Posted in christian life, theology

Clothing: Readying the outer man and the inner man

By Elizabeth Prata

I didn’t do laundry this weekend. I have just enough clothing to get me through the week, and then I need to do laundry on Saturday to ready for Sunday services and then the work week again. I didn’t do that this weekend. So Sunday I was sort of stuck when I was getting ready for church. What to wear for worship service?

The Pharisees were obsessed with clothing. They not only wore the biblically required garments to show their ordained position, which was being obedient, but they deliberately altered their clothes to show they were even more holy than that, which was disobedient. They sought adulation and honors and were doing it through their apparel. Jesus saw through that of course.

He accused them of enlarging the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5-6) – This refers to the loose fringe at the borders of the outer garment. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from other nations, specifically as God’s people, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, (Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12). Adorning the fringes were bells, and the Pharisees added more than the required amount so people would hear them coming. The Pharisees made the fringe border broader than other people wore them, so people would see them coming, and hear them when they walked on the corners to pray aloud.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7).

They loved the trappings, but not the reason for the trappings.

Yesterday I thought about what I would wear to church, I do not think it is too good to overly dwell on our apparel, church wear or work wear, or casual wear. There is a fine line beteen carefully considereing clothing formodesty and propriety’s sake, and suing clothing to gain status or pretension. The Bible is replete with admonitions about outer wear, believe it or not. It’s also replete with metaphorical warnings instructing us on the comparison of the outer garment and the inner man.

In Zephaniah 1:8 God warns that He will strike down those wearing ‘foreign garments’, or ‘strange apparel’ depending on your translation. The pagans wore strange apparel, often an indicator of degeneracy, especially in the old days when it signified allegiance to pagan gods.

As a woman, I’ve noticed the degeneracy in women’s wear. Skirts are shorter than ever, and necklines seem to plunge lower every day. It truly is hard to find a modest shirt these days.

Paul said, perhaps with a sigh of relief, that he never coveted other apparel: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.” (Acts 20:33). It may seem strange to us today that the list of things that were coveted in Paul’s day were not only the expected items like gold and silver, but also apparel. But clothing bespoke wealth. Remember Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:19-31). In Luke 16:19 the rich man’s name is forever forgotten but his wealth is what is listed, among the riches mentioned are clothing. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”

Wearing purple was the Gentile way of signalling wealth and status. Pharisees might have enlarged their fabric borders and lengthened their tassels, but pagans showed off too, by wearing purple. Purple dye was expensive and only the richest of the rich could afford it.

Yet on the Day of the Lord, their wealth and clothing will not save them.

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them. On the day of the LORD’S wrath; And all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph 1:18)

It’s the inner man that counts more than the clothing of the outer man.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)

I’m not saying that dressing up is a bad thing. I’m not saying nice clothes are bad, either. But if dressing up is the way we show off for church service, or to cal attention ot our bidies at work, then it is a bad thing. He knew the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites, even though they were splendidly attired, because He could see their hearts were far from God. He knew the Rich Man was far from God too, despite the fine linens He wore to all his banquets. The poor man was justified, even though he wore rags.

Let’s think about how we can prepare ourselves inside and come to Him clean. Are we willing to examine ourselves? As we ready the outer man for church or work, let’s make sure we’re doing it correctly, not to show off wealth, status, or our bodies but as a token of our esteem to the One we worship. Even better, let’s ready the inner man for the day even more than we ready the outer man.

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have“. (2 Cor 8:12)

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).

He doesn’t care if we have a new dress or are wearing a tie, He does care if we over-spent in getting the new dress or tie and worse, if obtaining it was for the purpose of showing off. He does see the effort we make to ready our outer and our inner selves for the day and for His worship services.

If our heart is in right standing to Jesus (repentant and humble, a servant desiring change from the inside out) He will clothe us with the best clothes of all. —

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).



Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.