Does money buy happiness? Recently, there has been a string of problems for people with fame and fortune. Michael Beasley of the Miami Heat just checked into rehab for depression. Ryan Jenkins, a reported millionaire and a person of interest in his wife’s death, apparently committed suicide. Financial investment guru Bernie Madoff’s mistress Sheryl Weinstein has come forward in a tell-all book about money, lies and the life of Madoff. Former presidential candidate John Edwards has admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock by his former mistress. And, the list goes on.
The stories are nothing new. The rich and powerful make mistakes and have problems like the rest of us, yet their mishaps are exposed rather publicly. The response from the general public on stories like these is not new either. Comments like, “if I had so-and-so’s money I would have nothing to complain about,” and “so-and-so is rich, so why are they depressed” are commonplace with us “regular Joes.” Those expressions point out that most of us think money should solve all problems.
In the early 1970s, research was done that concluded that money could not buy happiness. Known as the Easterlin paradox, the theory that money cannot buy happiness has been put to the test regularly since 1974 with pretty much the same result. The more money one has does not directly correlate with how happy that person may be.
However, recently there have been arguments refuting the idea that money does not buy happiness. In newer studies, it has been proposed that while money may not guarantee happiness, but does help foster it.
With all the emphasis on being happy, what do we really need to make it happen? Is it money? Is it the things money can buy? A new computer, fancy car, diamonds, or sports contract worth millions, perhaps?
The story of the rich man in the Mark, chapter 10 may give us clues about the burden (yes, I said burden) of the lives of the rich, and why money cannot buy happiness. The illustration of a camel going through the eye of a needle is quite hilarious. But, Jesus was making a strong statement. The rich man had told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments, and Jesus was pleased and loved him. Jesus told the rich man to sell all his belongings and follow him. The rich man fell to his knees and wept because he was so attached to his possessions that he could not imagine selling them all to follow Christ.
Does this mean that we all have to sell our homes and cars and leave our careers to follow Christ? No. This story warns that while money may provide worldly happiness, when seeking Christ it can be a huge burden. Money cannot shield one from hurt and pain. It cannot replace a lost loved one, and it cannot comfort, heal or promise everlasting life. Jesus can. And, Jesus commands us to give up our LOVE for all things worldly (money included) in order to follow him. How hard is it to give up the pursuit of wealth for the pursuit of Christ? Most of us will never know that burden, thankfully.
So, the next time you read a headline about a wealthy person in trouble, do not assume their money should fix their problems. Realize the burden their money presents and pray for God’s will to supersede any financial outcome in their lives. And then, take a moment to thank God for the happiness you experience everyday, regardless of money.