But what went you out to see? A man clothed in soft clothes? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
Read Chapter 11
George Leo Haydock
Clothed in soft That the Baptist was not like the reeds, changeable by nature, the respect that the whole Jewish people paid him sufficiently evinced. Our Redeemer, therefore, proceeds to show that St. John was not changeable by his manner of life. Delicacies and effeminacy (the ordinary sources of fickleness of behaviour,) being found in the houses of kings, and the great ones of this earth, were far from being desired by the precursor. This he showed to the world by his garments of camels' hair, his habitation in the wilderness, his slender and insipid food of wild honey and locusts, and the prisons to which his constancy brought him. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxxviii).
If the Lord had intended a higher meaning unfavorable to John, as many imagine that he did, in saying “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me,” why does he now speak about John with highest praise? Because the crowd that was present did not know the inner purpose of John’s question. They thought John doubted Christ, although he himself had prophesied about him. Now the crowd learns that John asked not on his own behalf but on that of his disciples. “Why did you go out into the wilderness?” To see a man like a reed who is blown about by every wind, a man so irresolute that he cannot make up his mind about what he himself previously predicted? Or else, perhaps he is pricked by the goad of his envy for me, and his preaching runs after an empty fame, and he covets the money he may get by it? But why should this man desire wealth for abundance of feasting? He feeds on locusts and wild honey. Or wealth to wear soft clothes? His clothes are made of camel’s hair. But people who are flat...
Now His meaning is like this: He was not of himself a waverer; and this ye yourselves showed by your earnestness. Much less could any one say this, that he was indeed firm, but having made himself a slave to luxury, he afterwards became languid. For among men, some are such as they are of themselves, others become so; for instance, one man is passionate by nature, and another from having fallen into a long illness gets this infirmity. Again, some men are flexible and fickle by nature, while others become so by being slaves to luxury, and by living effeminately. But John, says He, neither was such a character by nature, for neither was it a reed that you went out to see; nor by giving himself to luxury did he lose the advantage he possessed. For that he did not make himself a slave to luxury, his garb shows, and the wilderness, and the prison. Since, had he been minded to wear soft raiment, he would not have lived in the wilderness, nor in the prison, but in the king's courts: it being ...
Denying them any basis for saying that John later became soft by giving himself over to luxury, He says, This cannot be; that his clothing is made of hair shows that he is an enemy of luxury. For if he were wearing soft clothing and living in kings’ houses, if he so desired luxury he would not be in prison. So then, learn that it does not befit a true Christian to wear luxurious clothing.