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Dress Down and Dress Up

by Alan Allegra  
1/22/2016 / Christian Living


I've got the easy part today: I just have to write a lovingly-crafted, winsome, true-to-the-Bible devotional. My wife has the hard part: taking down the Christmas decorations.

Without going into detail, suffice it to say we have 21 Christmas trees in our house. Thankfully, none of them are real; we couldn't afford enough vacuum cleaners to get up all the needles. Nonetheless, the sheer number and classification of ornaments makes undressing the trees a ponderous proposition.

Ornaments and ornamentation serve at least one function: to draw attention or add appeal. Blank walls do little for a home. Our natural tendency is to decorate our surroundings, be they home, office, prison cell or hospital room. Generally, decorations add beauty and meaning to our lives.

We even decorate our bodies in keeping with our situations. The more significant the occasion, the more ornate our ornaments. In many cultures, the higher the rank, the heavier the gowns, robes or medals.

To be stripped of ornamentation is to reveal the basic person or thingto reveal the true essence. A tree is only a Christmas tree when it's decorated. Its essential nature is tree. An officer stripped of his stripes and a king robbed of his robe reveal mere men.

After Moses caught the Israelites gallivanting with the golden calf, God told them to remove their ornaments as a sign of remorse, sorrow, and humility (Exodus 33:46). They had used their jewelry to make the calf and must now shed the reminders and temptations of sin and show.

It is not the outward appearance but the inward heart that reveals the essence of a person, and that is what God sees (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:910). He cares not for wealth, status, rank, color, gender or any other distinction. To His eyes, man is man, woman is woman, and all are judged equally (Matthew 22:16).

The apostle Peter instructed Christian women to "[Not] let your adorning be externalthe braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wearbut let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious" (1 Peter 3:34). He was not forbidding women to wear jewelry but reminding them that real, lasting beauty is found in a godly heart.

All ages, genders, and ranks are equally commanded to put on their ornamentsbut not on themselves. Believers are to create ornaments of good works and use them to "adorn the doctrine of God" (Titus 2). These ornaments are meant to attract people to God, not our selves (Matthew 5:16). Except perhaps at an office party, people don't make Christmas ornaments and hang them on their bodies; they are meant to decorate trees. Just so, Christians need to craft ornaments of good works, not to draw attention to ourselves (Matthew 6:1) but to attract attention to God. We are to dress up with the beauty of a godly spirit and dress down with humility so God gets the attention!

Alan is Content Coordinator for Lifestyles Over 50 (Thrive Media) and contributor to the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also an adult Sunday school teacher and Bible study leader. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology, and being a senior citizen!

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