Summary: God says a lot about clothes in the Bible. His words instruct and inform our lives today. Few things about us are as immedate to others as what we wear. Surely God has given us instruction about such an important part of our lives! We would do well to
Church Clothes II
The gospels and Jesus on clothing:
The New Testament speaks about clothing more than you would think, but not necessarily in the ways we would think. Today we will focus our attention to what the gospels say about clothing.
The first mention in the gospels about clothing chronologically speaking is Luke 2::7&12, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes at his birth. The angels tell the shepherds to look for this sign: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus, the creator of the universe, Son of God, comes to us humbly dressed. Just imagine what he left behind to wear these swaddling clothes. What does this teach us about how we should dress?
The next mention of clothing is in Matthew 3 telling what John the Baptist had on: he wore clothing made of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist. His garments were wilderness garments, rough but practical for his lifestyle. About John, Jesus later says, Matt. 11:7-9. 7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
Besides his teaching and baptizing ministry, John seems to have been known for the kind of clothes he wore and the food he ate. Jesus was not known for his clothing, or choice of foods. He did not stand out in those ways.
John the Baptist even taught about clothing in his ministry. Luke's gospel (3:11) tells us that John said, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none." What does that say or imply to you and me about our closets and dressers? How many of us here have more than one change of clothes? I know that many of you have gone through your clothes to give some of them to our yard sale to help with our mission trips!
The next mention of clothing is Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount where he tells us three things: first, if someone sues you to take your coat, give him your shirt as well! (Matt 5:40). Second, Jesus told us not to worry about our clothing, and that God will take care of us if we seek the kingdom first. (Matt. 6:25-33). Third, Jesus warns us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing! False prophets may dress the part of faithful teachers, but their fruits will reveal them for what they are. (Matt. 7:15-20).
Jesus uses an illustration of clothing to talk about how his new covenant ministry created tension with the old covenant ways. He said, "No one takes a patch from a new garment and sews in on an old one. If he does he will have torn the new garment and the patch will not match the old." Luke 5:36. Jesus realized that his ministry was inaugurating changes that would not be welcomed by all. In fact, it would fulfill and replace the Old Testament Jewish religious system of priesthood, sacrifice and temple worship. Here he used clothing to illustrate this.
Jesus once encountered a demon possessed man who lived among the graves and who went about naked and dangerous. After Jesus cast out the demons out of him and into a herd of pigs, all the town's people came to see what had happened and gospel says that they saw the man who had been possessed by demons was clothed and in his right mind. (Mark 5:15). One could surmise from this that voluntary nakedness and demon possession are associated, while right mindedness and proper clothing also go together.
Jesus spoke about using clothing to get attention. He said of the Pharisees' clothing, “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; Matt 23:5-6. Jesus was talking about dressing up to get attention from religious people. Can you imagine that? Imagine coming to church dressed so people will look at you and think you must have a special closeness with God because of your clothes? That may be a problem somewhere today, and maybe I'm wrong, but I think we've pretty well gotten over that one, at least for now. The part we may not have gotten over is what Jesus said about wanting attention: "Everything they do is for people to see." Do you dress for people to see you? Do your clothes invite a second look? The New Testament talks about that later.