By Bobby Witherington
Men, how would you react if the elders of the local church should compose the following guidelines with regards to your appearance in worship?: (1) Men . . . must wear dress shirts, ties, dress slacks, and dress shoes. (2) Jeans are not allowed . . . (3) Tennis shoes are not acceptable dress. (4) Shirts with writing and cartoons on them are not appropriate dress. (5) Hair styles must be neat, trim, and clean.
Ladies, how would you react if the elders of the local church should compose the following guidelines with regards to your appearance in worship?: (1) Women . . . are required to wear dresses, skirts, and blouses, or pant outfits, and all must be coordinated and conservative in style. (2) Strapless or spaghetti strap dresses and bare midriffs are not acceptable. (3) Dress shoes and hosiery are required with every outfit. (4) Tennis shoes are not appropriate dress. (5) Jeans are not allowed . . . (6) Shirts with writing and cartoons on them are not appropriate dress. (7) Hair styles must be neat, trim, and clean.
Most brethren would resent receiving from the elders a published set of dress guidelines. “They are over stepping their bounds,” many would say. Others would say, “they are binding what God has not bound.” And many would go on wearing what they wanted to wear, however inappropriate for the occasion.
However, the preceding “Dress and Grooming Code” has been composed and imposed! Not by the elders of this church. Nor by the elders of any congregation that I know of. But by Sears, Roebuck & Co. for its sales persons in the “Los Angeles Group.” Amazingly enough, they make no apology for their “dress and grooming code.” They do, however, offer this explanation: “There is no substitute for good judgment in appropriate dress. Our customers deserve and expect to shop in a pleasant, professional-appearing, courteous environment. Our employment relies on our ability to attract and retain the business of our customers.
Jesus, on one occasion, said, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). Could it be that, with regards to the items herein under consideration, the officials in charge at Sears, Roebuck “are in their generation wiser than the children of light”? Of course, the Sears, Roebuck “dress and grooming code” was designed with one main objective in mind – the desire “to attract and retain the business” of their customers. But our desire “to attract and retain” the approval of God and the interest of others ought to be at least as great as is the desire of Sears, Roebuck for the “business” of others! When Joseph was called from prison to meet with Pharaoh “he shaved himself, and changed his raiment” and then “came in unto Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:14). As we would say, he “put his best foot forward.” Appearance-wise, he showed respect for the king of Egypt. When a smelly, long-haired, bearded, ragged, and filthy hoodlum is apprehended for a crime, and later appears in court because of his crime, what preparation does he make for his court appearance? Among other things, he takes a bath, cuts his hair, trims his beard, and wears a nice suit. Why? Because he wants to make a good impression on the judge and jury. In so doing, he has a better chance of getting a light sentence or perhaps (as conditions now are) no sentence at all.
To my knowledge, the elders here have never even discussed imposing on the members here a “dress and grooming code.” And I am not suggesting that they either compose or impose such a code. But I do concur with the officials at Sears, Roebuck, “there is no substitute for good judgment in appropriate dress.” Especially when we assemble together to worship God! And when we, in these assemblies, “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). Whether or not we care to admit it, our dress and appearance reflect our respect for the occasion. Frankly, I believe some of our brothers (and sisters) in Christ could well afford to show more respect for the worship occasion!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 6, p. 175
March 15, 1984