I have been in St. Louis for the past several days training a new team that asked for some help from me. When we determined the parameters for the class, I was told that the biggest requirement was that I had to understand that everyone in the class wanted to dress casually for the days we would be together. Now that’s not necessarily something new for me – many times companies go with “business casual.” But that’s not what this team said – they wanted “casual” and in today’s jargon, that means blue jeans and tee shirts.
Admittedly, that’s not the norm for me. In fact, I feel a little out of place when I am going to be teaching a class that shows up in blue jeans. I used to believe that people don’t do their best work when they are dressed down so much. But, that’s what the team wanted and I have to admit that when I met several officers of the company in July, and then again in October, I was surprised when they showed up in blue jeans themselves.
When I drove to St. Louis last Sunday, I brought along corduroy slacks, pullover shirts and, for my evenings, a pair of blue jeans to knock around it. On Monday, I showed up in the cords and I was the only person in the room not wearing blue jeans. I prepared myself for a difficult day, thinking that I would lose the attention of the audience – after all, they were all in jeans. How prepared for work could they be?
I quickly found out that my fears were unfounded. They all worked hard – really hard, and I was impressed with their dedication to the things I was trying to teach. When Tuesday rolled around, guess what? I showed up in jeans as well. At first I was a little uncomfortable but that soon passed, and it was apparent that, even though I was the instructor, they didn’t judge me by the way I was dressed.
The whole episode reminded me of growing up in church. As a kid, I owned two pairs of shoes – school shoes and church shoes. When my school shoes had to be replaced, my church shoes became my everyday shoes and Mom got me new Sunday school shoes. Sounds complicated, but that’s the way it worked. Same way with my slacks. I didn’t own many clothes, so I showed up in the same clothes each week for church. A sport jacket, shirt, tie and dress slacks – my shiny shoes completed the outfit.
As I got older, and churches became more casual, I had a difficult time attending a church that didn’t require you to dress in a suit or sport outfit with a tie. In fact, I was rather judgmental about how people could be serious about church when they didn’t dress the part. After all, when I attended seminary, I wore a suit and tie EVERY day. And we didn’t take our jackets off in class, either. Full dress code… every class, every day…
But a funny thing happened when I was in school. We studied passages of Scripture and after studying the translations from the Greek, I learned that God is much more concerned with how we are “dressed” on the inside rather than how we appear on the outside. I admit that I had a difficult time with this – after all, that’s not how I was raised. But there it was, right in the Bible. Honestly, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Because people only see the outside of us, but God knows our hearts and what is on the “inside.”
As time went on, I starting leaving the tie at home, then the jacket and finally I ended up in “business casual.” Then, we started attending a church that seemed to attract people in jeans. Once again, I struggled with the degree of casual attire, but finally I showed up in jeans. Now I know that there are those of you out there who have a problem with the idea of showing up to church in jeans – or shorts – or sandals. But if it doesn’t bother God, why should it bother you?
The Scripture tonight is proof of God’s desire that He is much more concerned with the condition of our hearts rather than the condition of our wardrobes. From 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Get it? God is concerned with your spirit and how you posture your mind and heart to enter into worship of God. He really doesn’t care how you look on the outside – really…
My encouragement this evening is that you spend more time getting your spirit ready for church that you do worrying about your wardrobe. A humble, quiet spirit is the outfit to wear to church. My prayer is that you will relax a little and understand that God doesn’t judge us by what we wear, and quite honestly, we shouldn’t worry about people judging us when it doesn’t make any difference to the Father. So, for tonight, relax, kick back and have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…