Thursday, January 16, 2014

And shoes too - The Instructor on shoes

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.

I dedicate this post to my daughter whose motto is, "If the shoe fits, buy one in every color!"
"Women fond of display act in the same manner with regard to shoes, showing also in this matter great luxuriousness. Base, in truth, are those sandals on which golden ornaments are fastened; but they are thought worth having nails driven into the soles in winding rows. Many, too, carve on them amorous embraces, as if they would by their walk communicate to the earth harmonious movement, and impress on it the wantonness of their spirit. Farewell, therefore, must be bidden to gold-plated and jewelled mischievous devices of sandals... and setting before us the right aim, as is the habit with our truth, we are bound to select what is in accordance with nature. For the use of shoes is partly for covering, partly for defence in case of stumbling against objects, and for saving the sole of the foot from the roughness of hilly paths." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 12)
Clement applies his same manor of reason towards clothes to that of shoes, namely that excesses for the sake of show are to be avoided. Clement views clothes and shoes, as well as other forms of external necessities, as existing to serve the needs of the body. They are meant to serve the necessities of the body and therefore all excesses and superfluidity in them is both unnecessary and a snare. Those who try to attach greater significance and value to such external trappings, such as beauty and status, show forth an inward need and lack that is meant only to be fulfilled in the Lord. Shoes are meant to cover and protect, not to show how beautiful, rich, or graceful we are.
"To go with bare feet is most suitable for exercise, and best adapted for health and ease, unless where necessity prevents. But if we are not on a journey, and cannot endure bare feet, we may use slippers or white shoes; dusty-foots the Attics called them, on account of their bringing the feet near the dust, as I think. As a witness for simplicity in shoes let John suffice, who avowed that 'he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of the Lord’s shoes.' For he who exhibited to the Hebrews the type of the true philosophy wore no elaborate shoes." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 12)
It is interesting to note Clement's preference for going barefooted as he obviously lived in a climate well suited for that. However, Clement also reminds us, from the words of John the Baptist, that even Jesus wore simple shoes. Jesus was not given to ostentatious displays in dress or shoes, rather He employed simple dress and shoes as supplying His bodily necessities. If Jesus was content with simple shoes, shouldn't we be too? Jesus was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet He didn't feel compelled to dress like it. He knew who He was, where He was from, and where He was going and He didn't need outward extravagances to convince others of it. There were no hidden doubts or emotional needs for which to compensate by outward dress and appearances. Let the same be true of us. Let us come to know and believe the love of God and then we too will have no need of show.

David Robison

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