Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Money: You Can't Buy Happiness

It's an old expression, but I can attest to its truth.

You really can't buy happiness.

I've tried. It didn't work.

When we ended up with two incomes and no mortgage payment we decided to have a little fun. Only instead of having just a little fun we ended up going crazy. We went out to eat a lot. We bought new furniture. We bought a big HD TV. We bought a car. We bought exercise equipment (because we were going out to eat too much). We went on vacations. We bought a boat (that we never even used).

Now, I'm not saying any of those things are bad. In fact, I highly recommend saving up enough cash to take your family on a vacation every now and then. We've been blessed to be able to spend time away from home each of the last four years. Thankfully, we didn't take on any debt to do so.

We had been pinching every penny for the first five years of our marriage and once we got some financial margin in our lives, we lost perspective. You see, for a long time money was not an issue for us. I don't mean that the way most people mean it. Money was not an issue for us because we didn't have much and couldn't spend much. But once we had more, it became an issue. We had all these grand ideas of becoming completely debt free, socking away an emergency fund and then becoming incredibly generous givers.

Those plans never got carried out because we thought the dinners out, the furniture, the TV, the vacations, the boat, the car and all the other stuff was going to somehow make us more happy. But the opposite happened.

When money was tight, we were incredibly happy and satisfied. We had everything we needed and trusted God to provide. But when the extra money came in, we forgot how faithful God is and started trusting in our incomes.

That's the dangerous thing about margin. It's an incredible blessing but it can also be a curse. In the series, How to Be Rich, one of the main points is that being RICH is good news and bad news. It's good because God has blessed us and we can do some incredible things with those blessings. It's bad because, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25) and because to whom much is given, much is expected.

It didn't take long for us to experience money owning us rather than us owning the money.

So, we still have all the things we bought (except the vacations and the dinners out). But we also have a rather unhealthy struggle when it comes to priorities. We think we need certain things that we don't really need. We think they'll make us happy but they won't. We think if we had more money in the bank we'd feel more secure but we wouldn't.

The truth is, we felt happier, more secure and more content when we had very little money to spend. We trusted God more. We were more thankful for what we had. We found true joy in our relationships rather than a false sense of joy through things.

Money can't buy happiness. It's true.

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