By Chuck Bentley
A popular money myth is that money can indeed buy happiness. The saying goes, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop!” This myth is built upon a belief that our material comfort is the ultimate path to achieve our personal satisfaction in life.
1. This myth is contradicted by the Bible. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
The Lord is saying that your stuff will leave you and forsake, you but He will not. Materialism—placing our hope and joy in things—is actually the road to emptiness and misery, not joy.
2. This myth is contradicted by scientific studies. According to a study from Princeton University, money sort of buys happiness, but only up to about $75,000 a year. No matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.
Certainly we need money to pay our bills and take care of our family, but our greatest source of happiness comes from learning to be content with what we have and trusting God for our daily needs regardless of how much or how little we have.
A popular money myth is that money equals influence. We often think to ourselves that if we just had more money, we could influence more people. This myth is built upon a belief that money is needed to influence others to our cause, our beliefs of our view of the world.
True influence does not come from money. History is replete with examples of wealthy people who had no influence whatsoever—men and women who died rich, but in lonely obscurity. It is also replete with examples of poor people who had tremendous influence: Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Mother Teresa, even Jesus Christ himself did not see money as necessary for his mission to be accomplished. Mother Teresa had almost no money or possessions, yet her influence spread from the slums of India around the world and ultimately led to the Nobel Peace Prize.
I was recently with a Brazilian pastor whose church has over 6,000 members. He started it with a handful of people and it grew stronger and stronger over the years. In spite of the large church budget, he lives simply. When I asked him about this he replied, “My Savior wore sandals.” This pastor had no need to try to impress people. Like Jesus, he did not see money as influence.
A popular money myth is that all wealthy people must be greedy. It has become popular on social media to express outrage over the incomes, lifestyles, or spending choices of the rich and to paint them as self absorbed, indulgent, or greedy. This myth is built upon a belief that money is accumulated because of greedy motives or manipulation or even deception.
There are some wealthy folks who are greedy and who make bad choices. But this is also true of poor people. Greed is a motive of the heart and we should not be quick to judge a person’s motives. I have known many wealthy people who are not motivated by greed whatsoever; they are in fact just the opposite: very generous people.
The Bible condemns two rich people in the New Testament. One is a foolish farmer wanting to tear down his barn to build bigger barns to store his large harvest and the other is the rich man who lived with the beggar Lazarus outside his gate. But be careful here. In telling these parables, Jesus NEVER condemns wealth, only their ungodly use of it.
For many who have been entrusted with wealth, it is a burden and responsibility they take seriously to steward well. They know they are providing jobs, creating good products that bless others, and seeking to be generous to God’s kingdom. When it comes to greed, it is far better to get the plank out of our own eye before we point out the speck in another’s.
A popular money myth is that poverty makes us more godly or righteous. Many times we think of people who live in strict self-denial or who are extremely frugal or who have taken vows of poverty as holy and more righteous than others. This myth is built upon a belief that money is bad and only corrupts people. Another term for this myth is the “poverty gospel.” It can be just as devastating to our effectiveness as Christians as the “prosperity gospel.”
Jesus never condemns wealth in the Bible. He also never exalts the state of being in poverty. Listen to Proverbs 30: 7-9: “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (ESV)
This passage does not exalt riches or support poverty. It also does not say that we must all be middle class. It is an expression of a proper heart attitude. The Lord provides the material needs of His children unequally, but His righteousness is spread equally. What we have does not make us more righteous and what we do not have does not change our righteousness one bit. We are made righteous because of Jesus Christ, not by our material possessions.
Originally posted 8/20/2015.
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