Can Money Buy Happiness? The Real Answer Might Surprise You

One of the most misquoted verses in all the Bible must be 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (NRSV).

UnknownThe text says “the love of money” is the root of “all kinds of evil.” It does not say money is evil in itself.

People say money cannot buy happiness. This is true, at least on one level, but it is a truism and thus it only truly works up to a point. Let me explain.

People’s emotional well-being–what we call happiness–increases along with their income up to about $75,000 (U.S.) according to research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (September 2010). For those making less than $75,000 Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, said “Stuff is so in your face it’s hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment” (quoted by AP, September 2010).

Deaton and Daniel Kahneman reviewed surveys of 450,000 Americans in 2008 and 2009 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that included questions on people’s day-to-day happiness and their overall life satisfaction. Happiness clearly improved as incomes rose but leveled out at around $75,000. But, adds Deaton, “Giving people more income beyond $75K is not going to do much for their daily mood . . . but it is going to make them feel they have a better life.”

Take as one example someone who makes $100,000-a-year moves to a job paying twice that amount. There is an improved sense of success but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happier. The results were similar for other measures. People are happier on weekends, but their deeper sense of “well-being” did not fundamentally change.

So is money good for you?

Yes, with moderation and in the right balance for you personally. Money is important. This should not be denied. In a very real sense you cannot live without it. You may not need as much of it because you are taken care of in other ways but somehow, someway, you need what we call currency/money to live. The problem is one of balance and proportion. But this conclusion is not earth-shaking if you think about it for long.

Scripture spoke about this balance long ago:

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, NRSV).

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 5;10, NRSV).

 The apostle learned what we all need to learn, whatever amount of money we have or may yet have, we need true contentment.

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need (Philippians 4:12, NRSV).

The problem with a large number of Americans, especially those who earn the most money,  is that they have never learned “the secret” of contentment that Paul writes about in his epistle to the church in Philippi.

 

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