Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
Today there is no reverence for the house of God.
Today there is no respect for the house of God.
If we were invited to a state dinner at the White House, naturally we would wear our best clothes to the President's house. Right?
So, then why do we casually wear whatever makes us "feel comfortable" when we are invited to God’s house?
do professing Christians show disrespect for God’s house by
wearing casual clothes, and
make no proper physical or
spiritual preparation to "come and dine" with the Lord?
In 1999, some people publicly chastised Martha Stewart for wearing a pink pants suit to a White House state dinner. She disregarded White House protocol by wearing short pink pants in the evening. Frankly, she should have known better. Formal clothes are appropriate for special occasions, especially at the White House.
admire Martha Stewart tremendously," says Letitia Baldrige, social
secretary during the Kennedy years. "But I think she needs to read
other people's books on how to dress properly for such an occasion. A
state dinner means a long dress to the floor." The Washington Post
dismissed Stewart's Ralph Lauren outfit as "summery, but perhaps not
the most appropriate attire for a state dinner."
why should anyone be upset by Martha's short pink pants? "The White
House is different," says Baldrige. "It's like a church to me
and should command the same respect."
Notice that Baldridge said, "It's like a church to me and should command the same respect."
But many people today – both young and old – don’t feel like dressing with respect to worship in the house of God. Nevertheless, appropriateness or suitability in clothes has always been the keynote to what to wear for the occasion or activity.
Clothes fall into several categories:
1) Active sport (for participating in sports)
2) Spectator sports/casual (for sports events, school, street, and travel)
3) Informal/afternoon (for church, business, and so forth)
4) Formal/evening (for special occasions)
Unquestionably, sportswear, or play clothes, are not appropriate for church just as they are not appropriate for a funeral, wedding, or other special occasion. Only immature or indifferent or ignorant people do not care about appropriate dress for church.
Besides, people express their casual attitude toward Christianity in their dress and behavior in church. Their dress and their behavior express a spirit of casualness and convenience.
Today there is no reverence for the house of God.
Today there is no respect for the house of God.
But this was not always so. . .
congregation who build a church, build it and continue to regard is as the
house of God. It is, then, a
place where the greatest deference, respect and reverence are due.
Etiquette and Rules of Politeness,
nothing that might appear irreverent in a place of worship.
Whispering, giggling, and scribbling notes during the service
suggest a coarse-grained nature. The
church represents the ideas and beliefs that men through the ages have
held sacred. Respect this
association by subduing, if necessary, the tone of your conduct when you
enter a church.
Way, Please: A Book of
Manners. Eleanor Boykin, 1940.
do not greet each other in church, except at a wedding. At weddings people
do speak to friends sitting near them, in a low tone.
It would be shocking to enter a church and hear a babel of voices.
. . But you do not greet any one until you are out on the church steps,
when you naturally speak to your friends as you encounter them.
Emily Post, 1945.
keynote of good manners in church is reverence. Loud talking or
laughing, waving to people, primping, rattling papers or squirming around
restlessly or curiously – all these are out of keeping with the dignity
of a church.
should dress suitably (never in sweaters or slacks!) and should wear hats
and gloves. Conspicuous
make-up and strong perfume are out of place in church; and jangling charm
bracelets are usually an annoyance to everyone around
greetings before or during services are in very bad taste.
If neighbors and friends are greeted at all, it should be with an
almost imperceptible smile and nod of the head.
The time for friendly talk is after the services when people
meet outside the church.
people do not congregate in the aisles and doorways after a church
service, blocking the way of people who want to leave.
They wait until they are outside before they engage in lengthy
Standard Book of Etiquette,
Lillian Eichler Watson, 1948.
go to church to join with others in prayer, to offer thanks for our
blessings, and to ask for help in knowing and doing the things that are
right. Your church is God’s
house, so it’s natural to approach it in a spirit of reverence and a
to Grow On: A How-To-Do Book
for Boys and Girls,
Tina Lee, 1955.
the Sabbath, and especially for communion, a man should approach the altar
in coat and tie. He may
come and go to the church in his shirt sleeves if that is the custom of
his group and the weather is intolerable, but certainly he must maintain
the utmost dignity in church.
Vanderbilt’s Everyday Etiquette,
clothing restrictions for church have been greatly relaxed in recent
years, the correct dress is still conservative.
Even today women do not wear slacks or shorts to conventional
is the quality that guides one’s behavior at all religious services, and
while it is expressed in various ways, in most faiths quiet,
attentiveness, and dignity are the ingredients.
The New Emily Post’s Etiquette, Elizabeth L. Post, 1975.
So, for years and years and years, church etiquette required proper dress and proper behavior.
But today. . .anything goes. Churches often advertise: “Come as you are.” In other words, dress how you want: shorts, flip-flops, ragged jeans, and so forth. It’s a very self-serving ploy to get us to their church by catering to our self-centered feelings. So, if we don’t feel like dressing appropriately for church, we don’t have to. We don’t have to respect God’s house. We don’t have to reverence God’s house. We don’t have to maintain dignity.
Many years ago when visiting a church in my hometown, a family came dressed to the morning worship service in shorts and flip-flops. Clearly, they were headed to the beach and just made a side trip to the church. Obviously, they felt it would be a great inconvenience to change clothes after the service. And they were not the only family dressed in sports clothes, or play clothes. Play clothes are inappropriate in church. They show a gross lack of dignity. They show a gross lack of respect for God’s house. They show a gross lack of reverence for God’s house.
Whereas the Church used to uphold high culture, it has rapidly declined into low culture. Of course, this decline in the culture of the Church can be traced to the 1960s rebellion against the “establishment,” or authority. And some etiquette books after the 1970s do not even talk about appropriate dress or decorum in church.
Not surprisingly, the Church has gone from Christ-centered to man-centered. In the early 70s, we did not applaud after someone sang a solo in the church service. Then after some churches began to substitute entertainment in place of holy worship, applause became a standard response to any performance in a church sanctuary (auditorium). In other words, church was no longer a sacred place of worship, but a place of pleasurable entertainment.
Clearly, the house of God is no longer a house of prayer; it is a house of entertainment: "Christian" rock music with strobe lights, dramas, movies, book discussion groups, sports, dance, "Christian" comedians, cheap dinners, and other recreation for good times.
Whatever happened to Bible study? Today Christians will read every book except the Bible. Instead, they want to read the latest “Christian” bestseller. Look, friend, you will find the most ungodly books in a Christian bookstore. But the purpose-driven, commercial-driven, entertainment-driven, and money-driven church of today has been exposed in previous articles (Crucifying Christianity, Rick Warren, A Church Divided, The Rebellious Church, Letter and 62 Theses, etc.).
Before we proceed any further, let’s define a few words:
1. sanctuary – derived from the Latin word sanctus meaning sacred, holy. A sacred or holy place.
2. auditorium - the space for the audience in a church, theater, or the like
3. reverence – to regard or treat with reverence; venerate
4. respect – show esteem or respect for
The New Century Dictionary, 1948; The American Heritage Dictionary, 1980
Notice that the definition for auditorium excludes sacredness or holiness. When churches renamed the sanctuary an “auditorium,” this exclusion of sacredness or holiness hastened the secularization of the church and the decline of Christian culture in America. The church sanctuary (auditorium) is no longer a place of prayer and holy worship. The church sanctuary is an auditorium for the false worship of unholy, carnal reveling.
Instead of the Church transforming the world, the world has transformed the Church.
My dear friend, what does God say about dress and decorum in His house? Of course, to answer this question, we must search the Scriptures.
First, let’s study Jesus’ parable of the marriage feast as recorded in the Book of Matthew. Read chapter 22 at http://bartleby.com/108/40/22.html
and pay close attention to verses 11 and 12.
when the king came in to see the guests,
he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having
a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
Matthew 22:11, 12
Of course, the spiritual
truth of this teaching is that we must appear before the King of kings in
robes of righteousness. Without robes of righteousness, we cannot sit
among the guests at the marriage feast of the Lamb with His bride the
Church. If we want to “come and dine” with Jesus we must not be
self-willed, but obey God’s will as expressed in His commands. And the
only way we can wear a robe of righteousness is through repentance and
obedience. He that overcometh, the
same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name
out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and
before his angels (Revelation 3:5).
Unquestionably, the guest invited to the marriage feast in Jesus' parable did not present himself in appropriate attire for the solemn occasion. Clearly, he disregarded the respectfulness of the occasion and insulted the king. Therefore, the king rebuked the guest for transgressing the rules of decorum. The guest’s act was self-willed. He was not going to be told what to wear. The king must welcome him to the feast even though he was dressed inappropriately.
And today the rebellious and the immature and the indifferent are not going to be told what to wear to church. They are self-willed. They are defiant. If the minister and the congregation want them to come to church, they must be allowed to dress comfortably, even if it means shorts and flip-flops. They must be allowed to show irreverence and disrespect in dress and decorum. And, unfortunately, churches have condescended to this common and vulgar willful stubbornness in order to gain more church income.
Listen, friend, we must not make light of the sanctity of God’s house by showing disrespect in behavior or dress. It is an insult to God. Self-willed behavior and inappropriate dress show contempt for the house of the Lord.
Irrefutably, Jesus zealously defended the sanctity of His Father’s house on many occasions. Jesus drove out those who profaned the temple. In fact, Christ cleansed the temple on two occasions as recorded in the books of Matthew and John. The two acts of cleansing the temple marked the beginning and close of Christ’s earthly ministry. The cleansing of the temple is evidence of the reverence Jesus taught for the house of God.
Matthew’s account of Jesus cleansing the temple is recorded in 21:12, 13.
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said
unto them, It is written, My house shall be
called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
was expressing a great truth: we
must reverence God's house. Jesus taught that the temple must be a house
to Mark’s account, on the day of his triumphal entry to Jerusalem, Jesus
“looked round about upon all things.” The next morning He cleansed the
temple: “and began to cast out all them that sold and bought in
the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and seats of
them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any
vessel through the temple” (Mark 11:15,16).
The cleansing was not a hasty act. The day before, Jesus witnessed the
shameful desecration of His Father’s house. Jesus was angry. Jesus was angry and “moved with indignation.” Contrary to
what some professing Christians believe, Jesus’ actions prove that it is
not sinful to be angry at what dishonors God.
There is a righteous anger.
Christians should be angry because the
house of God is being profaned. On the contrary, they are complacent and
tolerant of the shameful desecration of the house of God.
card just came in the mail today that boasts: “At Highland Park Church
· High-Energy ministry to kids and youth ages from birth to 18.
· Coffee and donuts!
· A casual atmosphere. Don’t worry about wearing the right clothes, come as you are, it’s Florida!
· A place to make friends and made a difference.
On the card is a picture of the pastor and his wife dressed in t-shirts. Their casual attitude toward the Gospel is reflected in their casual dress. They lack dignity. They lack reverence. They lack respect.
As noted earlier in the old etiquette books, in the past, American culture dictated that we honor the house of God by appropriate dress and appropriate behavior: reverence, respect, dignity.
Of course, it is right that we must reverence the house of God, but it is also important that when we worship in God’s house, we should offer up our hearts to Him cleansed and purified from sin. We must offer ourselves as a holy living sacrifice.
Moreover, the house of God is a holy place to pray, offer thanksgiving to the Lord, sing in joyful sacred song; and seek Divine wisdom, knowledge, and guidance.
Unfortunately, Christians are being driven out of the house of God because church culture has been lowered to appeal to carnal tastes in a foolish man-made effort to trick sinners into coming to church. In order to increase attendance and increase tithes and offerings, false preachers and false teachers argue that we should throw out reverence and respect to make sinners feel comfortable coming to church. We should not make sinners feel uncomfortable by asking them to show reverence in God’s house. Thus Christians do not have to show reverence in God’s house. Man’s willful law dictates:
Thou shalt not show respect in the house of God.
Thou shalt not honor God with reverence in the house of God.
Simply put, self-will overrules God’s will. Thus man’s law overrules God’s Law to reverence His sanctuary.
The sanctuary of God’s house is a refuge from the carnal reveling of the world.
The sanctuary of God’s house is a holy place of prayer.
We must reverence the sanctuary of God’s house. This does not mean that we must not reverence all the church grounds. The sanctuary and all buildings on church grounds are to be treated with reverence and respect: “My house shall be called the house of prayer.” This is not a suggestion. This is Jesus’ command.
ye not read, “Jesus said, “It is written, My house shall be called the
house of prayer” (Matthew 21: 13; Isaiah 56:7)?
It is written, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3).
It is written, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:30).
Have ye not read, “Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my Sabbaths” (Ezekiel 22:8)?
Have ye not
read, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy
things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither
have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have
hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them (Ezekiel
God commands us not to profane holy things, including His house.
God must be reverenced. And those who reverence
God must reverence His house. Jesus
made it perfectly clear by His words and actions that the temple must be a
house of prayer.
what would Jesus see and hear if He went into our churches and looked around?
Would He see and hear carnal reveling, dramas and other
entertainment, sports, and other profanation?
Or would He see and hear praying, Bible reading, sacred songs, pure
gospel preaching, and reverent worship?
Jesus angrily rebuke us and throw out the loud bands, strobe lights,
coffee and donuts, ungodly “Christian” books and other entertainment
that desecrates the holiness of the church into a casual and irreverent
Jesus angrily rebuke us: “My house shall be called the house of prayer;
but you have made it a den of entertainment”?
There must be cleansing of the house of God and a revival of reverence.