“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” — Desiderius Erasmus
I know, I know. Those sage philosophers Lennon and McCartney tell us otherwise.
“For I don’t care too much for money
For money can’t buy me love
Can’t buy me love
Everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love
No, no, no, no” *
You can’t buy love. You can’t buy friends. You can’t buy happiness. We hear this time and again.
But here’s the simple reality. When I go to a bookstore and buy a new book I am happy. I am happy. I love books. Books are my favorite things. I would rather spend money on books than food. Buying a new book makes me happy.
For a while.
You see, the half-life on store-bought happiness lasts only as long as the thing is new.
The half-life of store-bought happiness is short. Because once I’ve finished the book, I’m not happy anymore. In fact, if it’s not a very good book I can even lose my happiness while I’m still reading it. Because then I feel like I’ve wasted money on this book when I could have bought something else.
So the reality is that money can buy happiness. It simply can’t buy happiness for long.
You see, happiness is not a thing in and of itself.
Happiness is a by-product of something else.
Happiness is always a by-product and only a by-product.
If you go searching for happiness, you will never, ever find it.
It doesn’t exist in the wild.
Way back in the 90’s, I asked my friend and mentor Clark “Big Daddy” Niles this question, “What is the biggest difference in youth ministry from when you started to today?” He paused and thought and scratched his head, then replied, “The biggest difference I see is that twenty years ago parents wanted their children to be good. Today parents only want their kids to be happy.”
Of course, the damned part is that trying to make your kids happy only insures that you won’t. At least, not for long.
If you make your kids good, if you teach them to be good people, to discover who God made them to be and to revel in that then they will find happiness. Probably not right away. And certainly not always. But eventually. And often.
Our Declaration of Independence tells us that we have the freedom to pursue happiness. Not that we have the right to always be happy.
Happiness is a by-product of being who God made us to be. That is where our deepest joy comes from. Because that is where we most strongly connect with our Creator. That is the place where we live out our redemption, where the cross comes alive in us. That is where we find happiness.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence
* Can’t Buy Me Love Lyrics by The Beatles are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels, Can’t Buy Me Love Lyrics by The Beatles are provided for educational purposes only. If you like the song, please buy relative CD.