Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 97: Wasting on Wearing Wants

“For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee.” (3 Kings 29:14 RSV and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

What a huge amount of money is spent upon what we wear. At the same time that we are watching great numbers of people migrating from the war-torn Middle East with only the rags they are wearing for clothing, we are off to the mall to buy a $300 pair of the latest sneakers. The demands of fashion seem never ending in our rich and indulgent society.

 St. Paul had sharp words for his Corinthian congregation: “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? …What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord’…” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17 RSV).

He has further words in his first letter to Timothy (chapter 2) about how to dress modestly and appropriately. After all, it is not what we wear that makes us of value in the sight of God. It is the inward adorning with the Holy Spirit that God values. We dress ourselves in kind words and thoughtful respect shown to each other. That is what God values. It is the self-denial practiced by those who have, that can be of great help to those who have not. Our inward adorning can relieve the suffering, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. How? Because we have saved our money from indulgence on “unnecessaries” and turned that money into the work God has called us to do.

Remember the scene of the last judgment in Matthew 25? To those who asked when did we see the Judge hungry, naked, thirsty, sick or in prison? The Judge answers: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” One place to find ourselves helping the least of these is by our putting away of self-indulgence, especially in clothing.

Christ brings this message to the people time and time again: “…do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:31-33 RSV); “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 RSV).

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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