Wealth is not a good predictor of a happy life.
Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky found that only 10 percent of the variance in Americans’ happiness is due to income and other circumstances. “Happiness more than anything,” she writes in her book The How of Happiness, ”is a state-of-mind, a way of perceiving and approaching ourselves and the world in which we reside.”
Welcome to what Paul told us in 1 Timothy many years ago:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV)
Many Christians make the distinction that happiness is about what happens to us while joy is about what is in us. While this is helpful, what Paul calls us to is contentment in all areas of our life, especially the areas of money and material goods. Christians, of all people, are to be satisfied with the bear necessities knowing that we are merely sojourners in this world. We are strangers passing through a land that is not our permanent home.
By definition contentment is not found in having more stuff, but in being satisfied with “food and clothing.” Which is why John calls the people to give us their extra coats to those who don’t have any in Luke 3. We are tempted in life to assume more stuff will make us happy. If you are into clothes, tech, homes, cars or what ever your passion, we assume these things will bring us happiness and they do, at least temporarily. We are always happy at first, but then it wares off and we are left wanting. We find ourselves sacrificing more and more to pursue those toys that will end up in the trash, recycling, or at good will.
Our contentment, happiness and joy are all to be found in Christ Jesus our Lord. When other things become primary in our world view and we lose sight our of saviour we tend to look to other things to complete our happiness. Let’s keep the focus where it belongs.
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