Myths are what enough people believe, but are not true. When we bust myths, we can save people from unnecessary fears and false hopes.
When I was a kid, some other kids told me one night about Bloody Mary—the mythical ghost who will visit you while are looking in the mirror if you whisper her name. One older kid said she even saw the Bloody Mary in the mirror recently! I couldn’t go look at a mirror or sleep. I never whispered her name, but I sure thought it, so I was afraid that that was enough to conjure the Bloody Mary. That myth needed to be busted! There are some money myths we believe that need to be busted so we can have less anxiety.
Myths can lead to false hope. I had a friend who loved his dog so much, he would let his dog lick him all over the face. He would never share a water bottle with any of us, but would make out with his dog. He kept saying that humans can’t get sick from dog saliva and how clean their mouths are. But I found an article that read, “Dog mouths are teeming with bacteria because they eat and lick all sorts of gross things like garbage, carcasses, and of course, poop. Since dogs don’t have hands with opposable thumbs and they walk on all fours, they use their face and mouth to do a lot of things we would use our hands to do. A dog’s mouth functions as its hands, its washcloth, its toilet paper and so on.” So him thinking that is perfectly sanitary to kiss his dog, is a myth, that’s false hope.
I think money myths are giving people unnecessary fears and false hopes. So we need to bust some of these myths.
Myth #1: Money = Happiness
The wealthiest cities in the world (New York, London, and Paris), have some of the most miserable people in the world. While cities that are less fancy and impressive have happier residents (Boulder, Colorado).
The countries with the fastest growing economies (including the U.S. and China) also have the highest rates of anxiety and depression.
The countries that aren’t known for their economic prowess, such as New Zealand and Canada, have the happiest citizens. (Source: Charles Richards, The Psychology of Wealth, p. 46)
The people who say “I will be happier when I am making more money” may be kidding themselves.
Let’s just say that they come into more external wealth, it may only accentuate their internal emptiness. What’s more important than external wealth is internal wealth. What’s more essential than a prosperous business is a prosperous soul.
Many people have forfeited their internal wealth in their chase after external wealth. Many people have relinquished a prosperous soul, as they gave all in pursuing a prosperous business.
Jesus warned us about this: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Net worth is measured by pretax income and inheritances. However, net worth is not the same as life-satisfaction. There are other factors that make life fulfilling and the soul prosperous. Let’s start with the presence of God.
“in your presence there is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11)
In truly knowing God there is joy, not in bigger salaries and more stuff. You may not inherit a million dollars today, but you can draw near to God today. Your salary may not double tomorrow, yet you can experience more of God’s Spirit tomorrow.
I see the presence of God to the human soul as water is to a fish. Take a fish out of water, slap a Rolex onto it, even put him in a Rolls Royce, and feed the fish filet mignon. If it is out of water, it’s going to be miserable and dying.
King David, who was perhaps the wealthiest man of his time, wrote,
“A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)
He was saying that he would rather be relationally close to God than to be prospering apart from God.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that poverty makes people happy either. I am merely busting the myth that money equals happiness.
Myth #2: Money = Self-Worth
Just because we grow our net worth doesn’t mean that we have improved our self-worth. I would like to suggest that what may be more important than our net worth is our self-worth.
“While money helps many things, it has little long-term impact on our self-worth.” (Charles Richards, The Psychology of Wealth, p. 78)
“Money tends not to solve personal problems; money solves money problems.” Szifra Birke, psychologist and wealth counselor
Amy Chua wrote a book called the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and take about the difference between Asian and American parenting styles.
She said that the stereotypical Asian parents link self-worth to a high level of personal achievement and recognition. The college you graduate from. The jobs you land. The money you make.
But the children feel the pressure from their parents to be excellent, yet when they don’t meet their parents’ standards, their sense of self- worth erodes. They believe that parental love is solely dependent on what they accomplish and the result is that they are “anxiety-ridden” adults who never feel good enough, no matter what they accomplish or how much money they eventually make.
While these parents pushed their kids to maximize their net worth, they put them at a disadvantage when it came to finding their self- worth.
While these Asian kids have strong desire to please their parents, they never feel their own worth. They usually end up doing something with their lives that their parents wanted, not what they truly wanted to do. Or, they feel like a complete disappointment because they couldn’t keep up with the other hard workers.
She contrasts this with American parenting styles, where the kids know that they are unconditionally loved and cared for, yet do not always have the discipline to accomplish goals that they are pursuing. So they underachieve.
They may have self-worth, but lack net worth. We should pursue the best of both worlds.
The advantage of the stereotypical Asian parent is that the kids have high goals and know that self-discipline is essential in order to create a prosperous life.
The advantage of American style parenting is that kids know their self- worth and have a sense of confidence. They can be more free to be creative and follow their hearts.
So the ideal parenting would be for their kids to know unconditional love, while giving them a strong sense of responsibility and encouraging self-discipline.
Goal setting and accomplishing should be promoted in the framework of being unconditionally loved.
So a healthy child knows they are unconditionally and inherently loved —and still working hard to achieve. They are being creative and productive. They know their value and are unleashing their potential.
This is how God parents us.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Here we see that our self-worth comes from God’s grace toward us— not our bank accounts or portfolios or annual salaries. Yet we don’t just sit around and know we are loved. We also get to work hard and begin releasing our potential.
Myth #3: Money = Evil
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
In that letter from Apostle Paul to his young disciple Timothy, we don’t see that money is evil—rather, greed is evil. Greed is when money becomes the primary objective and highest priority of our lives. Greed is when we are willing to do anything for more stuff. Greed is also in buying things we can’t afford. Now, we must recognize that Paul did not say that money in itself is evil.
If money is evil, why is abundance and riches in heaven?
Why streets of gold, if gold is wicked? Why mansions if mansions are sinful? Heaven wouldn’t be described as a place of evils, toxins, and poisons, but a place where there is God’s goodness to be enjoyed.
In an excerpt from the 2003 Psychology Today article “Religion Impacts Size of Wallet,” Carlin Flora writes: “Lisa Keister, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, analyzed longitudinal surveys of nearly 5,000 Americans. She found the median net worth of Jewish participants to be $150,890. Conservative Protestants— including Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and Christian Scientists—were worth an average of $26,200. Catholics and mainstream Protestants—including Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Unitarians and others—fell in between at about $60,000.”
I have wondered why the conservative Christians are where they are, in that survey. While Jews believe that poverty is evil, in conservative Christianity there is this stigma that money is evil.
“Jewish people view wealth as a blessing and look down on poverty because it cannot help anyone.” (H.W. Charles, p. 5)
Conservative Christians can think wealthy people as greedy people. And they can be critical toward those who are rich. Poverty may even be a virtue to them.
This comes from Ancient Greek Philosophy that all physical matter is flawed and only the spirit world is perfect. This idea has been embedded into Christian doctrine.
“Many schools of Greek philosophy held a belief that all physical matter was flawed. Only that which was spirit could be perfect. Many concepts of Greek thinking were incorporated into Christian doctrine.” (HW Charles, p. 23)
Believing that everything in the physical realm is evil can lead to:
1. Being unmotivated in studying other subjects besides “spiritual ones.”
2. A big interest in studying theology but low interest in finance.
3. A view that being in the marketplace means you are a second-class citizen.
They might believe that real ministry is done by the preachers and in the church, so they do their work half-heartedly. This type of thinking could lead, say, a construction worker to think that the work he does isn’t significant. He’d rather be teaching the Bible full-time. But your workplace is your sanctuary, your work is your worship, your co- workers and clients are your mission field—glorify God where you are at.
Now, our Jewish friends have what we call the Old Testament. Conservative Christians can think that the Old Testament has expired and is now useless. We discard Scriptures about how the good man leaves an inheritance for his grandkids (Proverbs 13:22). How many of God’s servants were very materially blessed in Scripture and it is described that God blessed them?
Then, conservative Christians tend to think that Jesus was poor. Let’s investigate that in the next post.