How is your happiness these days? A recent study revealed that 79% of Americans believe they would be happier if they made more money. Other studies show there is a plateau for happiness with income. Yet, the fact that a majority of Americans believe they would be happier with more money is something that is worth our attention.
As it turns out, the belief that having more will increase happiness is not new. As James points out in his letter, “You want what you don’t have…. You are jealous of what others have…” (v. 4:2). So, what is the root of the jealousy?
Some will misquote Scripture, saying: “Money is the root of all evil.” However, the correct reading of the verse is “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). In other words, when we prize money above relationship with others and with God, we give into temptation to become jealous and angry. And those feelings are actually rooted in fear. As the great theologian – Yoda – says, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
When we have FOMO (fear of missing out), we start to desire what we do not have, and we believe that what we do not have will actually bring us happiness. But James wants us to consider what will truly satisfy. Will it be the world or God? Or will it be something else? The answer matters, and James lays down the challenge by saying that our “loyalty is divided between God and the world” (v. 4:8).
If our loyalty is divided, then that speaks to the deepest issue of all – trust. So, where do we put our trust? Is it in the world, ourselves, or God? If not God, then we long for control. We want to control the outcome to alleviate our fears and our jealousy. But God calls us to trust in him rather than the world. Doing so takes a leap of faith and pushes back against standard notions of happiness. More money might give us more control and, therefore, give us the perception of being happier. Yet, more of God, gives us more peace and joy, which is greater than happiness – an emotion that can evaporate with a simple change of situation.
And that leaves each of us to make an age-old choice. Will we trust the world, or will we trust God? Trusting the world might briefly bring happiness. Trusting God will bring eternal joy. And each of us is called to decide where to place our trust. Choose wisely.
Questions for reflection:
- What does happiness look like for you? If you find yourself longing for more of something in this world (like money or material things), in what ways do you think those things will make you happy? For how long?
- What steps could you take this week to start tipping the scales of trust more in God’s favor? What are the worldly things that are currently weighing those scales away from God? Ask God to help you let go of some things holding you back from fully trusting in him.