Getting Ready for Church
When I read 1 Timothy, a letter Paul wrote to a young pastor 2000 years ago, I marvel at how timely it is…and how practical. Paul addresses men and women in chapter 2, giving encouragement to both sexes for how they are to prepare themselves for public worship. Men get ready to come to church by checking their hands. If they are clenched in fists of rage, or shoved into their pockets because of apathy, they are not ready. If they are locked behind their backs because they have abdicated leadership and are being led by their wives, or if they are steeped in a sinful lifestyle, they are not ready. It wasn’t hands Paul was concerned with, but he says you can tell a lot about a man’s heart by looking at his hands. If they can be lifted in prayer, without wrath and without doubting, that expression matches his profession that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The word for wrath in this text means, “anger as a state of mind.” It doesn’t mean you had an argument in the car with your wife on the way to church, men. That can be quickly confessed. It points to a slow burn, an angry, simmering state of mind that always threatens to erupt. This is the man who is always looking for a fight, quick to defend himself at the slightest provocation. Or the man who lives to punish someone who has hurt him. That’s good old, garden-variety bitterness. Except it’s not good. And the only fruit from that garden is poison. What can we do about this? Preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Remind ourselves of the grace that was poured out on us through the brutal death of our Savior. Can we possibly look to the cross and at the same time hold onto towering rage or seething bitterness?
Now Paul turns his attention to the women, except he doesn’t talk about how women are to pray, but how they are to dress. There is nothing in the text, or anywhere in the Scriptures, really, about how a man should dress for worship. Perhaps this is because God has given men and women different desires, for the most part, with regard to clothing. Answer this question: Mostly, men dress for church to A. Be comfortable but not sloppy, or B. To express something about themselves. Right, the answer is A. A man dresses for utilitarian reasons: what can I get by with, or, what will my wife let me get by with? How does a woman dress for church? A woman’s dress is an expression of who she is and what she believes. The question in this text is not whether a woman should dress to look her best. The issue is how she chooses to adorn herself, and Paul has two exhortations on this. He says, women, make sure you dress with modesty and propriety. When a woman or young woman dresses immodestly in the worship service or anywhere in public, she seems to be offering something that only belongs to her husband, or to her future husband. It would be a good exercise for every woman and young woman to ask her husband or father, “What kind of clothing do women wear that tends to make you stumble?” Get an honest answer, ladies, and then avoid dressing that way yourselves, for the gospel’s sake.
Paul has much more to say in this powerful little letter. Study it out for yourself, you who believe the Bible.