Books have been written on how to dress for success. Dress up, the books say. People will respect you and then they will pay attention to what you have to say. They tell us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The well-cut suit and power tie is standard uniform for business leaders, politicians and anyone who wants to influence people and gain their trust. The well-groomed person, dressed in expensive clothing, is making an effort to impress us with their success and social standing. Others have apparently showered them with money to be able to dress stylishly, so we should trust them too. It is a subtle signal (and it has always had the effect of influencing people) so it is a surprise to read that the apostles dressed in rags – 1 Corinthians 4:11.
Does this suggest that Christians should deliberately be the opposite of the world and be unkempt and shabbily dressed? Not at all. Paul and the other apostles dressed in rags because they were poor. They were rich spiritually, but financially impoverished – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.
Dressing in rags should have made it harder for them to have their message accepted. But God wanted their power to come through the Holy Spirit, rather than through techniques of human persuasion – 2 Corinthians 12:9.
We should recognise another factor too: The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Under the Old Covenant, Aaron, the High Priest, was dressed in beautiful garments “to give him dignity and honour” – Exodus 28:2-5.
Jesus is our High Priest in heaven – Hebrews 8:1-2 – and during His time on earth He dressed simply. The apostles, as we said before, dressed in rags.
Why is there such a contrast between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
The Old Testament – also called the Law of Moses – pointed to spiritual truth and the coming of Jesus. The New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, brings us close to God and changes our focus to heavenly realities – Hebrews 10:1a. The New Covenant in Jesus fulfills the types and shadows of the Old Covenant.
By way of further example, under the Old Covenant the priests had to burn incense – Exodus 30:7-8. Under the New Covenant we learn that incense was only a type and shadow. Incense, in a Christian sense, is the prayers of God’s people – Revelation 5:8.
All this brings me to the question:
How should Christians dress for spiritual success?
Firstly, the Bible says that attractiveness should come not from outward adornment but from a quiet spirit – 1 Peter 3:3-4.
Secondly, we should recognise that God wants our power to come from Him – 1 Corinthians 4:20 – rather than through using the methods that secular people use to persuade and to influence.
Thirdly, the New Testament tells us of three ways to dress for spiritual success, but they have nothing to do with real clothing. They are pictures – to help us get our minds around an appropriate spiritual response.
- Put on the Armour of God – Ephesians 6:10-17
This has to do with the daily decision to promote Truth (and Jesus is the Truth – John 14:6), personal righteousness, the gospel, God’s way of salvation and the life of faith.
- Clothe yourself with Christ – Romans 13:14
We represent Jesus. We should ask God for help to adopt the gentle manner of Jesus and to desire what He desires.
- Be dressed in white linen – Revelation 19:7-8
Here is another example of earthly matter representing something spiritual – in this case, righteous acts, or acts of loving kindness, which is the proper response that Christians should have, as recipients of God’s gift of salvation Galatians 5:6.
Next time you listen to a preacher, make a conscious effort to look past the way the person is dressed – which should not particularly impress you – and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart.
- How important is it for Christians to have a vision?
- Does God want you to improve your self-image?
- Is faith marked by a positive mental attitude?
- What is personal development for Christians?
- Don’t trust a man who walks without a limp
- False humility
- Changing toxic thinking
- Crucifying the sinful nature
- Peace in your heart