your faith, really? Would God care if you came to church in sloppy casual attire? Does dressing comfortably, rather than fancifully mean that your faith isn’t strong, or that you’re somehow less invested than your peers?

What the Bible Says About Dress
Let’s start with the primary source to see if there are firm “rules” for what people should wear, both to church and in general society. What does the Bible say about dress?

In the Old Testament, there are a few explicit rules mentioned: cross-dressing is not permitted, and wearing clothes made of wool and linen in combination is forbidden (though it’s not entirely clear why this was ever important). The New Testament does state that the rules of the Old Testament don’t need to be strictly followed, however.

In the New Testament, there are a handful of specific requirements for both men and women, but clothing in the age of the New Testament was far different from modern society; we generally don’t have to think about or follow the rules for things like cloaks, tunics, veils, and turbans. Other than that, the biggest general concept related to dress that’s discussed is “modesty”—and for women, in particular.

Overall, the Bible doesn’t provide much guidance on what we would call “dressing up” or “dressing down,” so we have to look at modern definitions and expectations to fill in the gaps.

Benefits of Dressing Up
There are some strong potential upsides of dressing up for church. If you shop for custom-fitted clothes and wear high-quality attire, you may experience the following benefits:

  • Taking church more seriously. There are some studies that show dressing up changes the way your brain thinks, forcing you to think more critically and confidently about your environment. If you wear a suit to church, you may take the readings and practices more seriously than if you attended church in shorts and a T-shirt. This, however, varies greatly with the individual, and for some, dressing up may be a distraction more than anything else (especially for children).
  • Making church an event. Dressing up to get ready for church also makes church more of an event, possibly affecting how you and your family treat church and religion overall. Instead of being a chore or a part of the routine, church becomes something special, and something that requires your attention and time.
  • Showing respect. Dressing up may also serve as a demonstration of respect, more so in the eyes of your community members than in the eyes of God. Dressing up is an outward display that you take your faith seriously; though of course, outward displays hardly say everything about what you feel and think on the inside, and should not be used as sole indicators of a person’s faith. External judgments shouldn’t enter the equation.
  • Belonging to the group. Simply dressing up may make you a more active and closer part of the community, especially if most of the people in your church also dress up. We tend to get along better with and feel closer to people who dress similarly to us, so dressing up in a dressed-up church could introduce a better sense of community. On the other hand, a casually dressed church may make you feel closer if you dress casually.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that the way you dress doesn’t have much to do with your actual faith. There are pious, deeply faithful members of the Christian faith who dress casually, with little attention to their clothes, and there are sharply-dressed community members who dismiss important elements of faith on a regular basis. Keeping your faith is independent of your dress, but at the same time, dressing up can make you appear more respectful and a closer part of the community, and may have a psychological benefit. It’s up to you whether you want to dress up or not, but if you have the time and money, it may be worth the extra effort.

George Smith