Is extreme pleasure/wealth/luxury always forbidden?

Salvete, omnes!

Is pleasure/luxury/wealth, even in what many might consider the “extreme” always forbidden to us?

It seems that there are many passages in Sacred Scripture and many sayings in Catholic Ttradition that would speak int he affirmative to this.

However, could not a man theoretically have great amounts of wealth and even enjoy great amunts of pleasure yet still live a righteous life if he follows in all ways God’s moral Law? The only reason I could see that we would be forbidden no matter what to have even extreme pleasure/luxury/wealth would be because we keep too much back for ourselves. (Of course, then the question becomes, how much is too much to keep back and how little is too little to give?) Still, if one has enough money to engage in extreme pleasure/luxury, could he theoretically not be generous with other money he has? Should he not enjoy his wealth that God has permitted him to have, as long as he does it properly (without breaking any moral laws) and with thanksgiving?

One notable exception which speaks positively of luxury, I believe, is Augustine(?) who speaks positively of a wealthy ruler in a similar vein as I have here, also stating that, while wealthy, the ruler is still very generous.

Note that here I use the word “extreme” and not “excessive”, as the latter puts by necessity a moral connotation to what it modifies. I am here just speaking strictly of amount and not of whether this or that is “too much”. (Indeed, another question of mine has been whether there is objectively and without exception a “too much” of wealth.) I could have indeed used the phrase “very very very very much”, though it seemed more than a little awkward to do so here.

First principle: creation is good.

Extremes can be good, depending on whether or not they are well ordered (or excessive, as you say).

So basically no.

Do you mean here by “well-ordered” that one’s desire for them be “not beyond proper reason or limit” or “that oen’s priorities be correct”?

Or, are you implying that there is an actual limit on the amount of physical pleasure/wealth/luxury we can have and that anything beyond that limit is sinful?

FOr me, I just have never understood a limit being placed on material wealth and its uses, so long as one’s affections toward them are properly ordered. After all the material in and of itself is nothing, and God has given us material things to enjoy them.

So, which are you saying? That the problem lies in the affections or that the problem lies in the amount of the material itself? Or, in some sense, both? In any case, please do explain what you mean.

The rich are called to share with those less fortunate.

Simply being rich and successful is not sinful.
Why not read the Catechism online?

In a nutshell “ordered” means something is ordered to God’s design and purpose.
For instance, the sexual faculty of human beings is ordered to the procreation and unification of human beings. You can observe the reality and see where it leads you. It serves God’s good will for human beings.

Likewise wealth is a real thing with an ultimate purpose. God creates everything. God creates it to serve God’s purposes. One of his purposes is the flourishing of humanity, including yourself. If your wealth does not contribute to your flourishing in body and soul then your handling of it is not ordered well. If it is not shared for the well being for others, it is not ordered well.

It’s not how much you have, it’s how your will is ordered to the handling of it. A very poor person might be greedy and selfish and have a disordered handling of what they do have. Likewise there are many wealthy people who have ordered their wealth around generosity.

Thanks, folks, for your replies.

I guess I just see so many passages, particularly in the OT, that seem to equate being very wealthy/very much enjoying life with sin. I’m thinking, in particular, right now of Wisdom 2 (which I just finished reading…for the first time!). It speaks of enjoying life to its fullest, though, admittedly, the context is an entirely materialistic one. Maybe enjoying life simply because you believe in nothing else is the issue but enjoying life to its fullest, even in extreme wealth/luxury, but with Christian principles to guide you is permissible?

I myself have always loved the beauty that exists in life, both material and otherwise, though I certainly also have care, for instance, for the poor. Still, if I were wealthy, I would certainly like to use my wealth to enjoy life even more in all its beauty, but would, again, surely not neglect my Christian duties because of it. Is this the proper way to look at wealth/luxury, even if great (extreme?) amounts? Or, do I love the world too much (loving the world=enmity with God and all that)? I don’t know. I just see nothing inherently evil in enjoying life and living it, even quite well, so long as this is done with God and His Divine Law in mind. With this in mind, I would think that God would be fine with and even desire us to enjoy life as fully as we wish. Yet, then, again, there are the passages that seem to decry even this kind of action as wicked, or at least they seem to speak negatively against extreme wealth/luxury per se, on its own. What do we do with these passages? How do we interpret them, especially if you believe as I do? Would our interpretations indeed be valid? Thoughts?

Indeed, when the wicked are brought up, especially in the Old Testament, a description of their wealthy/luxurious enjoyment of life is never far behind. Again, therefore, it would seem that extreme wealth/luxury is inherently associated with evil/evil men. If we believe that such is fine with godly principles, how do we reconcile this seemingly frequent occurrence? At the same time, the poor man seems very often to be considered most righteous (as sin, in such passages, is very infrequently attributed to him while being laid at the doorstep of the wealthy). (Again, I am thinking in particular on Wisdom 2 right now.)

It seems to me you are overthinking this.
At times like this when things have been discussed from 10 different angles and the same questions remain, I resort to prayer (prayer should have been first resort for me, but usually I try to figure it out on my own first, and then pray…)
At least that is what works for me.
Prayer will either bring me understanding of the issues, or help me to tolerate the uncertainty with trust.

Sound advice, to be sure.

Still, I’ve always had a problem “tolerating” the uncertaint, as I start thinking that uncertainty or my apparent misunderstanding of an issue may actually be resulting from a misinterpretation of the issue. For instance, maybe extreme wealth/luxury is a sin and I just don’t want to see that. Maybe these so-called “difficult” passages aren’t really difficult at all, but maybe I refuse to see what is right in front of me. That’s the way my thought processes go on these issues so I want to be sure that such is not coming into play and is indeed a moot point.

Good luck with that, and I mean that with all good intent.
I have come to the conclusion that one thing is for sure: God does not want me to find certainty, he wants me to look for him.

“If you find the God you think you understand, you’ve probably built yourself an idol”

I forget who said it.


Not trying to be mean at all when I say this, but, isn’t that a bit too dismissive, saying that sometimes God just doesn’t make sense? If God, as even the Church teaches, operates according to sound reason, then it stands to reason that issues, at least such as these, can be understood.

Proverbs 3:5 promises, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. So trying to apply our limited human understanding and reason to things we can’t possibly understand and make sense of, is one of the most useless and futile things we can do. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, put it best in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17, when he said When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night- then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.

There’s no way we can possibly know or comprehend all that God has in HIS mind and plan for us, as confirmed in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11, which says However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” —but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

Are you really saying that you are going to give up so easily on this matter? This little matter? Just because we initially may have a difficult time understanding something does mean it is incomprehensible to us. To me, it can be very easy to “cop out” on such matters and just to live with what we initially held to be true without question. It is the easy way out, IMO.

Furthermore, the Proverbs verse you cite, I could argue, means that, when God promises something, you believe it. Despite all of what you may see around you that might seem to contradict it, you know that God is God and He will fulfill His promises to you and believe it. I don’t think this says that, if you can’t initially understand a matter, you should just give up and trust God, i.e., your own previously held system of beliefs…

That is not honest inquiry. That is a life of ease which can very often even lead to a life of destruction.

No, that’s not what I mean at all.
No one, not anyone can fully understand the mind of God. That’s why He is Divine…Supreme, more than us humans, and more than what our human minds can fully comprehend.
I’m not giving up on anything. I have the teachings of 2000 years of scholarship of good theologians in the Catholic Church to answer my questions, should they arise. Plus, the prophesy and the writings of the OT.
Belief in the Lord and His goodness is one of the hallmarks of a true disciple.
The Apostles didn’t get much of what He said. But they followed Him.
We Catholics are called to do the same. Some are blessed with tremendous knowledge…Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, John Paul II, too many to list.
Read them, yes. But at some point one has to acknowledge that we’ll not ever know everything, or comprehend every statement fully…until we reside with Him in heaven.
It’s missing the point of much of the Bible to pick it apart and try to put our 21st century minds into it. We can APPLY it in the 21st century, in every age, but we always have to remember the context and culture of the passage. There’s **truth **in the Bible. We have to read what the truth is, and take that truth into our lives.

Faith and reason operate together.
God reveals himself. Jesus is his fullest revelation. Jesus is not a book of knowledge, he is a person. He is the “logos” of God.
There is mystery in a person. We can never appropriate a person fully for our understanding. So much more with Jesus, who is a divine person. Jesus reveals his Father, who is hidden.

While God is ultimately hidden from us in his essence, what is revealed to us is reason-able. What is not reasonable is accepted in faith, which is a submission to God in the midst of the things we cannot sense or understand. Faith and reason mutually inform or support one another.

A good read is “Fides et Ratio”,
by JP2.

Temperance is a virtue.

Here are some things to read and reflect on:

So, does that mean that you guys are both giving up entirely on the questions I posed in my last and previous posts on this topic since these issues I raise are so obviously incomprehensible?

If not, let us please return to the main line of discussion in this thread and let us at least try to understand what is going on in the problematic passages I raise.

We can certainly understand God through faith and reason. However, God is infinite and we are finite, and Scripture also says “his ways are not our ways” and that we see “as if through a glass, darkly” and when in Heaven will see Him “face to face”. So, yes, some aspects of God are beyond our ability to fully comprehend and fully understand. These are the divine mysteries.

I would not say the passages are problematic. I would encourage you to study the theological and cardinal virtues, particularly Temperance, as well as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruit of the Holy Spirit and Beatitudes.

I just gave you three very good articles to read.

Having read both of these, are you saying that being rich in and of itself, even extremely rich, and enjoying the fruits of that wealth is, in and of itself, a sin?

And, is it your view/Catholic teaching that the “rich man” in the parable of Lazarus was condemned solely because he did these things? After all, I would suggest that he was condemned because he gave no heed to the poor, or am I missing someting here?

Neither I, nor the articles, are saying that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit