Informality in Worship?
When I was a student at A&M it was our privilege as a fish (freshman) to greet all upperclassmen with a Mr. and sir as in “Howdy Mr. Jones, sir”. From time to time an upperclassman might “drop handles” with a fish. My commanding officer, when riding with me to Lufkin, would drop handles so that I could address him as Richard rather than Mr. Oates, sir and he would call me Jimmy rather than fish Griffith. Once we were back in College Station, however, he once more became Mr. Oates, sir. Now that might seem silly to some but this formality was essential to the structure and discipline of the Corps of Cadets and its military companies.
We live in a casual society and in a particularly informal area of the country. We tend to think primarily of our own tastes and wants and we often reject anything that is more formal and restrictive. Thus most people would just laugh at the idea of having to speak to someone else with a Mr. and sir, and they bridle at the thought of any restriction on the manner in which they speak or the way in which they dress. I believe these attitudes can interfere with our proper worship and service to God.
I suspect some people have taken the privilege of effectively “dropping handles” with our God. I don’t believe that is acceptable to God. We manifest this “dropping handles” by the way in which we address God. Even if we use a proper name we may do so in an unacceptably informal manner. We may not be guilty of calling Him “Dad” as one movie star did but if we approach Him as our buddy or friend or any manner other than as our King and master then we behave inappropriately. We know that we must not take the Lord’s name in vain. Even though we might not use His name in a curse we might instead say something like “gosh” or “God darn.” Gosh is used as a substitute for the name of God and the use of His name coupled with darn is likewise a vain use of His name. Any time we use His name in any manner that is not reverent and does not recognize the relative role of master and servant then we have used His name in vain.
Similarly we are wrong when we become informal in our worship of Him. This informality suggests that we fail to recognize the great expanse between His majesty and our humanity.
This informality at times is manifested in the clothing we wear and how we wear it. One might argue that clothing is unimportant—what we wear means nothing. Most of us have an array of clothing in our closet—clothing for each occasion. We would likely not wear the same clothing to a picnic in a park as we might to a funeral.. We consider the appropriate attire to wear for each occasion. Consider 1 Tim. 2:8-11
1 Tim 2:8-11 8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. NKJV
We miss the primary message of this passage when we use it only to apply to scanty clothing. The term modest is based on the Greek “kosmios” and refers to that which is orderly or decorous. Note that in this context women were apparently overdressing in terms of braiding of hair and the wearing of gold or pearls and of costly clothing. He urges women (and I believe the principle applies to men as well) to instead adorn themselves with that which is proper for women professing godliness.
Note that there was clothing that was proper for the assembly—that which was suitable or appropriate and was becoming to a woman professing good works. Paul understood that attire was important within the assembly as was a proper attitude in prayer and the fact that women should be in submission. I believe the matter of attire is important for the following reasons.
- The clothing should reflect the attitude of the worshipper. Prayer was to be without wrath and doubting. Women were to adorn themselves in modest apparel so that their primary attraction was not the outward appearance but instead the inward godliness. Informal clothing may reflect a lack of commitment, seriousness, and respect for God just as fancy attire might draw the attention to the individual and away from God.
- The Christian should prepare himself for worship long before he arrives at services. In one sense, the preparation has been ongoing all week. An informal attire might well reflect a carelessness in attitude toward God and His service.
- The attire and behavior in worship sends a message to the observer regarding the manner in which the observer should approach God.
Typically we take some time in dressing and preparing for special occasions in our lives. Most of us have a choice of clothing appropriate for each occasion. We do not go into a job interview with a disheveled look—the occasion is important to us and we wish to look our best. Is not our respect for our Lord and our desire to worship Him of even greater importance? Do we not wish to send a clear message to non-believers that worship of our God and our relationship with Him is the most important thing in our life?
Informality in our relationship with God may belie either a lack of humility on our part or it may indicate a lack of commitment to take every step possible to show others our love and respect for our God.