What do science and the Bible tell about the correlation of money and happiness?

Photo by Niels Steeman on Unsplash

We did not start our lives as money-making machines. All of us started as dreamy-eyed children who used to see ourselves more than just wealth or possession – people of purpose. But thanks to capitalism and we now value ourselves according to merit – attributes that relate to wealth creation. Capitalism also learned to exploit our desire to live better lives.

No one exactly told me that growing up is mostly looking for a job with a pay worth your workload; paying a lot of bills, then rent, and buying groceries; and keeping tabs with your socials just so you remain connected despite of the taunting adulthood being hurled at you. With all these financial demands, it is so easy to be side-tracked and value money more than it should be. Having this dilemma, I began to reexamine the role of money in our lives.

Happiness

Let me begin by saying that we all want to be happy. Some of us believe that being rich will make us happy and that being able to buy possessions will. I have seen people ahead of and in my time indulge in buying things just for the sheer pleasure of buying. Who wouldn’t think acquiring things will not make us happy when every advertisement flash all these beautiful smiles when you buy this and that? I have even experienced the adrenaline of having the money to spend on things for myself and I get to think that if only my work pays me so high that I could buy anything and everything I want, then I would be happy. But can money really buy happiness?

In a study about how the love of money strengthens the relationship between socio-economic status and income satisfaction, Chitchai et.al. (2018) cited literature stating that income makes us happy only at a certain point and once reached, it cannot make us any happier; and that the love of money makes us unsatisfied with our pay and jobs that it even triggers unethical behavior at the workplace.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 NLT

However, according to Mogilner & Norton (2016), spending on others and experiences can make us happy. Thus redirecting where we actually spend our money makes all the difference. From my experience, it really is satisfying to do volunteer works and actually impact other lives. Even if the whole endeavor could actually cost me more money, the experience is still worth the expense and even more fulfilling compared to spending the same amount for myself.

Prioritization

Ruttan & Lucas (2018) also found that there is an inverse relationship between money prioritization and self-humanization; that when we begin to make money our priority, we eventually lose ourselves and become less human to an extent that we see ourselves like robots or automatons. Humanness in this sense is attributed to our ability to feel and relate to other people around us. They even cited literature stating that even if money can motivate us to perform better, it can promote undesirable and unethical social behaviors. Even those who value their own time in terms of money are likely to avoid activities that hinder money accumulation.

For what use is it to gain all the wealth and power of this world, with everything it could offer you, at the cost of your own life?
Mark 8:36 TPT

I have seen people emotionally withdraw from their families in pursuit of money – as if they no longer feel and empathize with other people like how you expect a normal person would. It is also important to note that these people I have witnessed share a common inhuman vibe.

We can now say that money-prioritization affects how we deal with our social relations; that the more we seek money, the more we tend to detach ourselves from the ones we truly care. If we won’t be mindful about the lure of making money our top priority, then we are no doubt on our way of becoming an “unfeeling cog in the machine of wealth creation*“.

Wrap Up

  • Money can only make us happy at a certain point. Spending on others and buying experiences have greater potential in making us happy.
  • Money-prioritization is counter-intuitive. Yearning for more wealth eventually makes us inhuman.

*borrowed from Ruttan & Lucas (2018)

Journal resources:

Chitchai, N., Senasu, K., & Sakworawich, A. (2018). The moderating effect of love of money on relationship between socioeconomic status and happiness. Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.kjss.2018.08.002

Mogilner, C., & Norton, M. I. (2016). Time, money, and happiness. Current Opinion in Psychology, 10, 12–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.10.018

Ruttan, R. L., & Lucas, B. J. (2018). Cogs in the machine: The prioritization of money and self-dehumanization. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 149(September), 47–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.08.007


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