We tend to think that money brings happiness (who wouldn’t be happy to be offered a million pounds or dollars?).

Coins and happiness

Yet there is something about the achieving of financial wealth that does not ultimately satisfy. Rather than listening to me, here are some quotes from five wealthy men of history that powerfully illustrate this:

John D. Rockerfeller: “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”

W.H. Vanderbilt: “The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”

John Jacob Astor: “I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Henry Ford: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”

Andrew Carnegie: “Millionaires seldom smile.”

And yet at the same time I do not want to give the impression that wealth per se is a bad thing……

There is no intrinsic value in poverty. In fact poverty has huge hardship and pain associated with it. The fact that so many in our world starve and go without adequate food and clothing is one of the great  tragedies of life. Financial hardship is a huge sources of stress and unhappiness.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are among the wealthiest people in the world today and appear to be finding great fulfilment and happiness in being generous and dedicating their lives to philanthropic activities. (For more on this see 3 Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness and 2 Further Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness).

So money in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is money that gives the opportunity and option to do so much good in the world. Like any tool it can be used for noble or evil purposes – rather like a hammer can help build a house or it can be used to attack someone. The problem arises I think when we over-emphasise the difference it can make. When we attribute to it power that it does not have.

Research from around the world and across cultures consistently shows that once you get above subsistence level, income has surprisingly little influence on whether people smile, laugh, and experience enjoyment on a typical day. (For more on this see How Much Money Do You Actually Need?) Here is how one anonymous author puts it:

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another.
Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are.
After that we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.
We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation or when we retire.
If not now, when?
Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.
Happiness is the way.
So treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with…. and remember time waits for no one.
So stop waiting…..
– until your car or home is paid off 
– until you get a new car or home
– until your kids leave the house
– until you go back to school
– until you finish school
– until you lose 10kg
– until you gain 10kg
– until you get married
– until you get a divorce
– until you have kids
– until you retire
– until summer
– until spring
– until autumn
– until winter
– until you die
There is no better time than now to be happy. Happiness is a journey not a destination.
So, work like you don’t need the money; love like you’ve never been hurt and dance like no one is watching.

I love the sentiment of this, but feel it is not quite enough. Money creates a longing and this longing is hard, even impossible to satisfy. (For more on this see Why Is Joy More Important Than Happiness?)

Here is how the author Randy Alcorn bluntly puts it:

“All your life you have been on a treasure hunt. You’ve been searching for a perfect person and a perfect place. Jesus is that person; heaven is that place.”

As a disciple of Christ, I know that intellectually. The problem is I am not yet living with that person and I am not yet in that place! What I have to be careful about is thinking that if I had more money then my life would be more secure and fulfilled.

In the last blog post we looked at how James, the brother of Jesus contrasted rich and poor. (See The Surprising Connection Between God, Money and Happiness). After he does that he comes to a fascinating conclusion. Here are two translations from the original Greek in chapter 1 verses 12:

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
(The Message)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
(New International Version).

What exactly is this crown of life? No one really knows for certain.
But what we can say is that there is a reward for those who persevere in Jesus. Something is coming and going to happen at the end of time that if we are in Christ will completely fulfil and satisfy. Our problem is that we look in all the wrong places -money and possessions are one of those wrong places. (Also see How Do I Cope With Stress In My Life Part 5).

How do you make sense of God, money and happiness?