The Gospel on clothes, finer things and vanities


#1

We all know the Gospel where Jesus tells us not to worry about what we wear. Does anyone know of any writings that talk about it with greater theological depth?

I was sorting through my clothes and have been feeling guilty that I have expensive clothes. Not insanely expensive but they aren’t exactly from the Walmart racks. I’ve been feeling guilty about it.

But I did buy them thinking that they’d help me in life. For one thing, the nicer your clothes, the more they can help with you succeeding. For another, the nicer you feel your clothes are, the more it will help your mentality. There was a study that divided people into two groups. Each group was given identical white coats. One group was told they are painter’s coats and the other was told they’re doctors’ coats. Each group was given identical tasks, and the group that was told it had been given doctors’ coats did a better job than the group with the painter’s clothes. So, your self-perception with your clothes can help you do a good job. It suggests that if your heart is in the right place and you’re doing God’s work, it’s okay to have moderately nice clothes.

Then again, we have saints who had gotten successful wearing rags. John the Baptist wore coarse clothes. John Paul II had worn-out shoes and gave away the nicer clothes he was given. Mother Teresa’s habit costs less than American shoelaces. However, I read that John XXIII was rather fussy when it came to his clothes. I’m guessing so was Pius IX.

And what about other things that might be a rather luxurious? Playing golf is expensive, yet I know Bishops who play. Being a wine connoisseur sounds costly too, yet the very holy Pius XIII was one. Some might grumble that these expensive things should be avoided and money should all just go to the poor. Others might say that you’re welcome to use what God blessed you with.

What if you’re born really good looking? Can one cultivate one’s looks? I’m talking about going so far as to do things like taking a lot of care after one’s skin (more than the average person), using special creams, getting hair removal, etc. Others around you might consider you vain. Yet you might say, Hey, I was blessed with these looks and I want to maintain it,

It’s all a matter of interpretation, I suppose. Can anyone suggest any writings that address this?


#2

We’ve had several thread on this subject lately…Wonder if it’s because of Christmas and presents…:smiley:

I have nothing to recommend except a thought I had this morning on the subject (because of the aforementioned other threads).

To me, the underlying issue is not the clothes but the “worry” - to reference the Gospel passage you mention. There are many reasons one might choose one article of clothing over another - quality, affordability and practicality are all things that jump to mind. Price is less of a factor.

That said, if one “worries” about what they are going to wear - as in “is this in fashion” and “what will others think” - that can become a problem.

Ultimately I think the issue is whether you are doing things to “garner attention” One can dress nicely in ways that will seek attention or ways that will not seek attention. As you say in your post - A lot of it depends on where your heart is.

As for other “luxurious things”, it’s best for each individual to to prayerfully discern than to try to give hard fast rules.

Peace
James


#3

I think if you are dressing in a nice but respectable and modest way you could actually be showing respect for God and yourself. Buying cheap clothes fills up landfills and buying nice clothes that last is actually better for the environment. You are also taking care of what God gave you and I think that looking nice honors God. Couldn’t looking bad actually be considered sloth? Many of the Popes have worn beautiful clothing and so do many of the priests.

I think if you are not dressing in a provocative way, spending beyond your means, doing it to show off, and not going way overboard (like with plastic surgery) it is a good thing.

A passage I think of is:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27

I don’t see anything wrong with making yourself look nice, in fact I think it’s much better than the people who show up to mass in pajamas.


#4

The initial cost of things means nothing, really. What is important is what we do with the things we buy/own.

If a dress costs little and is made cheaply, it may not last more than a few wearings. How is that saving money if you have to buy another one? Better to buy something of good quality that you will wear much longer–so you don’t have to buy another one much sooner than necessary.

Worth is based on how much you will use what you buy/own not on how much it cost.


#5

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.