One of my sons called from across the country to announce that his Big Five accounting firm had gone casual. I couldn't help smiling, having for years sympathized as he sweated it out in dark suits, even in summer - while I wore light sport jackets four days and went tieless and jacketless on Fridays.
Suddenly the tie was around the other neck. Not only were the employees of that company mostly out of suits. They were suddenly allowed to be tieless and jacketless any working day.
When people talk about this issue of dress codes, the question often comes up, "When does casual slide into sloppy?"
Well, does dress affect our ability to do our work? This is where it helps to think about God's standards. There's a passage of Scripture that deals comprehensively with what God requires of us. It's to "fear the Lord [our] God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul" (Deut. 10:12).
This passage presents quite a standard for conduct, if not clothing. To "fear" the Lord is to have reverence - to "take Him seriously," as a preacher I know loves to say. And, to "serve" God naturally includes serving and loving His children.
An author who did all she could to shed light on the Scriptures wrote, "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 4).
If people were clothed in love and service to humankind, there wouldn't be much room for debate over sneakers, skirts, or ties. Jesus encouraged us to think of the way lilies grow: "They toil not, neither do they spin," he observed. "And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matt. 6:28, 29). Lilies have a spiritual beauty all their own.
The best thinking happens when we've come to realize more fully that it's impossible for anything shoddy, no matter what form it takes, to enter God's "work-site." God works in us and through us. Each of us is clothed in dignity and serenity from God.
While there's always plenty of room for spontaneity and naturalness, there's nothing casual about real living and working. The Apostle Paul urged the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17). And that "prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace" mentioned earlier amounts to a constant experience of drawing closer to God. It's really not an oppressive discipline, even if it does call for listening attentively and then taking action. Because the more we know about and express God, the more freedom we find for ourselves.
When being casual is about a lack of self-discipline, a lost sense of duty or commitment, thoughtless treatment of co-workers, it might as well be shown the office door.
When it denotes a readiness to love, to be spontaneously open to inspiration, to relax in the knowledge of the Almighty's care for all creation - it's always welcome.
Take your stand then
with truth as your belt,
integrity your breastplate,
the gospel of peace
firmly on your feet,
salvation as your helmet
and in your hand
the sword of the Spirit,
the Word of God.
Ephesians 6:14, 15, 17
(J.B. Phillips translation)
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