The other day I was ironing my clothes for a wedding. I often iron my own clothes, but since I seldom wear a tie and jacket I faced a dilemma. Did I need to iron the shirt that would be covered by a jacket anyway? Maybe just starch the collar and sleeves because they stick out? Hmm.
After a short inner debate, I concluded that ironing the whole shirt would be best. There’s something about playing in front of people that makes you want to have it all together. Just knowing my shirt was wrinkly beneath my jacket was likely to cause me to flub a few notes or sing out of tune.
You might be perplexed, those of you who see me every week at church. He doesn’t exactly look like he’s dressed for the occasion, you might have thought a time or two. You can be sure, though, that whether I’m wearing a nice shirt and tie or sporting jeans with a few holes, I’ve at least ironed them. I wear what I do on purpose. There’s bound to be at least one guest in church that day wearing jeans, maybe feeling a little underdressed and self-conscious. If he sees me, he’ll likely be encouraged. At least there’s one person he’ll be dressed better than. Someone’s gotta make the sacrifice; I’m willing to take one for the team. I like to tell people who deplore my Sunday wardrobe that I do get dressed up; you should see what I wear other days.
Sandals and a Muddy Camelbak
I always wondered why we feel this need to get dressed up on Sundays. I mean, God sees us naked anyway. Despite the fact that he made them, I don’t think he’s all that impressed with Oriental silk and Egyptian cotton. Or the latest East Coast trends to finally hit the Midwest, or whether my socks match my shirt or pants. Which is it supposed to be anyway? See, that’s why I prefer sandals. Come to think of it, Jesus liked sandals too. Hmm.
In contrast to what we put on, who we are on the inside is of more value to God. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, who were strict teachers of Jewish law. Anytime Jesus says “woe to you,” it’s not good. He said to them,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. —Matthew 23:25-28 esv
That whole clean-the-outside-of-the-cup thing reminded me of when I went mountain biking recently. It rained the previous day, so the path was quite sloppy. My water bottle became caked with mud. But despite the outside, I knew that refreshing, liquid energy existed on the inside.
See, these Pharisees were more intent on trying to please others than on pleasing God. Their Camelbak water bottles were sparkling on the outside but were filled with muddy, bacteria-infested water. They gave airs of righteousness but were in fact dead in their hearts. They made sure their coat and slacks were pressed while their Oxford underneath was a wrinkly mess. Woe to them.
Playing onstage in a well-ironed ensemble emboldens a musician. Living life from the inside out makes it so you have nothing to hide from God. No lies to try to remember. And the audience becomes hidden behind the blinding stage lights of God’s presence and his applause.