Today a good friend asked in a Tweet what
luxury is he asks, “define luxury?$2 a day? $4?” He responded to a Clement of
Alexandra quote I posted, “It is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while
many are in want”.
This is obviously an immensely complicated
question and I believe the reason why it is so difficult is because there are
so many factors that determine a truthful answer. So without trying to be prescriptive, let me describe some
of the elements I feel are needed to answer that question.
If we want to define luxury it
is really helpful to explore that question with other people. I (and I think you) have an amazing ability
to rationalize our luxuries into necessities. In the last few years I’ve kept an informal “rationalization
journal” in which I write my rationalizations down. To give you an example, I
am about to upgrade my phone and I’m seriously considering an Iphone. My reasons are …. So I write those reasons down and
discuss it with people who know me.
Having other people speak into our lives help a lot.
BUT. When you have people of more-or-less the same socio-economic
level in a church/group you will find that the rationalizations are the
same. Our creative ways of moving
luxuries into necessities are not that many. So I recommend having the luxury chat with people who are
not in your socio-economic subculture.
This is tough, I know.
Sometimes by just having people who are poor(er) in your house, the
rationalizations get challenged. So in order to truthfully answer the luxury
question become friends with poor people.
Have a yearly chat as a family
about a standard of living that you feel comfortable about. Pray over it and study the Bible with
your budget in mind. Become so
comfortable about this ‘holy cow’ that you won’t mind sharing the details of
your budget with trusted friends.
Go through your house and look
at items that are taking up closet space.
Those luxury items that have become such a luxurious item that you never
use it (like that beautiful china set or the golf clubs signed by). Give it away or sell it and then give
the money away. By walking through
our house and noting the excess, we engage with the luxuries of your life.
Another way to determine if something is a real necessity is by
abstaining from it and seeing if you can still function.
luxuries in our lives are definitely not clear-cut or easy … but well worth to
explore. The idea is to take the
extra resources spent on luxuries …. and give it away.