It’s not like I’ve never worn pants!
I’ve just never bought them.
How you ask? Is this a super-secret fashion hack? Am I about to drop the savings bomb of all savings bombs on you? Do I make my own
Well no, no and definitely no.
I’ve just never bought pants.
When I was a kid, my mom bought my pants (thanks mom!). So for my first decade and some change on this earth, I wore pants that were bought for me.
But then I became an adult.
Except I became an adult in the military, which issued me, among other things…pants. Everyone looked exactly the same!
I subsequently got married, where pants, somehow find their way into my closet, I think. I’m actually not really sure where they come from. (thanks wife!)
It’s a point of pride, and shame.
But there’s something to learn about our hearts in the way we, as Christians, dress.
The Value of Simplicity
The church tradition I come from was birthed out of the Quaker movement. One of the Quaker’s liturgical values was that Christians dress in plain clothes. You might recognize the non flair getup from your morning oatmeal container.
While I don’t walk around in heavy home-spun wools, or a wide brim hat. There is a lot to be said for the value of Christians dressing plainly and without pretense. Paul instructs the church in Ephesus to dress “modestly” not in “expensive clothes”, but “with good deeds.” Paul’s instruction here is specifically addressed to women, and as much as I’d love to go on a contextual hermeneutical tirade about why this isn’t just about women. I’m going to ask you to either take my word that it applies to men and women or argue with me about it on Twitter.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.1 Timothy 2:9
Are we trying to build ourselves up by the way we dress, or lift up Jesus to the world?
What’s the Statement We are Making?
When you see me, what do you think?
Does it matter?
The Bible says that “man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.”
Projecting an image of success by the way we dress or buying ‘on-label’ clothes straight from the department store is simply not an investment in our mission.
If Christians dress so that they can ‘project’ something with their appearance. We probably aren’t doing the work right.
That’s not to say there aren’t standards of dress. When I worked in finance it was customary to wear a suit, which I did.
I remember the first job I got in finance I bought a $4 belt from the thrift store and a $5 briefcase. And guess what? I still use BOTH of them ten years later.
While many of my peers in banking bought nice suits and wore sweet shoes, and really looked the part. (This guy knows money). I rotated between my black or gray suit, sometimes changing in the parking lot because one set was at the dry cleaners and the other way to wrinkly. (This says nothing about my frugality, simply poor planning).
Regardless of my bland fashion statements, I was recognized as a leader of my peers. The same guys with the fashion sense were asking ME questions about money and career.
There was a minimal requirement of dress, which I met (most of the time), but beyond that, the clothes brought no added value to my client or to me. I’ve refinanced and consolidated the consumer debt for many a ‘financial advisor’. Can I assure you that just because a guy drives a nice ride and wears a couple thousand dollar suit, does not mean the guy understands money? Or more importantly that money has a bigger handle on him than the other way around.
There’s a flip side of this “not carrying what others think” where we under dress just to make a point, which is oftentimes disrespectful. Don’t wear the hoody to your sister’s wedding. Wear a collar to an interview. Don’t (please don’t) wear pajama bottoms to church (or the store, or really anywhere outside your home).
When we want to stand out, we need to ask ourselves, are we drawing attention to ourselves or to God? What’s the point we’re trying to make. And does it align with our mission?
Cheap is Not the Goal
Although simplicity in Christian dress aligns with the Biblical Way to Budget. There is a darker side to being frugal with your dress, that is hard to see for most Americans.
Imagine how your clothes get to you. A 100% cotton t-shirt, comes from cotton harvested in a cotton field somewhere in South East Asia, Shipped to a shirt manufacturer, turned into a shirt, shipped to a shirt printer, printed and then shipped across the world to a Wal-mart distribution center where it is then again shipped to stores nationwide.
And you can buy it for $8.
This is impossible, without someone in the supply chain being taken advantage of.
Somewhere (or everywhere) in that supply chain is child labor (slave labor?), dangerous working conditions, currency manipulation, smog and a million other affronts to the dignity of human life.
According to the US department of Labor slave labor exists in the 9 of the countries that represent 65% of the world’s cotton production.
When I buy that t-shirt, I’m voting with my dollars. I want to be a part of that.
But I don’t.
I’m admittedly, not as schooled in the ways of ethical clothes making. But I’ve looked enough into this to decide there’s only 1 of 2 answers to this problem.
- Buy from only ethically made manufacturers (which are quite expensive comparably and requires some research to find)
- Buy reused items where the damage has already been done, but I’m not adding dollars into the system.
I’ve come to the conclusion, that at my present place in life, it’s probably not possible to completely eradicate benefiting from ethically questionable practices in all the things I consume.
But I’m beginning to lean into how my dollars effect the economy.
I try, when possible, to buy previously used things in order to opt out of participating financially with supply chain atrocities. Too often in the name of ‘stewardship’ Christians ignore the effects of their inexpensively won goods.
The way we dress and purchase clothes can reveal something about our heart. Are we trying to impress? Get ahead? Feel better about ourselves? Do we have compassion towards the people making the goods that we use?
All these things reveal our heart. In the Western World, it feels like we have to choose between ‘financial responsibility’ and ‘social compassion’, but I think there’s a third way (or at least should be).
What does how we shop for and purchase clothes say about our heart and our wallet?
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