“Money can’t buy happiness.” We have been told this since at least 1750.
It is probably true that money can’t buy happiness, but money does generate unhappiness when it goes away. So, how much money do you need? What will make you happy?
95 thousand U.S. dollars.
Researchers studied income and happiness, and they now have an answer: an income of $95,000 USD per year will give you “life satisfaction” and $60,000 to $75,000 USD per year will give “emotional well-being.” Now you know.
The research is too simple, in my opinion. I know places where that money would make you the richest person in town, and there are other places where you couldn’t afford to buy a house. The researchers could probably explain and modify their findings, and it is interesting that they studied money and happiness, and they have a scientific answer.
But is there a spiritual answer? I am writing this as a Christian, and I want to know.
Happiness is not a common word in the Bible. Instead, we find the word “joy” which is probably the same thing. So, how much money will make us joyful? We don’t have a number for that. What we have is some good advice about “contentment” which is another variation on happiness:
“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 4:12)
“I have learned” that there are two sides to our spiritual life, and we always mix them up. Some things are given to us, and some things are learned and earned. You can be a child of God, with an eternal future in your new family; just ask. That is a gift that we can never earn. Martin Luther wanted everyone to know: “the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
And then there are things we need to learn, so we can be better people in our new life. Maturity is not given to us. Can you hear the voice of your parents or a teacher? Some things are learned and earned, and never given to us.
I took a walk this morning and I saw people exercising in a parking lot at a fitness club. With the COVID-19 restrictions, they had to go outside. It was easy to see that every one of them was working very hard, and they worked so hard because fitness is not a free gift.
The researchers who investigated money and happiness found the gift that makes us satisfied and emotionally well. Now we know the gift that will make us happy-ish.
For me, money falls completely on the learn-earn side, just like playing the piano. 95,000 for life sounds good, but I am not royalty, and that was never given to me. Most of us are like that. I can’t play the piano now because I never learned and practised. I need more than emotional inspiration.
After we are born, we have to grow; a child of God, with a new life that they never deserved, must also learn some maturity. I had to learn so I could earn, and I went to school. Then I had to learn how to manage my income, and to be generous. And the financial lessons keep coming.
I have learned that my new life with God, when it is managed responsibly, is filled with happiness. I hope you can find the same joy.
So, how much money do we need? I don’t know. How much maturity and wisdom do we need? More. One important lesson is ‘The Secret of Contentment’ and I’m sure that does not come easily. I hope we all find it. And if you need money to pay your bills, I hope that God will give you what you need, including good management skills, and maybe a better job with more responsibilities.
And we should all know; money is not the root of all evil. The ‘love’ of money is the root of all evil. You can be poor and still love and covet money:
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:6-11)