How do money and happiness relate?
- Happiness & Money move together up to a certain point of the income scale. There are always exceptions: There are places in the world where people are impoverished, and they seem happy, joyful, and content.
- If you make $20,000 a year, can you be happy? It depends on your setting. If you live in Silicon valley, where everything costs a fortune, you are going to be less happy (or less content) than someone living in Oklahoma where the median income is much lower. If someone from an impoverished place in Africa lived in my neighborhood as they did in Africa, they may not be as content as they were in Africa.
Money and happiness do not scale together well.
Bible Sense Lexicon states – “enjoying, showing, or marked by joy or pleasure”
Can Money Buy Happiness?
Based on our definition of ‘happy’… Sorta. Somewhat. Sure.
Money can bring pleasure, up to a certain point, but after that point, usually one’s “happiness” degrades. This is partly due to the greater financial need to “keep up with” the chosen lifestyle choices. It is very, very important to note that money can’t buy lasting happiness.
John D. Rockefeller was once asked the question, “how much is enough?” He was asked that question while he was at the peak of his success. He responded with the famous answer, “One more dollar!”
More money doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness. Why is that? At a certain financial point, people become possessed by their possessions. They wind up spending more and more money to maintain what they own! They also spend more and more time “maintaining” what they have, which can be (but not always) a burden on them in many ways. More money may also put the individual into an endless cycle, buying things, then spending more on maintaining them, and then buying more items or things to make that original purchase work even better for them! It has, for many, become a never-ending cycle of making more to buy more, and also needing to make more, in order to maintain or improve what they have! It is like Solomon states…”I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10–11, NIV84)
The better question to ask is…Can money buy contentment?
No, money can’t buy contentment, just as it cannot truly buy happiness! Contentment is a learned experience. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11–12, NIV84). Contentment is not based on one’s income assets, but on one’s rock solid conviction of your state before God. Money can’t buy true lasting happiness.
How does one start the process of “learning” contentment in their life?
There are a lot of web pages that speak to “learning contentment” from the Apostle Paul’s point of view, but here is a quick summary of a very simple, 4 step process to “learn” contentment in your life. All of the points flow out of Paul’s writings to the Philippian Church, and this is from Robert Sloan’s website. Robert Sloan takes Philippians 4 and expounds on it as a prescription for “learning contentment.”
1: Submit to God in prayer. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
2: Discipline your mind to dwell on good things. Paul follows this by explaining another spiritual practice: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
3: Practice behaviors you know to be right. Paul also teaches a third habit. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things (Philippians 4:9).
4: Develop the habit of trusting God. Paul had cultivated these habits himself, and he knew what he was talking about: Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. (Philippians 4:11)”
So, where does real happiness (joy) come from?
As you have just heard in this episode, real happiness cannot be bought or acquired through possessions! Solomon spoke so well when he said, “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NKJV) He also stated, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NKJV)
How can we get real happiness if it’s not from money? As stated earlier, it does not come from the number of dollars in your bank account. True Happiness, or a deep-seeded joy, comes through:
- Living for something more than money.
- Living with a purpose to serve others.
- Living your life before God, through Him, and for Him…each and every day!
Money isn’t something we go after in order to bring us happiness. For it cannot bring us lasting happiness, just a periodic smile. Yet, having God’s mindset toward money can:
- Give us an experience of happiness when we use our income and assets to bless others and fund the work that God has put before us.
- This is not because of something you or I did with our money, but because of how God is using YOU and me to accomplish HIS work to build His Kingdom!
- Finally, when we partner with God in working out HIS eternal purposes on earth with the resources that are in our care.
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