Is it a Sin to Shop at Thrift Stores And Refuse to Shop Anywhere Else?

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I am addicted to the thrift store.  Clothing is already out of date at discount stores and stuff from the thrift store; well you might get something from the last decade or the nineties there.  In theory that should not be a problem as my personal style has never really evolved since the nineties anyway.  But I often wonder if the image that I am supposed to be putting forth conflicts with the ease of which I can buy stuff at the thrift store.

Thrift stores encourage gluttony; just the other day I bought 3 shirts for $6.  I didn’t really need 3 shirts, but again they were $6, and the brand names were great and I normally would have to pay anywhere between $50 and $100 for each shirt if it were new.  Is it possible that someone else needed those shirts more than I did?  I could have waited until I could find something similair and bought 3 shirts for $50; I can afford to do so when others cannot.

It is not as though I am doing it to support charities or give to a noble cause.  I do it because it is cheap and it is a quick fix, if I had my way I would buy something every day of the week.  Today I found myself taking back stuff I actually did purchase from a real store to the thrift store that I had bought out of desperation (because I just had to have something). 

Have I become a hoarder?  Is this how it starts?  A good find here and there, saving 99% while you cannot see the floor of your closet?  Debating with ones self if they should throw something away that they have not worn for months.  There are items that I cannot find at thrift stores.  I have tried to buy suits, or suit jackets, and they simply do not have my size.  The same men that donate to thrift stores can wear an extra large and a size 42; I need an extra large and a size 48 jacket. 

I have a lot of cheap, easy satiated addictions in where I can always get my fix for $20.  Part of the reason I do not dress up is because what I like costs a bit more.  I might be able to find a jacket on clearance for $80 out of season.  Now I am at odds with myself; what I really like is often $50 to $100 a pop; I found a loophole that allows me to get older goods for a few bucks (and it might be a few years old) but it holds up over time and still looks great.  I thought that I was empty and bourgeois then, on a working poor man’s budget, and I still feel that I am empty and bourgeois now, on a truly poor man’s budget.  I can assert my own personal style and look great and loose myself in those fantasies, but at what cost?

We know that gluttony is a sin. The word “gluttony” only appears once in the New International Version in Proverbs 23:2.  It says to put a knife to my throat if I am given into gluttony.  Considering that putting a knife to ones throat is one way to commit suicide we will take this verse metaphorically.  If you look at the entire passage, it says that when you sit with a ruler to note what is before you, and not to crave his delicacies, becuase the food is deceptive.  One way to look at this is that those that actively market goods to us are our rulers, in a commercialized, capitalistic society.  We crave the delicacies, but the food is deceptive; so we spend out money but we are decieved on many levels. 

The clothing does not last as long as we need it to, primarily because we wear it every day as it is our best gear.  Or it might last longer than we need it to, in which case we have wasted money because we gave it away or threw it away before its time had passed.  Or we may have gotten involved with a fad or a trend.  We should be careful what we crave, because we are easily decieved.  Verse 4 is pretty interesting; “do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness”.  Very wise words indeed; many things come to mind when I read this passage.

The word gluttony is not one you will readily find in the bible, as there are not any references in the King James Version.  But if we look it up in the dictionary we see that it is the “practice of eating to excess“.  Too often we think about food when we consider gluttony, but there are many things that can be “ate”.  One definition is “to make money“.  Okay so that definition is sort of ghetto; but if you look it up in the regular dictionary you will find some interesting alternatives to the intake of food.  To recieve or enjoy enthusiastically or rapidly, to believe without question, to exercise a consuming or eroding effect.  The idioms are interesting as well, but those have little, if anything, to do with the point that most try to put across when they are using the word. 

I can still take away money that could be better spend elsewhere; I just am not taking away as much money as I would at a regular store.  If I am busy trying to outdress someone else, or trying to get attention through useless vanity the sin is the same.  The other part of my question asks if a Christian has to deliver that squeaky clean look, or a safe look, or if they can express themselves in a way that others might deem to be trashy. 

Most references I found had to do with what occured at that time.  For example in 2 Samuel 14:2 Joab told a woman how to manipulate the king both through her attire and her composure.  When Joseph was put in charge of Egypt in Genesis 41:41-43 he was dressed in fine linens.  What is the intention of your manner of dress?  Is it to manipulate others or draw attention to yourself or to assert a truth that conflicts with or contradicts your message to others as a Christian or is it to stand out from the world, instead of blend into it?  What are we truly trying to say through the way that we dress?  At the same time, is someone else dressing us in fine linens or are we dressing ourselves in that way?

When someone else dresses you in fine linens, you have earned the money, the right way, and you can afford the expense of the clothing.  When you dress yourself in that way you might be robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The fine linens were a representation of the promotion that Joseph recieved; if we promote ourselves how is anyone else going to promote us (both to the extent that we are advertising that we have already been promoted to and anything beyond), why would anyone else promote us?

Joseph was given a coat of many colors, but was he right in wearing it?  We all know what happened to Joseph for wearing that coat at the hands of his brothers and the offense that they took to the coat.  At the same time his issues did not really start until he told his brothers about the dream.  See it is one thing to wear the garment; people will tolerate that even though they may have their own issues with you (or with the article in question) but another thing to boast and brag. 

The issue is not the thrift store.  The issue is whether or not the idea of helping out someone else (which is how thrift stores are marketed to us) validates our own pride, boastfulness or egos when we use thrift stores for items that we may not necessarily need.  I understand that there are a lot of individuals that have bought everything they have at thrift stores, and I think that they provide a service for the working poor of which the importance could never be fully be measured or understood.  But there are a lot of us that could afford something else in there that are playing games, just like there are those among us that play those same games at discount stores.  We have the money, we do not really need to spend the money, and we are looking to indulge in our own excesses in order to feel better about ourselves.  The problem with sin, is that it is easy to justify one sin with one good work; if your heart is not in the right place, it is still the same sin at the end of the day …


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