What are some verses from the Bible which instructs us on our attire when attending church worship services and activies?
Is "formal" dress good / bad / required / optional / recommended?
We are not commanded to dress a certain way in Scripture, other than that it should be modest.
However, I have a strong personal conviction - one I would not try to force on anyone else - that you should dress up for Church.
When God appeared to Moses as a burning bush, He commanded Moses to "put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." To me, this implies that God expects us to respect Him, and approach Him with reverence, as one who is Holy and worthy of our best. Therefore, I dress up, not to look good to others, but because it's such a small thing for the God who created me and saved me.
That said, I do not look down on anyone who doesn't feel the same. Not everyone thinks the same way, and it's not for me to try to force them. Christianity isn't about a bunch of rules and regulations, it's about our hearts, and our relationship with God.
The scripture is silent on the matter (to the best of my knowledge). As far as I know it's an idea that came about as showing respect for God and the place where he is worshiped.
In my opinion, these kinds of things are purely man-made legalistic things that serve to do little except create problems and division.
Just my two cents.
You can dress however you want to, just go. If the church makes you feel unwelcome because of how you are dressed, how you look or any other reason related to your appearance please find a new church, these folks are hypocrites.
However, you may be more comfortable if you find a church that the expected dress fits your lifestyle and how you typically dress. If you enjoy getting dressed up you can find a more traditional church where folks tend to wear suits and ties. However, if you'd rather wear jeans and tees to church there are plenty out there where even the pastor shows up in jeans (I go to one :)).
Finally, let me be very clear. How we dress for church is really a terrible criteria for choosing a church (however it is an element to consider). Good doctrine, Quality of preaching, the kind of worship, and finally whether you feel welcome and comfortable in the community are all things that are far more important in choosing a church than the dress code.
The Bible says that you should dress modestly in and out of church. While this doesn't indicate that you should wear formal wear, it does indicate that we should dress such that we don't attract attention.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10
There is no requirement that people should wear formal wear, but I tend to think of it in terms of walking down the street in your local community. Would people look at you funny if you were wearing pajamas? Then it's probably not appropriate to wear it to church. If you wouldn't get a second glance in blue jeans and a t-shirt, then it's probably OK to wear that to church.
I personally go to a fairly formal church, where most of the men wear suits. I've been wearing jeans and a collared shirt there for years, and have no comments made on it and no strange looks.
Dress affects behavior. In our culture formal dress indicates respect, hence the reason why its commonplace at weddings, funerals, and other events or situations where respect is expected.
You will act and feel differently in a room full of people in rags vs a room full of people in dresses and tuxedos.
There is no commandment to wear formal dress at church services, but I feel most respectful when dressed formally and I like to afford others the same opportunity.
I'm going to take the contrarian position and offer the question: why would you ever dress formally? Some plausible reasons:
These all seem applicable to corporate worship. Granted, some are rich/poor, stylish/fashion-challenged, etc., but the idea is giving your best, which varies by individual.
God sees me naked. He sees me at my very worst. He is with me all the time and loves me all the time. And the best way to honour him is to be completely open and honest with him, to allow him to be my closest friend without pretence. There's no need to put on special airs and graces, use different language, or wear different clothes when we come before God.
In the Bible there are several places where we are told not to make a big show of praying, giving, and other activities that we do as church. Instead we are told to "worship in Spirit and truth" - so if we try to pretend to be something we're not by dressing differently for worship than we would for any other activity, I believe we're failing to do that.
That's not to say we should never dress up; in the same way as I dressed smartly for my wedding and sometimes dress more smartly when we go out for dinner, even though my wife has also seen me in much less formal attire. But failing to dress smartly every time I know i'm going to see her does not amount to a lack of respect or a failure to honour her; instead it is an indication of the same kind of barrierless honesty that God wants of us when we come before him.
We know that God demands His people to honor Him in the act of worship:
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’—Malachi 1:6 (ESV)
God goes on to explain that the people dishonor God by bringing inferior offerings to the altar. He asks if they would dare to bring such animals to their Persian governor. Further, it wasn't because they lacked acceptable sacrifices. Therefore, they showed themselves to fear earthly authority, but not God.
In the same way, we should consider honoring our Father in heaven by wearing clothing we would not be ashamed to be wearing if we were to have an interview with our national leader. This is also the implication of the detailed instructions on how the high priests were to dress in the Torah; God demands to be approached in reverence.
Of course, the trouble is that we confuse reverence for God, keeping the right rituals, and observing long-held customs as what God desires most from us. James warns:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?—James 1:27-2:7 (ESV)
Simply speaking, we should be very careful about judging others by the clothes they wear. Paul speaks of the church as a body in that if one member suffers, all suffer. Rather than make divisions in a church based on wealth, many congregations dress down to avoid having less-well-off members (and visitors) stand out. My pastor tells how he was lead to Christ by a preacher of a church that met on a Southern California beach in surfing attire. Who can argue with such fruit?
In truth clothing choice is primarily culturally significant. As my college cultural anthropology professor explained, his students don't come to class wearing T-shirts and jeans for any reason other than to fit in with their fellows. I've made the best argument I know for a spiritual significance, but it does not withstand the grace of the gospel of Christ. In the end, dress as you feel led in order to honor God and don't discriminate based on the clothing others wear. Live together as one body.
As a visitor, you should dress however you feel comfortable.
As a member, you have a duty in the worship service, as in everything, to act (and dress) in manner that first honors and respects God, secondly honors and respects others, and lastly honors and respects yourself. God is very specific in the ways he expects us to honor and respect Him, but — aside from modesty — the matter of dress is left open — even in the worship.
It falls then to honor and respect for others. Here, the "others" in question should first be those visiting the worship service from outside. It is my personal belief that formal dress by all members is therefore not in line with what should be expected of us. Rather, we should dress so that a visitor will be comfortable, no matter what they show up wearing. That means some should wear suits or dresses, but others should wear a ratty old t-shirt. Not every congregation needs both extremes, but if an entire congregation is all to one side or the other, they aren't doing their job properly to create an atmosphere where anyone would feel welcome.
We have dress-codes for every occasions, correct? We do not go to a party in Swim suits. We give respects to the places if the place expects how we need to be, which was set by tradition even-though culture influences our dress-codes.
We have traditions in churches, and we have respect to the church. If we think our dress reflects respect to the church and if the church accepts the dress, you can wear that dress.
At one occasion in the Bible, where our Lord asks Moses to remove his footwear at His holy place. At another occasion, Peter identified Jesus and put on his outer Garment (Jn 21:7) while he was working without dresses.
There is no need for writers to mention about the Dress code for the synagogues due to the culture of Jews; their dresses raised no question of wearing something objectionable.
We dress up for church to show respect for God, to show that we are making a conscious effort to say that church is important to us, that we value it, that church is something out of the ordinary, because when we dress up (at least a lot of the time), it is for events that we deem important or worthy of dressing up for.
Think of it this way. If you show up to a job interview, and you dress casually, what does it say about your desire to get the job? What does it say about how important you think the occasion is? Everyone agrees that dressing up for a job interview, even if it is not required for actual on-the-job duties, shows respect and value for the position/occasion.
So why shouldn't it be any different for church?