Money: A Vain Search for Satisfaction
I heard the story on our car radio during a recent road trip: nearly 60% of Americans think money can buy happiness. They even put a price tag on it: $1.2 million.
Later at home, I looked up the study by the financial services firm that served as the source for the CNBC report. It led me to conclude that those who think money can make them happy are probably those who don’t have much of it.
Now, I would never pooh-pooh the reality that millions live paycheck to paycheck, with all the stress that brings. Whoever glorifies poverty has likely never lived in that neighborhood.
I have. After the stock market crash of 1987 wiped out my business, I remember getting a few extra dollars one time and trying to decide whether to spend it on groceries or some new underwear.
Five years later the pinch reared its ugly head again, when a check for an article I had written didn’t arrive on time. That left us to depend on the generosity of a friend for dinner.
In some ways, I’ve never escaped the rollercoaster of uncertain income and freelance jobs that can disappear in the blink of an eye.
Take the book copyediting job I expected last summer. A few hours after I asked if the editor would be sending the manuscript that day, she emailed back, “No. The author has been hospitalized.”
And yet, with a long-lasting marriage, a comfortable home, and a happy family, I also know the joy of stability. Rarely has my happiness revolved around money, although having some certainly relieves the pressures of having little.
Yet the interesting thing about money is no matter how much one gets, it never seems to be enough. I return to the CNBC story about what it takes to buy happiness: “While most people in the Empower report said they would need $1.2 million in the bank, other studies that found that high-net-worth individuals put the bar even higher. More than half said they would need more than $3 million, and one-third said it would take more than $5 million…”
Then there’s the sliding scale placed on annual earnings. Americans who want $1.2 million in the bank also say they would need to earn just over $284,000 a year to be happy.
Really? According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average autoworker makes $28 an hour, just shy of $60,000 a year. I know a number of people who make even less.
Satisfaction (Not) Guaranteed
This all begs the question: at what point will money satisfy? The Bible says never. I cite these verses (from the MEV):
- Ecclesiastes 5:10: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves abundance with increase.”
- Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
- 1 Timothy 6:17: “Command those who are rich in this world that they not be conceited, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who richly gives us all things to enjoy.”
- Finally are these words of Jesus: “If God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Luke 12:28).
When it comes to money, I think we should listen to the Master.