Is the Pursuit of Money Making You Sick?
IF YOU became very rich tomorrow, what would you do? Slow down and enjoy life? Quit your job and spend more time with your family and friends? Take up a career that you really enjoy? Interestingly, many people who become rich do no such things. Instead, they devote the rest of their lives to making more money—either to pay off their new debts or just to get richer.
Some who have followed this course, however, are noting the damaging effect that materialism has had on their health, their family life, and the moral character of their children. Recently, books, articles, television programs, and videos have warned against overindulgence and have, instead, encouraged “voluntary simplicity.” A number of sources point out that becoming absorbed in materialistic pursuits can make you sick—mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Of course, concern about the dangers of materialism is not new. Almost 2,000 years ago, the Bible stated: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
But is that true? Do those who live for money and material acquisitions really suffer for it? Or do they have it all—wealth, health, and happy families? Let us see.
Determined to Be Rich—How It Can Affect You
IN A world where over 850 million people are hungry, it may be hard to imagine that having too much could be a problem. But did you note that the scripture quoted in the previous article warned not against money or riches but, rather, against the love of money and the determination to be rich? What happens when people live for riches and the things that money can buy? Consider first the effect on their children.
The Effect on Children
It is estimated that in just one year, an average child in America sees 40,000 television commercials. Add to these the video games, sophisticated music players, computer programs, and name-brand clothing that children see in stores and in the homes of their friends, and then try to imagine the barrage of requests parents face as a result. Some parents have pandered to their children’s every wish. Why?
Having been denied material luxuries when they were young, some parents are eager to make sure that their children do not grow up feeling deprived. Still other parents are afraid that if they say no, their children will stop loving them. “They want to be their kids’ best friend and make sure they’re having fun,” said a cofounder of a support group for parents in Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A. Other parents hope that an abundance of gifts will compensate for their spending a great deal of time at their job, away from their children. Then, too, after a long week of stressful work, a parent may simply not feel up to the conflict that inevitably follows the answer “No, you can’t have it.”
But are parents who give their children everything they want helping them or hurting them? Ironically, experience is showing that instead of loving Mom and Dad more, spoiled children tend to be ungrateful. They don’t even appreciate the gifts that they begged for so desperately. Said a middle-school director: “It’s been my experience that when children have their ‘gimmes’ met immediately, the sought-after items are often discarded after two weeks.”
What happens to spoiled children when they grow up? According to Newsweek magazine, studies show that they become adults who “have difficulty coping with life’s disappointments.” Never having learned to work hard for what they get, a number of them fail at school, at work, and in marriage, thereafter remaining financially dependent on their parents. They may also be prone to anxiety and depression.
So, spoiled children are deprived after all. They are denied appreciation for the value of work, a sense of self-worth, and the ability to feel rich on the inside. Therapist Jessie O’Neill warns: “By teaching children that they can have what they want when they want it, you are setting them up for a lifetime of misery.”
What Happens to Adults?
If you are married, “no matter how long you’ve been together or how much money you have, your next fight is likely to be about money,” reports the journal Psychology Today. It also observes that “the way a couple deals with money disagreements and disappointments can predict the long-term success, or failure, of the relationship.” A couple who place too much importance on money and material things clearly put their marriage at greater risk. Indeed, it has been estimated that arguments about money are dominant in 90 percent of divorce cases.
Yet, even when a couple stay together, the quality of their marriage may suffer if their focus is on money and the luxuries it affords them. For example, a couple in debt may easily become irritable and quick-tempered, with each blaming the other for their financial worries. In some cases each mate is so preoccupied with his or her material possessions that there is little time for their relationship. What happens when one mate makes an expensive purchase and hides it from the other? Doing so breeds secretiveness, guilt, and mistrust—all of which eat away at the marriage.
A few adults, whether married or not, have literally sacrificed their lives to materialism. Some in South Africa, under the stress of adopting Western-style materialistic values, have attempted suicide. In the United States, a man killed his wife, his 12-year-old son, and himself, apparently because of his financial problems.
Of course, most people do not die as a result of pursuing riches. Yet, life could easily pass them by while they are lost in their quest. Then, too, the quality of their lives may suffer if job stress or financial strain causes panic attacks, sleeplessness, chronic headaches, or ulcers—health problems that can shorten one’s life. And even if a person wakes up to the need to change his priorities, it may be too late. His mate may no longer trust him, his children may already be hampered emotionally, and his health may be ruined. Perhaps some of the damage can be repaired, but it will require a great deal of work. Such ones have indeed “stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:10.
What Do You Want?
Most people want a happy family, good health, meaningful work, and enough money to live comfortably. To have all four requires balance, and when one’s main concern is money, that balance is disturbed. For many people, getting back on track may mean accepting a lower-paying job, a smaller home, a less-expensive car, or a lower social status. How many of them are willing to sacrifice such luxuries for the sake of higher values? ‘I know I don’t need these things,’ admitted one woman, ‘but it’s so hard to let go of them!’ Others want to let go, but they don’t want to be the first to do so.
What about you? If you have already found a way to keep money and material things in their place, you are to be commended. On the other hand, are you rushing through this article right now because your standard of living demands too much of your time? Are you among those who feel a need to cut back materially in favor of greater physical and emotional well-being? Then act decisively before materialism has opportunity to do its destructive work in your household. The box on this page provides some suggestions for getting started.
When material things are kept in their place, each member of the family will benefit physically and emotionally. Christians, however, have an additional concern—they do not want material things to interfere with their relationship with God. How can materialism threaten one’s spiritual health, and how can one prevent that from happening? The next article will explain.
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Often, spoiled children are ungrateful and sought-after gadgets are quickly discarded
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Living With a Sense of Balance
Cutting back materially will require determination and careful planning. Here are suggestions that have proved helpful to some.
▪ INVENTORY. What can you stop buying? What can you get rid of? Magazine subscriptions? Music CDs? Unnecessary accessories for the car?
▪ SIMPLIFY ON A TRIAL BASIS. If you have serious reservations about living more simply, why not try it for six months or a year. Prove to yourself whether all that time spent on money and possessions was really making you happier—or less so.
▪ INCLUDE YOUR CHILDREN IN FAMILY DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SIMPLIFYING. Thus, they will likely be supportive and you will not find it so hard to say no when you must.
▪ CONSIDER GIVING YOUR CHILDREN AN ALLOWANCE. Whether they decide to save for a desired item or to forgo it, they will learn patience and appreciation for what they own. They will also learn how to make decisions.
▪ LEARN TECHNIQUES THAT WILL HELP YOU SAVE. Shop for bargains. Make a budget. Carpool. Run appliances less. Borrow books from the library instead of buying them.
▪ FILL THE GAP. Remember, your objective in cutting back is not simply to own less but to give attention to more important concerns, such as the people in your life. Are you doing that?
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The determination to be rich can cause tension in a marriage