The line between luxury and necessity

Last month, a minor controversy erupted over a news report that Ed Young, a well-known pastor and author, was living a life of luxury unbeknownst to his church congregation. Young and his church responded by pointing out numerous inaccuracies in the news story—Young is no pauper, but the news report apparently exaggerated some of the numbers to make him look worse. The controversy faded quickly from headlines, and one imagines that life at Young’s church has returned to normal.

True or not, the news story that sparked the controversy highlighted a point of tension that has plagued Christians from the earliest days of the church: does luxury have a place in the Christian life?

“Luxury” carries with it negative connotations for most Christians, and for good reason: Jesus lived a humble life and frequently warned about the dangers of wealth. The Bible offers no hard-and-fast rule about precisely how much wealth one should have, but clearly promotes the spiritual value of moderation, humility, and self-sacrifice.

In the absence of a strict guideline (“Thou shalt have no more than $2,000 in the bank!”), each of us must prayerfully discern the line between “necessity” (money and possessions that we need to live and help those around us) and “luxury” (money and possessions that we accumulate for their own sake, and for our own enjoyment). I regularly ask myself “Am I living a life of service, or a life of luxury?” But one obvious problem is my sinful heart’s amazing ability to continually redefine “luxury” to refer to people who have more than whatever I have at the moment. If I make $25,000 a year, then surely “luxury” is people who make $30,000. But when I get a new job that pays $35,000, then suddenly “luxury” is $40,000. Or people who own two cars instead of my one. Or people who have a Wii and a Playstation, instead of being content with just one videogame console.

How do you determine, in your personal life, what constitutes a Biblically acceptable level of wealth? Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Is there a particular income level that you think is simply unethical to exceed? Have you ever passed on (or given away) a raise or other financial windfall because of this?
  • How has your understanding of “luxury” and “necessities” changed over the years?
  • When thinking about buying something new (for example, a car or a video game), how do you determine whether it’s Biblically acceptable, or simply extravagant?
  • Share your thoughts!

    3 Responses to “The line between luxury and necessity”

    • My wife and I have been blessed since beginning to walk with Christ in 1989 and show love by staying in close contact with our church communities needs. We ask God to give thier needs to us to then divide out to all in the area and He has been awesomely faithful ! God bless you keep up the unending work of the witness for Christ Kingdom! the Palmers and Faith Revival Church NJ

    • Ira Kirkpatrick says:

      The bible said “to one much is given, much is expected,”
      I believe the attack was just another Demon from Hell coming against Christians. Remember Solomon who was the richest person in like 7 countries and Job, he was not poor by any means.
      God said we are the child of the King,think about it. I do not see that the bible said poverty is needed to be a christian. We are told that all things in Moderation. If as a Christian we are wealthy, just look at who we could help with the wealth. I believe that if you do not continue to use the blessings we are given, then we are like the man who buried his talents and horded them. We must make sure to use the talents we are given as well as our finances for the work of the lord and we will be taken care of just as God said. Seek first the kingdom of God and these things will be added to you.
      God bless all Christians.

    • Johnny says:

      Jesus said the poor you willhave with you always. All of the money in the world could not eradicate poverty.Wealth is dangerous, but not forbidden. Like Job, it is an area where you will be attacked. According to the scripture, God restored and added to the wealth of Job. So if God gives it, our duty is to remain humble and see through the lenses of Gods sovereignty. He can show favor to whom He wants, and He can not favor whom he wants. Wealth is bigger than money. Job also had a wealth of children, which he loved and prayed for dearly. So to narrow Ed Young down to dollars is unholy and almost blasphemous to the work of God in the lives of His saints.

      Johnny, Texas Prophet