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Can Money Buy Happiness?

It’s an age-old question. Some researchers sought to end the debate.

Two researchers from the University of British Columbia studied whether those who make frequent material purchases are happier than those who make experiential purchases.¹

They focused upon the momentary happiness that people get from material purchases like skateboards, speakers, coffee makers, etc. in contrast to experiential purchases like spa gift cards, weekend ski trips, or tickets to a sporting event.

Their conclusion? Well, it depends.

Those who like the rush that they get from frequent purchases of material things have doses of happiness of over time, whereas those who purchase experiences get an intense but fleeting dose of happiness. On the other hand, those who looked back on their purchases after 6 weeks or more tended to feel more satisfaction over their experiential purchases.

As one of the researchers noted, “The new couch will never provide a thrilling moment to match the concert but will keep the owner snug and comfortable throughout the winter months.”

Of course, there’s something that the researchers missed altogether.

In the end, whether skateboards or concert tickets, neither kind of purchase can satisfy for any enduring length of time. That’s why the Apostle Paul said if “we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15.19 ESV). King Solomon, who had the opportunity to partake of any of the material purchases and experiential purchases he wanted, said it this way: “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2.11 ESV).

You see, the research is flawed. The only lasting happiness we can experience this side of heaven is when we know that there is something more than this life. It is the knowledge that there is something more than this life that gives us hope.

Here on this earth, we will always be reminded that we lack permanence and substance. There will always be a gnawing inside of our souls that there is something more, something more meaningful—until heaven.

¹http://www.lifehack.org/352030/science-finds-something-surprising-about-the-effect-material-purchases-happiness

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About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: www.givingitallawaybook.com. » Learn More

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