I recently read secular ethicist Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics. He argues that by spending in excess, we effectively allow others to die, since money spent on non-essential things could be spent to alleviate famine/hunger/etc. in other nations. To put it simply, say I buy a new computer, one I don’t strictly need, for $1500 (about the cost to save the life of a hungry person in Africa). For Singer, it is as if I have passed by a pond with a child drowning in it, and refused to save the child because it was inconvenient for me. He argues that unless something of comparable importance is lost by spending the money on aid to the poor, we are morally obligated to donate that money. We have also read several Christians who agree with this to varying degrees.
My question is this: How do we as Christians justify the lifestyles we lead–we eat excess food, have bigger houses than we need, buy new clothes, cars, etc., etc.–in the face of Jesus’ call to sell all we have, as well as ethical arguments like the one Singer offers? Or is Singer right, and if so, does this mean spending money on recreation (e.g., athletics, music, art) is non-justifiable, since it is an insignificant good compared to the life of another human?