No longer necessary to envy the rich

I just read this highly unusual report that surveyed 450,000 people from the last couple years about their level of happiness in life. It appeared in the Sept. 6 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here’s the bottom line of the report. The happiest people in America are those who have a family income of $75,000. It seems that, according to the research, happiness increases as income increases up to $75,000 but after that there is a leveling off on the happiness scale. Beyond $75,000 you might have the ability to buy more stuff and do more things but they don’t necessarily bring a higher level of happiness. So I guess I can stop envying the rich for all the money and things they have, because I have one thing they don’t have, happiness.

I think there is a better answer to all this money and happiness talk. It comes from God and not a study or academic journal. And since He is the Creator of life I guess he should know best about what brings happiness to life. This is what he says, “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. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men 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.” 1 Tim 6:6-10

In my first church, several years ago, I met my first example of this teaching gone south. The city was Norfolk. The person was Denny. He was married to Sandy. They were a great couple. Denny was a huge guy. I don’t know if I ever knew someone as massive as he was, at least not at that point in my life. He had graduated a couple years earlier from the University of South Dakota where he had enjoyed a heroic football career. He was on top of the world and determined he was going to get a huge chunk of the world’s wealth.

Denny was driven to earn more and achieve the level of affluence that “successful” people reach. He worked long hours, hardly ever took time off and drove himself to succeed. I think he may have achieved at least some of his goal, but in the wake of it all he left a broken marriage, destroyed relationships and “many griefs.”

Don’t make the same mistake. Here’s a better course.

1. Learn to be content with what you have. Until you do, you’re not ready to handle more.
2. Realize everything you have is not yours. It belongs to God and you are not going to take it with you. There are no U-Hauls following funeral processions.
3. Be satisfied with your needs being met instead of being driven by your greeds. Greed will destroy you. It IS a green eyed monster.
4. Love God and people rather than money. It will take you much farther in life and in death.
5. Protect your faith. It is far more precious than any fortune you might accumulate.

So relax. If you are anywhere close to the $75,000 family income level, it doesn’t get any better than where you are right now. Or, better yet, whatever your income level, you have the ability to enjoy your greatest happiness. You are the captain of your ship.

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