Monday, December 7, 2009

Buying Happiness

Whoever first said, “Money can’t buy happiness,” probably didn’t have any. Sounds like sour grapes.

Today millions of people are devoting much time and energy “buying happiness.” And they’ll succeed. Christmas morning will elicit squeals of delight at the sight of shiny new bicycles, happy hoots when the latest electronic gizmos are unwrapped, and bright smiles when coveted sweaters, jewelry and other treasures emerge from gaily colored boxes.

The only problem? The happiness money buys won’t last. Novelty fades and fascination gives way to familiarity. Today’s technological wonder becomes tomorrow’s ho-hum as something faster and flashier succeeds it. Even new cars get dirty and dented. Wreck your sedan – where’s “happiness” then?

Years ago I heard a radio speaker put it into perspective: Happiness is not to be confused with joy. Happiness is dependent on happenings – externals – while joy comes from within and can remain untarnished by things that occur outside our control.

For instance, a new picture may make me happy, but if I pound my thumb with a hammer while preparing a place to hang it, I’m no longer happy. However, if that picture contains images of people I love, my joy in beholding it remains even while my thumb throbs.

Joy transcends isolated events. It involves contentment, fulfillment, meaning, even a sense of belonging. This is why James 1:2 can tell us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” We may not be happy about losing a job, not being able to buy things we want, or having to deal with some dreaded disease, but we can still retain joy in knowing God loves us, has our best interests at heart, and is not surprised by any adversities we may encounter.

Money can buy fleeting happiness, but it can’t buy joy!

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