Is it generous to give up my excess?


Not my closet, I promise!

One morning recently, I couldn’t find my teal jacket, the one I wear with my light brown and teal glen plaid slacks. So that evening, I tore the house apart … dealt with the heap of abandoned clothing awaiting cleaning or rehanging … pulled every empty hanger out of the closet … reorganized my entire closet by color … and there it was, exactly where it had been all along. Squished in between the teal knit wrap jacket and the sheer black and teal summer wrap.

Can anyone say “excess”?

I remember when a New England friend was taken to task by a visitor from California for owning two outer coats. She had to explain to the Left Coaster that New England has something called “seasons,” and the coat that’s suitable on a 50 degree fall evening might not do when winter hits 5 below. Funny how little we know, sometimes, about other people’s experiences.

So now I live in the suburbs, in the South. People dress here. I mean, they DRESS. Probably the first thing that really convinced me we weren’t out of the woods in this economy was seeing women at church last week still wearing the berry purple that was fashionable last fall. Everyone ought to be in their spring wardrobe by now. Black, white, green, and the new yellow and pink (“hibiscus”). Or the brown and turquoise spectrum — heavy on the turquoise.

Staying in style means you either keep a really huge spare closet for everything your daughter might want in 30 years when it comes around again, or you’re constantly “editing” your wardrobe. And there’s nothing like a natural disaster to get a lot of folks “editing” all at once. Good stuff. New stuff. Some of it still with the store tag on because they got home and didn’t like it and never quite got around to returning it. I’ve got a couple of those myself.

So the issue isn’t: Are you sharing good stuff when you “edit” the excess out of your over-stuffed life? Of course you are. You only like good stuff. That’s why you acquire it in the first place.

The issue is: When you give away your excess, are you giving of your best? Because a size 22 lady who works at Wal-Mart can’t use my professional lady cast-offs. And maybe, just maybe, if some of us weren’t working so hard to fill our closets, we would have time to teach her the skills that would let her advance to a better paying job.

When God provided manna, God made sure that there was enough for all, as long as those who had excess shared with those who have too little. God commanded the wealthy to “do good … be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). Indeed, all believers were called to “to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16, my emphasis).

But does God mean that some of us should pick out — by purchasing and then casting off — what those with too little will end up with? Or does generous sharing require a more open-handed — and more sacrificial — gift?

Is it possible to have a generous spirit and an overstuffed closet?

About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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One Response to Is it generous to give up my excess?

  1. Since I wrote this, I have discovered Kristy Powell and her fabulous “One Dress Protest” … an attempt to live an entire year in the same dress to uncover how much of herself she was hiding behind fashion (not to mention to save the environment from waste and to save beaucoups of bucks). Check out this link: ! Keep it up, girlfriend !

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