Which Jacket Are You Wearing?

Walter Albritton



Envy takes over now and then. Usually it’s when I see a man wearing a jacket that would look good on me. But so far, envy has not persuaded me to replace my old blue jacket with a fancy new one. With a label inside that says “Members Only,” Old Blue has served me well in wintertime for 25 years. I have three other old jackets, but Old Blue is my favorite. It’s so comfortable I guess I’ll wear it to the finish line. 

More important than which jacket I’ll wear in cool weather is what clothing I will choose to wear spiritually. Clothes are a significant metaphor in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis it is God who makes garments of skin to “clothe” Adam and Eve after their disobedience in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation, John says the bride of Christ — the church — will be clothed in fine linen for the wedding supper of the Lamb. 

As a sign of mourning and self-humiliation, the Israelites tore their clothes and put on sackcloth. After a season of grief, they would “change their clothes,” as David did after mourning the death of the son he had fathered with Bathsheba. In one of his Psalms, David praised the Lord for turning “my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” David often used the word “clothing” in his Psalms. He saw the hills clothed with gladness, the priests clothed in righteousness, God clothed in “splendor and majesty” and his enemies clothed in shame and disgrace. 

In the New Testament, Paul and Peter both urge Christians to “clothe” themselves with humility and other virtues which please God. I try to let my Old Blue jacket remind me to “put on” my humility jacket every day. My worst days are those when I discover I am wearing my arrogance jacket. I know I am wearing it when I insist that my way is the right way, ignore counsel I should have embraced, brag about something I have done or fail to listen to reasonable criticism. It is the jacket that convinces me that “it’s all about me.”

Satan uses arrogance to ruin some of us, especially pastors. While Jesus makes it clear that his followers are not to “lord it over others,” we pastors sometimes forget that we are sent to serve, not to be served by others. We please God when we live as servants of Jesus, humbly putting the needs of others above our own. When I was ordained, the bishop laid his hands on my head and said, “Take thou authority to preach the word and administer the sacraments.” He didn’t say, “Make sure your church provides you with a special parking place.” The authority of which the bishop spoke was that of shepherding God’s people.

Authority can be twisted into ugly arrogance. That is not the attitude with which a Christian nor a shepherd should be clothed. If I am wise, I will leave my arrogance jacket in the closet, and without any mothballs in the pockets to protect it. When he was young, the Apostle Peter arrogantly boasted about his loyalty to Jesus. His braggadocious spirit melted into shameful cowardice when Jesus was being beaten and crucified, leaving Peter a broken man. 

Later, older and wiser, Peter would offer this counsel in his First Letter: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” He had learned with Paul not to think of himself “more highly than he ought to think.” It is no accident that when Peter asks us to humble ourselves before God, he reminds us that the devil is prowling around, “like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.” That’s how the devil works; he consumes us by enticing us to think too highly of ourselves. 

To defeat the devil, and resist him successfully, we must constantly refuse to throw the jacket of arrogance around our shoulders while remembering to clothe ourselves with the jacket of humility. It is the attire our Lord provides for us all, including his shepherds, and the only dress code approved for followers of Christ. 

Which jacket are you wearing today?


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