‘What shall I wear to-day?’
That is a question most of us wrestle with each morning. Some see it as an opportunity to impress colleagues by sporting the latest style, while for others it is a matter of finding, as Kris Kristofferson put it, ‘my cleanest dirty shirt.’
It was a question with which Jesus was familiar, (Matthew 6;25), although in first-century Palestine the mass of the people would not have had an extensive wardrobe.
The duty to wear a daily uniform removes the perplexity of that question. It used to be that ministers invariably wore a dog-collar, though not any more. A century ago, an English Congregationalist minister rebelled against the wearing of the dog-collar, stating: “I will not wear anything which marks me off from my fellow-believers.”
A cartoonist saw potential in the remark, and, adjusting the punctuation, produced a cartoon of an obviously naked individual, with the caption: “I will not wear anything---- which marks me off from my fellow-believers!”
The apostle Paul used this daily choice to illustrate how Christian character is developed.
Becoming good is a matter of choosing what you will put on. ‘Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you; compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline’ was advice he gave to his Christian friends.(Colossians 3; 12 in ‘The Message’). In other words, we must make a positive choice to do and be good.
It is advice which has a famous background. Aristotle, three hundred years previously had observed, ‘We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts’. C.S.Lewis in his ‘Screwtape Letters’ suggests that even the Devil knows this to be true claiming that “All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be”.
Lewis himself commented: “Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before...you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”
That’s the thrust of the children’s hymn, ‘Yield not to temptation’.
The line which runs “Each victory will help you, some other to win” reminds us that every choice of the good, makes the next choice easier.
Be careful how you dress tomorrow.