Money and Things are Chill but…
Of course, money and material goods are not inherently evil. In fact, they are good and will remain that way.The problem is that man can abuse these goods and even worship them. In this world, we really do need money to survive. We use this “artificial wealth” such as cash, credit cards, or coins to purchase “natural wealth” such as food, clothing, and shelter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to secure the physical well-being of yourself and your loved ones through the use of money. In fact, that desire is good.
However, a healthy desire for natural wealth, and by extension artificial wealth, can grow into an unnatural and unhealthy desire for riches and unnecessary things.
If we love money and possessions more than God and more than other people, we make ourselves miserable. Even if we had more money than Bill Gates, we still would not be happy without friendship with God and others. Philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas taught the insufficiency of money for happiness centuries ago: Contemporary research in the social sciences are reinforcing their conclusions. Money, even millions and millions of dollars, simply cannot make us happy.
You Can’t Buy Bliss
Psychologists have been studying what makes people happy for decades. Ergo, it turns out that moremoney can make you much happier—if you live in abject poverty. If you do not have clothes to keep yourself warm, if you have no food for your children, and no roof over your head at night, money for these basic provisions greatly improves reported happiness. However, once you have enough money to provide food, clothing and shelter, increases in money are unrelated to stable increases in happiness. In other words, once a person has the basic necessities, more money does not lead to more happiness (see “Lottery Winners Come Down to Earth,” p. 25).
Dr. David Myers, a psychologist who wrote The Pursuit of Happiness, wrote:
Whether we base our conclusion on self-reported happiness, rates of depression, or teen problems, our becoming much better-off [financially] over the last thirty years has not been accompanied by one iota of increased happiness and life satisfaction. It’s shocking because it contradicts our society’s materialistic assumptions, but how can we ignore the hard truth: Once beyond poverty, further economic growth does not appreciably improve human morale. Making more money—that aim of so many graduates and other American dreamers . . . does not breed bliss. (The
Pursuit of Happiness, 44)
Research has also revealed another startling result: If you compare a lottery winner and a paraplegic a year after the fateful events occurred, you would know virtually nothing about their levels of happiness.
What Really Matters
Four things matter in particular: 1) good relationships with others, 2) strong religious ties, 3) meaningful activity, and 4) personal control. We can translate these into more traditional terms: 1) love of neighbor, 2) love of God, 3) corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and 4) exercising authentic freedom by doing good and avoiding evil.
Give More, Be Happier
All Christians are called to a spirit of detachment from worldly goods and riches. Our financial bottom line should not be the bottom line of our lives, our sole guide to behavior. A “spirit of poverty” should be sought by all Christians whereby they use worldly goods, including money, as tools for serving their neighbors. As Pope Benedict XVI points out, “Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor” (Deus Caritas Est15).
So be Thankful
Here is a video about how gratitude for what you have and who you have in your life is a sure fire way to really achieve some happiness.
Eucharist is Greek for “Thanksgiving”
In the end that is really what needs to be remembered this season. So forget the black Friday deals, eat some leftovers from the day before and be grateful for the company of your family and God.
“Lord Jesus Christ, I know that you hear me and that you see. That you listen to me and that you watch me. help me to give thanks for my family and my friends. And help me to love my enemies and grow closer to you. Amen.”
- Edited from: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-sin-of-greed
- The Catholic Answers Guide To Family Finances by Philip Lenahan (available from Catholic Answers)
- Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom by Fr. Thomas Dubay (Ignatius)
- Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered by Joseph Pearce (Ignatius)