For the last several weeks, I’ve been dressing poor for church. Instead of shirt and tie, slacks and dress shoes, it’s been tattered jeans with holes in the knees and old shoes that are taped with duct tape. I think that some of my dear church family may be understandably confused, so for their sake I wanted to explain…
I have better shoes and better clothes — the Lord has provided abundantly for all our needs. It’s not a matter of personal finances.
Rather, earlier this year a concern began to weigh on my mind: A vague feeling that I was trying to bring some of my own personal righteousness to Sunday worship, instead of coming in poverty of spirit, knowing everything that I have is from God and crying out first “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” and then rejoicing in the sweet forgiveness of the mighty God who is my all in all. One Sunday I decided not to wear a tie — “small potatoes,” you might say, and you’d be right! — but for me a tie was part of Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes.
This continued for several weeks. During that time, there was a small group meeting where we talked about pride and our responsibility as Christians to minister to the poor and needy (it was part of studying through John Piper’s challenging book, Don’t Waste Your Life). Somehow over the next several days these two ideas connected for me. I felt the loss of not having the poor visibly among us. I thought, “What matters here in worship?”
This brought focus to my earlier thoughts as well. Rather than being merely neutrally appropriate attire for worship, it seemed to me that my fine clothes had become a snare to me — a physical symbol of this attitude of my attempt to bring something other than Christ’s righteousness.
To combat this, one week I dressed down — jeans and tennis shoes. In following weeks I went beyond this to dressing poor: tattered jeans, shoes with tape on them. This pictures to me my poverty before the Lord — that of myself I can only bring filthy rags — that if I am to stand unashamed it must be because I am clothed in His righteousness. It is still humiliating — every week it is humiliating. But it helps me remember that I was a stranger until He invited me in. It helps me remember that I’ve been forgiven much. It helps me sing like a blind man who sees, and to listen to the sermon as a thirsty man who is eager to drink from the rivers of life. And since I haven’t yet acted on a plan to reach out to a poor and needy man and bring him to the assembly of God’s people, for now I am dressing to represent that man.
I am not trying to make a statement of judgment against my church or against fine clothes, and I expect I’ll someday wear fine clothes to church again. But for now it’s tatters for the Lord. May the Lord bring more poor (poor of wallet or poor of spirit) into His Church!