Clarence used to go around the auditorium of our church shaking hands with every single person he saw, but we all knew what his real objective was. He was the hat police. If Clarence saw some guy–women were okay–wearing any kind of head covering, he would politely but unyieldingly insist that they remove it.
Why exactly were hats verboten in church? I’m not sure, but that was then and this is now. Today, see all manner of things as I scan the church body. Some people dress to the nines, while others only get to the threes or fours. Hats are nothing these days. What would Clarence say?
I’m reminded of this as I continue reading Ecclesiastes:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to approach in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Just as dreams accompany much labor, so also a fool’s voice comes with many words.Ecclesiastes 5:1-3
Solomon admonishes us to guard our steps. That sounds like good advice, but how exactly does one guard one’s steps? In Psalm 119:34 we read, “Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.” That makes sense. It’s pretty hard to follow the instructions if you don’t understand them. It’s pretty hard to dress appropriately if you don’t know exactly what constitutes appropriate.
And Then There’s the Talking
Besides people wearing hats, we have all sorts of people running their mouths. I’m not talking about people blurting out corrections in the middle of the sermon. That said, I did actually approach a guy and tell him his talking was distracting a few weeks back.
When I’m talking about people running their mouths, I mean the ones who have five opinions for every one fact that they actually possess. This type tends to say something like, “You know what the church ought to do?” But when the time comes to actually make that or anything else happen, they’re nowhere to be found. When it has all been said and done, there’s been a lot more said than done!
Solomon advises us to let our words be few, but how few? How much talk is too much talk? I’m sure those who I call big mouths don’t see themselves that way, and there are probably people who want me to shut up.
Getting in Tune
Human behavior frequently is organized into a bell curve. For example, some people keep their mouths clamped shut while others never stop talking. These people exist out toward the edges of the bell curve. When we find ourselves well out of the mainstream, more than a standard deviation from the mid-point, we should probably start asking questions.
We could do the same thing when it comes to what we wear or how we react in worship or several other behaviors. If everybody in your church wears swimsuits, then a swimsuit is the thing. If yours is a suit and tie sort of group, then your Pink Floyd t-shirt is probably not the right choice.
Knowing how to guard our steps is not as difficult as it might seem in the age of the Holy Spirit. When we actively seek wisdom and discernment, when we pay attention to others who are doing the same, then we’re likely to keep our feet on the path much more often than not.
As for me, I’m still not wearing a hat, but Clarence isn’t watching any more.