Is it a sin to buy expensive things?

I struggle with this idea, mainly because I am so drawn to simplicity (which I believe all Christians are) and also to life in poverty. However because I live and work in the world, I’ve needed to buy things. My car cost close to $30,000 but I bought it because of its high reliability and I like to drive a lot. Could it be a sin to own something that costs so much?

Pax Christi tecum.

This should really be posted in Moral Theology rather than Traditional Catholicism.

I have never paid more than $15K for a car, like to drive a lot, and have never put less than 100K miles on any car I’ve owned, and have never been left sitting on the side of the road.

Whether it’s a sin or not depends on whether owning such an expensive car keeps you from supporting the Church and contributing to charity as you should. Nobody can answer that but you.

I have a matched pair of perazzi shotguns that cost that much. do you really think this is a sin? with all due respect, why not spend 50% on a vehicle 75% as reliable?

It all depends.

I know of a professional saxophonist who has quite a collection of woodwind instruments, including a bass saxophone, contrabass saxophone, and contrabass and subcontrabass tubaxes. For information about these exotic instruments and to hear them, go to

www.eppelsheim.com

To see his entire collection, go to

www.jayeaston.com

A contrabass saxophone in itself costs $39,000. (Aside from its size, there’s not that much demand for it, so it has to be a special order. I remember when houses didn’t cost that much.)

For him, these are necessities. For me they would be foolish purchases, and maybe sinful, even if I did have all the money in the world.

I don’t think you were extravagant in buying your car.

I believe that St. Francis de Sales said that devout Christians should be the best dressed to bring glory to God.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I posted this thread in Traditional Catholicism just because I wanted the opinion of those who were more traditional.

Pax Christi tecum.

If you read Rerum Novarum, written by Leo XIII in 1891, and Centesimus Annus, written by John Paul II on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, you’ll find that Church’s traditional teaching is very much still in effect. In spite of the story of the rich young man, the Church does not teach that Christ expects you to sell everything you have, no matter who you are.

On a less traditional note, Mother Theresa told a story about a woman who liked to wear 800 rupee saris. Mother Theresa’s cost about 8 rupees. When the woman asked her about this, Mother Theresa said that coming down to something like saris that cost 80 rupee was reasonable: that is, she didn’t expect everyone to live as simply as she did, and she didn’t think God did, either. We are expected to share what we have and see to the needs of the poor, but we may still have things for our own use that many of the poor cannot afford.

There is a reason Joseph of Arimethia had enough money to own a tomb, in which Our Lord was buried on short notice. There is a reason the woman had 300 days wages to sink into the extravangance of the alabaster jar of ointment with which she anointed Jesus’ feet. Unlike the rich young man, though, you need to be willing to give up whatever God asks you to give up.

In my grandmother’s time, too, there was much more of a sentiment that it was salutory to be content with and to make do with less. That didn’t make nice things wrong, though, nor was it just a Catholic thing, as I found from other people’s grandmothers. It came from their knowledge that bad times can follow boom times very quickly. Those with frugal spendng habits did much better when the Depression hit, and were much more able to help those in need.

That is a very good point. I think the key is, as you said, “to be willing to give up whatever God asks you to give up.” If I could go without a car and if I didn’t have to have it, I’d gladly give it up. I’d rather live poor but right now, with my job and responsibilities, it seems to make more sense to pay a little more to get a car that should run without any problems for a long time. It’s not like I bought a Porsche :slight_smile:

I think the key is detachment. Can we own it without making it everything, without it getting in the way of our love of God.

Pax Christi tecum.

Right…and, in owning it, do we realize we have become stewards of it, responsible to put it at God’s disposal, too? I think that sometimes God gives us a car because God needs drivers! (“More doors, 4-wheel drive, or better gas mileage? Well, that depends…Lord, what kind of driving are you going to need me to do for you?”) :thumbsup: :smiley:

Good point! :slight_smile:

Pax Christi tecum.

Please-- are you serious? I honestly don’t think God gives a hoot what kind of car, house, etc. you have. Material things are earthly things. God cares about your soul and what you are doing to save it.

So you don’t think if someone spends $200,000 on a car while people in the world are starving, that it doesn’t matter? God gives us excess so we can help others in need. If we aren’t helping but using it all on ourselves, then I think we’d have to answer to God for that.

Pax Christi tecum.

St. Francis de Sales said:
books.google.com/books?id=d8kCAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA34&dq=introduction+devout+life&ei=UjrhSL_vMKL0iwG6jb3ZDA#PPA171,M1

"…Be neat, Philothea ; let nothing hang loose about
you, or be put on in a slovenly manner. It is a kind
of contempt of those with whom we converse to
come into their company in unseemly apparel ; but,
then, avoid all affectation, vanity, strangeness, or levity in your dress. Keep yourself always, as much
as possible, on the side of plainness and modesty,
which, without doubt, is the greatest ornament of
beauty, and the best way to make up for the want
of it.
St. Peter (1 Epist. iii. 3), admonishes women, in
particular, not to wear their hair much curled and
frizzled in rings and wreaths ; but men who are so
weak as to amuse themselves about such foppery are
justly ridiculed for their effeminacy. They say they
think no evil in these things ; but I repeat, as I have
said elsewhere, that the devil thinks quite otherwise.
For my part, I desire that devout people,
whether men or women, should be the best clad in
any company, but the least pompous and affected :
I would have them adorned with gracefulness decency,
and dignity. St. Louis says that each one
should dress according to his condition ; so that the
wise and the good may have no reason to complain
that you dress too much, nor young people say you
do too little. But in case young people will not
content themselves with what is decent, we must
conform to the judgment of the wise.

That question is pure hypothetical. Of course it matters, but there always was and always will be people starving in the world, and who’s to say that person who bought the car didn’t save someones life at one time or did some other noble deed? We are on the earth with free will, what we do with excess wealth is for God to judge, not us. We will all answer to God, worry about what you have or have not done to please our Lord. This is my opinion only, I’m not here to judge my fellow man.

OK, the material world and what we choose to do with material blessings is obviously of import to the good of our souls. Still:

a) You asked about spending 30 K on a car, not 200K.

b) It isn’t our business how other people spend their money. If Bill Gates uses his talents to make billions of dollars while producing something that has enhanced the lives of others, and uses many of those billiions to help the poor and encourage others of great means to do the same, what business is it of ours if he spends 200 K on a car? Do we know the finances of the rich? Their hearts? Who are we to judge them?

If it is morally wrong to be materially rich, then debating about whether your car “should” cost 15 K or 30 K is like arguing about the safest configuration of deck chairs on the Titanic. We live in the most materially rich nation in history. By the standards of Our Lord’s time, we are fantastically, unimaginably rich. Even those of modest means live in material comfort and physical safety that the people in Our Lord’s time could hardly have dreamed of. Which of them could eat foods from around the world every day? Have their hips replaced or take drugs to keep their diabetes from ruining their eyesight? How many of them saw all of their babies live to be adults? How many of them had safe supplies hot and cold running water, let alone cold storage for year-round storage of fresh foods? Any kind of transportation, save their feet? If that is wrong, we ought to burn the whole mess to the ground and go back to drawing loads with horses and walking on foot.

Now, maybe the Lord is asking you to “sell all you have.” God may desire to make you into a Missionary of Charity, or to some other life that will make you into a radical witness to simplicity. Do not discount the possibility, and what a gift he is offering you, if that is the case!

And yes, it is to God we answer. You are right about that. We have to ask what good we might be doing or what evil we might be advancing by the money we earn and what we do with it. The manufacture, sale, and purchase of expensive cars, though, is not sinful, per se. We may not judge those who have them. But yes, I think we would do well to ask ourselves some hard questions before buying one.

on what basis would you ever consider that a sin? you use prudential judgement in purchasing, as in other life decisions, and cost is one of many factors. Obviously if you are taking money away from more pressing needs that could be a concern, but making up sins where none exist is a dangerous spiritual habit.

I think it depends on your needs, the quality of what you are buying, and what you can afford. For instance, if what you are buying is meant to last a long time, and you can afford it, it’s probably better to pay a little more for a better quality item that you won’t have to replace as soon or put a lot of repairs into. But to buy some expensive item just because it has a designer label or whatever to impress someone, well that can be sinful. So if you are buying a car because of it’s high reliability and which you can get a lot of mileage out of without a lot of expensive repairs and will serve you for many years and you can afford the payments, you are probably better off in the long run. You just have to figure out what is the best in your situation and less waste of your money. But if you can’t afford it, don’t go into unreasonable debt just to have it–that is not good stewardship.

I, too, have noticed this trend among some here who ask whether or not the things they have done throughout the day was a sin or not. Curious, isn’t it?

Why would spending money on a car, a nice house, a tv or a saxophone be sin? As someone previously said, the Church does not expect us to give everything we have to charity; it just isn’t reasonable. One could then carry things to the extreme and say that the Church should sell all of the art and museum treasures in the Vatican collections to give to the poor. What do you do when all of the money is spent and there are still those in need?

“But Christian moderation has its rules. We are not the absolute masters of our riches ; nor are we entitled to abuse what the Almighty has bestowed upon us for better purposes. Above all, while thousands of unfortunate wretches languish in poverty, whatever we make use of beyond the wants and necessary expenses of our station, is an inhumanity to, and a theft from, the poor.” --Bp. Jean Massillon cathom.blogspot.com/2008/09/on-small-number-of-saved_22.html

"or if Dives had any more grievous sins to
answer for, the Holy Scripture would certainly have mentioned them. But since
nothing more has been added, we are given
to understand that the superfluous adornment of his body with costly garments, and
his daily magnificent banquets, and the
multitude of his servants and dogs, whilst
he had no compassion for the poor, was a
sufficient cause of his condemnation…

Let it, therefore, be a fixed rule for living
well and dying well, often to consider and
seriously to ponder on the account that
must be given to God of our luxury in
palaces, in gardens, in chariots, in the
multitude of servants, in the splendour of
dress, in banquets, in hoarding up riches,
in unnecessary expenses, which injure a
great multitude of the poor and sick, who
stand in need of our superfluities ; and
who now cry to God, and in the day of
judgment will not cease crying out until
we, together with the rich man, shall be
condemned to eternal flames.

The apostle Paul was wise,
and he said : " For we brought nothing
into this world, and certainly we can carry
nothing out; but having food and where
with to be covered, with these we are content." (Epist. to Tim. vi. 7.) These words
are very wise, for why should we be solicitous for superfluous riches, when we cannot
take them with us to that place, towards
which death is hurrying us. Christ our Lord
was not only wiser than Solomon and St.
Paul, but He was wisdom itself, and yet
He also hath said, " Blessed are the poor,
and woe to the rich;" and of Himself,
" The foxes have holes, and the birds of
the air nests, but the Son of man hath not
where to lay his head." (St. Luke ix. 58.)
If then " in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand," how much
more shall every word be true in the mouth
of three most wise men ? And if to this we
add, that our unnecessary riches are not
our own, but belong to the poor, (as is the
common opinion of the holy fathers and
scholastic writers,) are not those foolish
men, who carefully hoard up that by which
they will be condemned to hell ?

From: The Art of Dying Well by St. Robert Bellarmine, an eminent theologian and cardinal. archive.org/details/theartofdyingwel00belluoft

“…how will it be possible for those
to be saved, who spend their income on dogs and horses,
rather than on the poor, unless they see that they are actually
perishing for want ?”
–Fr. Paul Segneri books.google.com/books?id=WtFDAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=segneri&lr=&ei=f-3uR6_0FIzWiwGwhZ2wDQ#PPA324,M1

In a word, all the glory of the labours we have undergone
in this world, in order to acquire a large income, a high
character for valour, for learning and genius, shall end
in our being thrown into a pit to become the food of
worms. The miserable worldling then shall say at
death : My house, my garden, my fashionable furniture,
my pictures and rich apparel, shall, in a short time,
belong no more to me ; " and only the grave remaineth
for me."

I find this point of view curious. you spent $30k on a car. why didn’t you spend $10k and feed the hungry with the difference? what, in your opinion, is the break even point for car expense, according to our Faith? remember, you are going to have to answre to God for that excess $20k you lavished on yourself.

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