Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Sets and Subsets

There is a simple mathematical principle that children learn early on in their education, as they are taught “sets” of numbers.

Simply, we could state that one set of numbers would be all “positive, whole” numbers. The set would be described in the following manner:

{1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,…}

Within that set of whole numbers, we could have a subset of all odd whole numbers that have a positive value. Described as:

{1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,…}

Other similar sets could be represented in similar ways.

It is interesting that we can categorize the decisions we make in life in the same way. For example, in deciding what we will eat. There is the big “set” of everything that is edible. Now, I will almost instantly limit myself to a subset of foods which excludes insects, though John the Baptist, “ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6). I hear that chocolate covered grasshoppers are quite tasty, but I think I will refrain.

Sometimes, God limits the “sets” himself. Concerning eating, in the Old Testament, the Jews were limited to the “subset” of things clean. God said, “You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean” (Leviticus 20:25).

For the Christian, a consideration of God’s will should be the first filter which separates the various “sets” of what we do and do not do as we live upon the face of the earth. Let’s see how this works:

What We Wear

I have very casual tastes in clothes. I used to have a pair of grey “lizard skin” sweat pants that I wore until I wore them out. Finally, Debbie had to throw them out, because she got sick of seeing me wear them.

Now, if my only concern was what I like, I would be wearing only such comfortable clothes all the time. But, I know that such dress is not appropriate on certain occasions. (Work, a night out on the town, worship services, etc.).

Think about it for a moment. When I decide what I am to wear, the first “filter” that limits my choices is the will of God. Are my clothes modest? God requires that they be modest, (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8-10). Are my clothes respectful and reverent? As we come together for worship, we assemble before the Almighty God in heaven (cf. Revelation 5:13-14 for a beautiful picture of reverent worship before God). God expects reverence and decorum from his people. This is especially enjoined upon the young men in Titus 2:6-8 “Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”

I do not wear what I “want” to wear to worship. At least, insofar as my personal preferences. Rather, I wear, (and if I have a right attitude, I want to wear) clothes that are appropriate for the solemnity of occasion. Ragged jeans, open-toed sandals, shorts (even modest ones), t-shirts with slogans, etc., do not show proper deference to God or brethren. It may be that it does not offend me, and I am comfortable in these things, but that does not mean that they belong in the “subset” of dress that pleases God.

Yes, the world wears short shorts, miniskirts, tight clothes, swimsuits, and other immodest dress in public. I have seen Christian women wearing clothing which exposes their undergarments! Tight clothing showing a “panty-line”, or see through shirts which show a different colored bra may be in style, but have no place in a Christian’s wardrobe. And I have seen this at worship services! A Christian should not be guilty of such, he is limited to a “subset” of clothing that is modest (as determined by God’s standards, not his own).

Yes, the world wears “casual” clothes to worship God. You would be amazed at what the world wears now to many formal occasions such as graduations, weddings, and funerals. However, a Christian can not follow the casual standard of the world when worshipping God. He is limited to a “subset” of clothing, (and demeanor) that is respectful (as determined by God’s standards, not his own).

Conclusion

Dress is only one area where we should first consider what God thinks in limiting the “set” of things we can practice. What we watch on TV, our habits and hobbies, and our treatment of God and others. Our first question should not be “What do I want?”; rather “What does God want?”