Rev. George Miller
May 1, 2016
Can money buy happiness?
Back in 2010, Princeton did a study in which they discovered the answer amounted to both a yes and a no.
Based on data gathered from a massive survey, a psychologist and economist concluded that people with higher incomes did indeed enjoy a sunnier mood.
They discovered that $75,000 is what they call “the happiness tipping point.”
When a household brings in $75,000 a year, people are able to relax, knowing that they have enough to pay their mortgage, care for their car, stay current on their bills, their student loans, to buy groceries, put some money away for savings, and enjoy a perk or two, such as eating out, going to the movies, or taking a vacation.
When those who made $75,000 a year were asked to recall their emotions the previous day, they were more likely to remember feeling happy and smiling.
When those who made less-than $75,000 were asked to recall their emotions the day before, many reported feeling worried and stressed out; exhibiting anxiety over living paycheck to paycheck.
But here’s something interesting that came up in this study- the researchers discovered that once people crossed over the $75,000 benchmark, extra pay didn't improve their sense of happiness at all.
Those who made double or triple that amount did not exhibit any greater sense of joy or contentment.
In other words, those who made $75,000, $175,000, and $175 million all had the same level of happiness.
So on one hand- money can buy happiness; on the other hand, after a certain point, it cannot.
Maybe happiness is not even the right word. Maybe we should say contentment, peace of mind, or the feeling that one has “enough.”
“Enough” is a theme that’s been running through our worship services for the past 3 years.
That sense of “enough” also permeates today’s reading.
Psalm 67 is a joyful song to God sung by a community of folk who realize they are at a perfect place in time, in their own little corner of their world, in which everything has been going well.
The singers of today’s Psalm are not bogged down by worries, or stress, or chaos. They are not at war. They are not hungry. They are not under any perceivable threat.
And they are happy; they are content.
But more than that- they are aware of why they are happy. They remember why they are feeling so grand.
They realize that it’s all good because it is all God.
They push aside any sense of pride and hubris, and they give all credit where credit is due- God has blessed them.
God has made sure their crops have grown, their produce is abundant. Because of God they have enough to eat, enough to sell, enough to survive, and enough to thrive.
And they are so thankful; they are so happy that all they can do is sang.
In the words of a song by Prince, they know they are “Beautiful, loved, and blessed.”
They didn’t need no lemons to make lemonade; God blessed them with the right amount of sunshine, rainfall, and sweet sweet goodness.
Anyone here ever feel beautiful, loved and blessed?
Anyone here feel as if it is all good, and you just know, you know, it is all God?
That’s how these folks feel.
But here is the really cool thing about today’s reading- the people are so happy, they feel so beautiful, loved and blessed that they want all the people in all of the world to feel the same way.
“Let all the nations praise you, O God,” they sing, “Let all the peoples praise you.”
These worshippers are so full of joy that they want to spread it around. The want the whole world to know how good and pleasant it is when you know you’ve been blessed.
So the people make this request to God-
“Continue to bless us, continue to smile upon us so that everywhere we go, everyone we meet wants to know why we are so happy.”
The people sing out to God and say “Bless us so that all the world knows about you; bless us so that all the world is blessed.”
This sentiment sounds so simple, but it is actually so radical.
What is really going on is this- the people are making the claim that God’s love is so abundant, God’s love is limitless, that is will not run out, and there is enough for every person in the world to experience.
This song makes the revolutionary claim that God is able to bless every woman and every man, every widow and every orphan, every CEO and every counter-clerk, every foreigner and every national-born citizen, every Tabitha and every Peter.
This song is the ultimate embodiment of no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are not only welcome, but you are beautiful, loved, and blessed.
Now why this so radical, why is Psalm 67 so revolutionary?
Because it states that there is enough for all, and there is enough for everyone to be happy.
It states that in God everyone can be a winner.
Think how radical this is.
How often are we taught that in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose?
Think of all the debates we hear about raising the minimum wage and people who are afraid that we’ll run out of money and the economy will tank.
Think of all the people who are so afraid that you getting yours may mean I can no longer get mine.
If you ever want a perfect example of this fear at work, go to the Hibachi Buffet on 27.
It’s All-U-Can-Eat with over 70 different entrees. Enough for everyone to go home stuffed and satiated.
But go there on seafood night and watch what happens when the crab legs are put out.
Folk swarm like seagulls on the beach.
They claim their spot, they shift anxiously from foot to foot waiting their turn, and they fill their plates to the spilling-over point.
Because they are afraid that there will not be enough for them, even though they’re at a buffet.
I think many people live their lives this way.
They have a buffet of options in front of them, but they fear there won’t be enough.
So they hoard. They hold on. They don’t share. They live in fear that one day everything will go away.
They lose sight that in God they are beautiful, loved, and blessed.
But scripture tells us different. The Bible reminds us just how much God loves us, how much God cares.
The Bible calls us to remember that when there was nothing, God created everything and said “Look at what I made, come and share with me.”
The Bible calls us to remember that when Elijah visited the widow and asked to be fed, her jars of oil and flour never ran out.
The Bible calls us to remember that when Jesus had but 2 loaves and 5 fish, people were fed to satisfaction.
The Bible calls us to remember that in Christ, there are Marthas who are glad to open their home to visitors.
There are Marys who are willing to anoint with expensive perfume.
There are Tabithas who are willing to use their resources to care for and clothe the most vulnerable of society.
There are Corneliuses who are willing to place a banquet before us of hamhocks, camarones, and deep-fried catfish.
The Bible calls us to remember that in God there is enough.
The Bible calls us to remember that when we are fortunate to experience those moments in time when life is good, when we have abundance, when we know we are blessed, that instead of hoarding it all, we should wish it upon everyone we know.
Happiness is not always easy to come by in this world. There are events that happen and there are people who will try to take it away.
But in God we are able to find true joy. In God we should feel the desire to share that joy with everyone.
In God we should want to share our blessings not just within our own little corner of the world, but throughout the face of the earth.
Amen and amen.