Do you like traditions? Some traditions are good and useful, but I enjoy finding those traditions that have need for change and addressing them.
I see some traditions like the daughter who always cut the ends off her roast before putting it in the oven. One day she finally wondered why she was doing it. So asked her mother, but her mother simply said, “that’s the way my mother always did it.” So they went to the grandmother. The grandmother chuckled and said, “my oven wasn’t big enough for the entire roast, so I had to cut the ends off to get it to fit.”
The daughter had been a part of a tradition that was no longer useful nor was it relevant.
Do we have traditions in our churches such as this today? Yes we do. In fact, new obsolete traditions pop up every year as cultures change. The trick is making sure we understand what is a tradition and what is scripture. Many people raise the traditions to the level of scripture and err in doing so.
If you are handy with Google search, you can find out what happened about 150 years ago. Before the industrial revolution there were basically two classes: the haves and the have nots. The haves were able to afford the nicer clothing due to the fact that everything was being made by hand to that point. The have nots had to settle with usually two outfits per person. One they wore to work and the other they wore to town. There was little difference in the style of these articles of clothing. One was simply cleaner than the other.
The haves would wear their nice clothes especially in public to make sure that there was a difference between them and the have nots. It was a status issue. This practice crept into the churches and there was still much division within the family of God as the two classes were still being encouraged through dress and action within the walls of the churches.
Then came the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle class.
With the invention of the Spinning Jenny, clothes manufacturing became less tedious and therefore more affordable to this middle class. More and more people had access to nicer clothes. The upper class began to push the lower classes to conform to their practice of wearing their nicer clothes to the Sunday assemblies. This idea was resisted for several years.
Finally, around 1850, the last of the denominations began to accept and practice this idea of coming to the assembly dressed to the hilt. The term “Sunday best” was coined shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.
Today we still have many people in churches as well as many church leaders who think that dressing your best on Sunday is the only proper way to attend. In this culture, however, people are dressing up less and less. Even business men and women are dressing more casually. The days of dressing to the nines are gone. It was merely a tradition, and a relatively recent one at that.
In the church what this does is continue the mindset of the haves and the have nots. I have known several people who do not attend worship anywhere for fear that the “don’t have anything nice to wear”. What a shame!
In 1 Corinthians there was an issue of the haves not treating the have nots as equal, and it came to a head concerning the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11. The haves could get to the assembly quicker because of horses and the like, but the poor had to come from the edges of the area and on foot. The rich would go ahead and feast at the supper, but when the poor got there no food was left.
If we continue this idea of “Sunday best” in our churches we harbor that same attitude distinguishing between the classes. Church is supposed to be a collective of unity. God does not show favoritism. God was fine with David dancing in his underwear before God. Where was his Sunday best? God didn’t seem to care.
In Joel 2:13, God says, “Rend your heart and not your garments.” God is more interested in your heart and attitude than he is in how you dress. If you have nice clothes, then church is for you. If you don’t have nice clothes then church is for you too. In fact, how awesome would it be if those that are haves dressed down a bit just so they could show their desire to commune with those that have less.
I know of churches that do just that. They minister to homeless and other poor, and the leaders dress down to keep from flaunting their wealth before the poor. It’s an attitude of acceptance and unity.
Remember, as long was your heart is totally dedicated to God, then no matter what you wear, you are in your Sunday best.
May we be a people who promote unity in our churches as we love each other no matter what they wear. May we humble ourselves a bit – remembering that Jesus, the King of kings, humbled himself and became a man…just like us.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the office at 245-1611. God bless you!