Many of us believe or at least want to believe that money makes us happy. A recent study published in March 2023 seems to indicate that money can buy happiness. In other words, the study concluded that larger incomes make people happier.1 The belief that money can buy happiness helps to explain recent trends in what Americans value. Over the past 25 years, Americans have tended to place less importance on such traditional values as patriotism, religious faith, having children, and community involvement and to place more importance on money. In fact, according to a new poll released in March 2023, the only traditional value or priority that has increased in the last 25 years is money.2
The increased importance that Americans place on making and having money can be seen in all areas of life. For example, the high number of unmarried couples living together and the high rates of abortion in the USA are partly based on the idea that money–not religious faith or having children–is what really makes us happy. Similarly, the ability of college athletes to make money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) is partly due to the prevalent belief that having money is the key to being happy.
The belief that money makes us happy seems logical, but it’s not really true. It’s understandable that so many of us believe that money can make us happy. High inflation during the past few years has caused all of us to pay much more than we used to pay for such essential items as food, clothes, gas, and cars. However, the truth is that having more money doesn’t guarantee that we will be happy. The idea that money makes us happy isn’t really true.
Only God can truly satisfy us because we are spiritual beings with spiritual needs that money can’t adequately address. Having more money will not automatically make us happier.
American culture teaches us to focus our lives on seeking money, material things, and other worldly pursuits. We all want to have our dream job. We like to think that our dream job will enable us to earn good money, get enjoyable tasks done well, and give us a sense of fulfillment. Most of us want to live as well as our neighbors do, and we all want to be as happy as our friends seem to be. Don’t their photos posted on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites seem to show how happy they really are?
We are bombarded every day by television ads, internet ads, and magazine ads. These ads tempt us to buy products and services that are supposed to make us happy. We all want to show other people that we are successful and enjoying life. We all dream of having a new car and a beautiful place to live in. We want all of the good things that life has to offer!
But once we get our dream job, find a nice place to live, and buy a new car, something surprising and disappointing tends to occur. We often still feel like something is missing in our lives. We may even feel like we are running on empty. Dream jobs and material things will not satisfy us because they are fleeting—they don’t last forever. Our pursuit of worldly things eventually makes us feel like we are stuck in the middle of the desert with no food or water anywhere in sight. We still feel a spiritual hunger and thirst that we seek to satisfy.
Pursuing money and the things of this world cannot satisfy our souls. Earning money, having material possessions, and enjoying life’s pleasures will never be enough to satisfy the desire of our hearts. We struggle with stress, negative thoughts, and questions about our purpose when we go after what the world offers us. Our hearts yearn to find real meaning in life.
Fortune, fame, and anything else in the world fail to bring us true contentment. We all long to make a difference in the world. We all want to not only survive and succeed but also to make a significant positive impact on the world. We want to thrive, not just survive. Thriving requires more than having money and a job and more than being in love. In order to thrive, we need to be connected to something bigger than ourselves.
We all want and need meaning and purpose in our lives. We hunger for our lives to matter, to make a difference. We make to make a positive impact on the world. We all want to accomplish significant goals so that we are respected and remembered, not ignored and forgotten.
Besides longing for meaning and significance, we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill. Even if we aren’t aware of our need for God, we all want and need God in our lives. If we aren’t seeking God, we will experience spiritual emptiness. Nothing and no one can make up for the void we will experience. Many of us desperately try to fill the void by using money, material things, approval from others, friendships, family, sports, our appearance, fame, popularity, etc. But only God can fill the void within.
Our money, homes, cars, friends, and family cannot satisfy our craving for God. Nothing on this earth can satisfy our souls. Only God can. Failure to place God at the center of our lives results in our feeling confused, disillusioned, and dissatisfied. In his most famous sermon, Jesus says that if we make God our top priority in life, God will meet all our needs and bless us with peace in our hearts (see Matthew 6:33).
The many emotional struggles of Hollywood stars and other famous people clearly illustrate our need for making God the center of our lives. Living a life of opulence and achieving worldly success doesn’t satisfy them. Divorce, depression, anxiety, drug use, alcoholism, and porn addiction are rampant among the rich, famous, and powerful. Why? Countless wealthy and famous people believe the lie that money, material possessions, and fame make people happy. Many of them have built beautiful mansions and lived luxurious lifestyles yet have still suffered from loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They have sought worldly things instead of spiritual things in their efforts to satisfy their souls. Rather than making people happy, achieving success according to worldly standards can produce misery and make life seem meaningless.
Don’t believe the lie that money makes us happy. The belief that money makes us happy is just wishful thinking. Only God can truly satisfy our souls. Only He can meet all of our emotional and spiritual needs, and He is the One who also provides for our physical and financial needs.
For more about how we can find lasting joy, peace, and our purpose in life, please read my book The Life Changer: Finding Joy, Peace, and Your Purpose by Discovering Truth.
1 Adela Suliman, “Can Money Buy Happiness? Scientists Say It Can,” The Washington Post, March 8, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/03/08/money-wealth-happiness-study/.
2 Aaron Zitner, “America Pulls Back from Values that Once Defined It, WSJ-NORC Poll Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-pull-back-from-values-that-once-defined-u-s-wsj-norc-poll-finds-df8534cd.