Everybody knows that when you go to church on Sunday you are supposed to wear your “Sunday best.”  Right?  I always heard that you dress up in your nice clothes on Sunday morning because God deserves our best.  So find the most expensive, formal attire and wear that on Sundays because it honors God.

Does it?  Have you ever wondered what the Bible really says about what clothes to wear to worship?

While the Bible does not give us specific directions on if I am supposed to wear a robe, tie, bow tie, khakis, designer jeans, hip t-shirts, or flip-flops to the church house, it does give us direction concerning attire.  Here’s what we do know:

  1. No Cross-Dressing.“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” (Deut. 22:5).  Cross-dressers, you have been warned.
  2. Avoid Glitzy Attire. The New Testament teaches women to dress modestly without expensive clothes or jewelry (1 Tim. 2:9-10).  Many possible reasons could be for this command.  Paul probably wanted to make sure focus was on God, that jealousy didn’t enter the church, that pride didn’t make its way into worship, that clothing competition took place, and that people didn’t spend money on glitzy attire when other church members needed food to eat.
  3. Modesty is Key. A woman’s beauty should be seen by the inner qualities and not the skin parade often seen in churches today (1 Pet. 3:2-5).  Guys and gals, why would you dress in such a way that people in the house of God have to fight for purity when you walk by?  What would we call something that caused God’s people to take their eyes of God?
  4. Beware of the Hat (or Embrace the Hat). Many people say that people shouldn’t wear hats in church because it is disrespectful.  The ancient tradition signified that someone removed their hat when in the presence of a superior so this applied to worship settings (1 Cor. 11:4-7), but it also says that women should put on head coverings.  So moms, take your Atlanta Braves hat off of your teenage son and put it on your head.
  5. Prepare More than the External. God says he is more concerned with the quality of our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7) than he is the styles that we wear.  Last Sunday, did you spend more time checking your clothes out in the mirror or checking to see if there was any hurtful way in your life that broke the heart of God (Psalm 139:22-23).
  6. Avoid Attire that Divides. In our culture, suits and dresses reveals financial stability within a home.  Unfortunately, not everyone has that type of finances to acquire such clothing.  Listen to what James has to say in 2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I can’t give you a complete exhaustive account of what God expects of you and your threads, but, after a small study on God’s Word on the matter, I do know this: In church culture, we accept more the traditions of men in the area of clothing than we do the commandments of God (Mark 7:8).  If you look through just some of these verses, you must admit that the “Sunday Best” rules not only are not found in Scripture, but Scripture might actually refute if not rebuke these rules.

Be careful here: I know designer jeans that cost as much as swanky suits.  The problem is a matter of the heart and perception, not what style era you fit in.  I think to summarize all of these insights is to make sure your clothing doesn’t distract the people of God from focusing upon God.  The Body of Christ should be the one group where we gather together where we don’t have to prove ourselves, our bank accounts, our fashion styles, or our toned bodies.

Sunday Best is when we die to self and give Jesus the glory he deserves.  Not when we attempt to impress his followers so that they no longer focus upon him.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.