Is luxurious living a sin?

I saw a segment on a television show today about a rich fashion designer who owns five homes, yachts, antiques, etc., etc. Everytime I hear how the rich and famous live I can’t help to wonder if it isn’t a sin to live this way when families in Mexico shanty towns live on $2.00 a day, people starve in Africa, others can’t afford health care, etc.

Luxurious living can be an occasion of sin, but it is not necessarily sinful in an of itself. For example, if one was so preoccupied with accumulating material goods that one neglected to meet responsibilities or to share one’s largesse with those in need, yes, such a situation could be sinful. But if, as another example, having five homes allowed one to share one’s property with those in need of lovely surroundings, such as converting the home into a hostel for church youth groups or into a retreat center for consecrated religious and laity, it wouldn’t be wrong to own more than one home. Even if one used all of the homes oneself – such as when business in the particular location was necessary – it isn’t inherently sinful to own more than one needs.

This doesn’t mean that someone blessed with so much wealth shouldn’t share it with those in poverty. Indeed, St. Basil liked to say that the extra, unused clothes a person owns “belong” to the poor (in the sense that they should be given to those in need). But the mere fact of owning a lot of wealth is not sinful and we should charitably presume that those blessed with such riches are privately sharing their bounty with the needy.

Recommended reading:

Live Simply? Live Shrewdly by Donna Doornik

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