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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2012

David Cloutier
Pages 3-20
DOI: 10.1353/sce.2012.0002

The Problem of Luxury in the Christian Life

DESPITE ITS PROMINENCE IN BOTH BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL LITERATURE, the moral category of luxury has been lost in contemporary Christian ethics. To address the spending of one's money as a moral act, I propose recovering the category. A survey of the history of the term illustrates its particular place in a set of economic virtues and vices, and suggests that its "defenders" in the eighteenth century rely on arguments that are antithetical to a virtue ethics perspective and are called into question by contemporary science and experience. But what counts as luxury? I conclude with a beginning casuistry in the context of the contemporary economy, suggesting that "cheap" goods may be luxuries but shared public goods are not.