Friday, August 03, 2012


Four years ago I had double carotid artery surgery. It went well, but for a few weeks I couldn't wear a tie at all. After those few weeks, I tried to wear one as I preached at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Enid Oklahoma on a Sunday morning. It bruised my neck___although the collar was quite big and the tie not very tight at all___ and I took it off between a two service set of speaking. I've not had one on since. For four years now, on all occasions, funeral, wedding, worship service, tie-lessness has been my attire.

In Matthew 23:1-7 it says that Jesus said this to the crowd and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,* and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi."

A lot that can be nuanced from this passage obviously. One thing is that the Pharisees really were a black/white kind of bad guys no doubt. This is seen in so many different ways according to this passage. First, they appeared to delight in the position of authority about religious things and the people had to take a back seat in their humble serving roll. Then, they seemed to be able to be comfortable with saying what others SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do, but they never bothered with lifting a finger to make it easier on those who bear the burden of doing what they said must be done. Finally, they just LOVED trying to LOOK different than anyone else. They loved to wear their phylacteries in plain sight and fringes [garments] long. They wouldn't be mistaken that way for one of the more common sort of people to whom they "ministered" and for whom they had quite a disdain.   

All this got me to wondering if perhaps clothing of one sort or another CAN get in the way of ministering. Maybe by giving an appearance of being a professional minister, as opposed to being a regular person, and thereby closing down accessibility to people, we miss people really. If clothes do, indeed, perpetuate the theologically flawed concept that the professional minister is the ONLY one who CAN minister the Word of God or is the ONLY one who CAN minister to any of the other needs the people might have, no doubt, those clothes ARE a stumbling block. I'm NOT saying that is is WRONG to wear a tie or any other piece of clothing. [Think suit here or jeans for that matter.] But I am saying anything can become a stumbling block to the ordinary person when we make an elevated thing out of clothing or anything else [think pulpit here] associated with the one doing the preaching of the Word and ministry. 

Someone will declare, I'm sure, that it is just trying to look your best for the Lord. I'll grant you that. Anything looks better than some of the modern garments that appear to be ten years old and dirty when brand new, or are so immodest that it causes one to look away. There is THAT. But when a minister won't mow his lawn without his tie on, [I actually knew this guy] or be seen in public, much less stand in the pulpit, without a coat on, I'm wondering if a modern day "phylactery" is not in place! 

This may be the proverbial "much ado about nothing," but, having thought it through and having spoken about it, I'll just stick to my tie-lessness thank you.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


LOL! I knew that tie and coat nut as well. Even informality meant a tie.

I ministered for six years in one of the hottest areas in our country. My first service was in the middle of a particularly hot and humid summer. As I walked to the pulpit there were several, very audible, stage whispers, "He's not wearing a tie!"

Your words are certainly not "much ado about nothing". Our principal in college warned us about being tie-less and having sleeves rolled up.

Bob Cleveland said...

When I look at your picture in the profile section at the top of the page, I cannot think of a single thing a tie would add to that, in any way whatsoever. That's a picture of the sort of person, dressed quite properly, from whom I'd enjoy learning stuff.

I was in the stuffy old property and casualty insurance business for 50 years and, in the end, it was my customers who told me they'd sure feel a lot better if I'd lose the rag...

Becky Dietz said...

I remember a place where Andy served as youth minister and was told to wear a tie---even when playing basketball with the kids. He politely refused. Ha!!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

That's one of those remembered times I like hearing about. ;)


Why thanks for the compliment. :)


I hope the guy who told him to has grown a little in his understanding of things. LOL

Rex Ray said...

You quoted the scripture “…and to have people call them rabbi."

Other than becoming a doctor, wonder how many ‘egos’ pursue an education in order to be called “Dr”?

Paul Burleson said...


No way of knowing, but knowing human nature like I do, including my own, I'll bet too many.

Dave said...

Interesting subject.

I'd tend to say that you should wear whatever works best in the community that you serve. The average joe does have a distrust of men in suits.

I know one minister who wears a clerical collar because they've found it gives them no end of opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. That wouldn't be my choice but you can't fault the logic!