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Your money will not make you happy

January 23, 2018 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Culture

For the first two months of 2018, I will be using this space to interact with “This is our time” by Trevin Wax, a book that appeared on many “Best of” Christian book lists of 2017. In this book, Wax looks at the myths our culture teaches us, affirms the good longings underneath those myths, and then challenges those myths with the gospel. I believe this will be a good exercise for us in how to be discerning as we live in our world, so that we might be as Paul exhorted the Ephesian church: “Be very careful, then, how you live-- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

The fourth chapter of “This is our time” is entitled Shopping for Happiness. In this chapter, Wax sets his sights on the American Dream and the goal that many of us have in our society to accumulate more money and stuff until we have everything we need and have reached a place of comfort and security. He argues that the longing for stability and comfort, where we can rest and enjoy the fruit of our labor, is a good longing. But the lie our culture is feeding us is that the goal of life is to accumulate more money and possessions, and that financial aspiration is a good primary driving force for our actions and choices. 

By way of contrast, the gospel proclaims that the true goal in life is Christlikeness, holiness. The goal is to know God and to be like Jesus, fully reflecting the image of God to the world. If we believe that, how does this change our attitude towards money and possessions?

1) We can see through advertising for what it is. Advertising taps into our longing for wholeness, significance, and comfort. It turns shopping into a religious activity that can satisfy the longings of our heart. But it is a lie – more stuff, while it can bring momentary happiness, does not ultimately satisfy us.

2) If the goal is Christlikeness, then God cares more about our heart than our stuff. Just because we become more successful at work or more financially prosperous does not necessarily mean that we will be in a better place spiritually. As Jesus said in Mark 8:36, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The most important question is not “am I better off financially than I was last year?” but “am I closer to Jesus than I was last year?”

3) The prosperity gospel, with its health and wealth preachers, have baptized the American dream and tried to sell it to us as God’s will. It is a lie. God’s desire is that you would be holy, and whether it takes prosperity or poverty, sickness or health, He will work towards that end.

4) Be on guard for how the consumerist mentality affects your approach to church. Do you see church as existing to meet your needs? Or do you realize that God has put you in a church primarily to care for your brothers and sisters, serve others, pray, learn, and give to His glory?

5) Two core disciplines that help us break free from the consumerist mentality are fasting and giving. When we fast, we declare that we need God more than we need food, and train ourselves to recognize that just because we can consume something doesn’t mean that we should. And when we give, we train ourselves that life is not all about consumption and gaining as much as we can, but that as Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The belief that having more things will make you happier is a lie. The truth is that having more of Jesus will make you happier. When your true desire is to know God more, then whatever God brings your way, whether it be a large house or a small apartment, a new car or a barely working one, it can all be used to draw you closer to Him.

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