Modern culture loves beautiful things, beautiful clothes, beautiful people. We are immersed in a culture where entire industries revolve around making us look better. As a woman, I am not immune to the lure of fashion, that prevailing notion of style and presentation. Therefore, you do not see me in antiquated, highly stylized clothing from seasons past, but neither am I the pinnacle of current fashion trend. I have neither the means nor the will to stay on top of the fashion wave. If we’re totally honest, real fashionistas would say that you have to stay ahead of the trends, be a fashion front runner that brings about new trends. Our culture worships these trendsetters. Young actors and musicians who create a world wide demand for a particular piece of clothing or a label’s brand simply by wearing it out in public. There are a plethora of websites devoted, not to the individual themselves, but to their sense of fashion, cataloguing what they are wearing and where you can get it for yourself. All of this has quite a high cost.
It’s not just the magnitude of the financial cost, although anyone who has ever priced out a Louis Vuitton can attest to this; it’s the necessary mindset of acquiring and displaying. Fashion is all about who is wearing what, and for how much. There’s always an implicit monetary component. Every designer has tiers of fashion lines that become more exclusive and exponentially more expensive. Before long you can see that, in order to be one of the most fashionable, you have to put out huge sums of money, almost buying the title. And you have to keep buying, because no sooner have you purchased one of the holy grails of fashion, but you find that two months later it has been deemed passe by the powers that be, and you have to go out and buy the next big thing. Hence, we find a vicious fashion cycle emerges.
“Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days” (James 5:1-3 NRS).
I must admit that I do not often sit around and read the Book of James just for the sake of doing so, but there is something to be said about this passage. It seems to recognize that we put all these resources of time, money, and energy into storing up earthly treasures that will just rot away. Even before they rot, they are thrown into the back of our closets, into the donation box, or out in the trash more often than not. I cannot imagine that a Hermes Birken bag will mean anything to Jesus on Judgment Day, or that God will consider your Dior collection of clothes to be fruit born of your faith. I do not think that Jesus will recognize us as disciples because of what we are wearing or what jewels adorn our fingers and wrists, nor our earlobes. While we must wear something, we do not have to wear something that compromises our faith for fashion. The increased pressure for female fashion models to be taller and thinner has left countless girls and women with complexes about their own appearance, and the need to seek drastic measures to conform their appearance through artificial means like plastic surgery and extreme dieting. Nor are our men immune as advertising influence has produced a spike in men obsessed with obtaining a perfect physique of muscular definition that has induced a renewed interest in steroid abuse, compulsive exercising regimens, and the emergence of male eating disorders. What are we doing to ourselves for the sake of beauty and fashion?
(Image courtesy of modelinia.com)
I thought we were supposed to mold ourselves into the image of Christ, to be a visible presence of our Lord and Savior on earth. The only thing Christ wore of note were clothes of dazzling white at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:3), and the purple cloak and crown of thorns during his passion (Mark 15:17). It’s not the fashion models of this world that are to be our muses, but Christ. What we wear, what we spend on our clothing, what we buy with our money should all reflect what we believe, what we know, and what we are according to the world of Jesus Christ. It is far too easy for fashion to go from following to worship. We pay more attention to fashion houses than to the House of God. We read up on the latest fashion, but neglect our Bible. We spend countless hours shopping, and none in mission. Worst of all, we judge others for their lack of fashion when we could be building relationships and loving them. Fashion comes and goes like the breeze, but Christ is the rock upon which we stand forever.
O Divine Designer,
You fashioned us in your image.
Made us to be capable of relationship with you,
But we squander our time and resources on things of this world,
When we should be storing up treasures in the next.
Forgive the adultery of our eyes and our lust for beautiful things.
Enable us to keep our eyes on the cross,
And our feet on the path of righteousness.
May we be clothed in glory born of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.
All these earthly and material things will pass away,
But you, O Lord, will be here forever.
Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
There is nothing we can buy worth betraying our devotion to Christ.
You alone are worthy of our worship.