As I drive to my office each day, I pass dozens of stores, banks, restaurants, and other establishments. I usually look at the marquees and signs, just to see if there are any cute or (more likely) cheesy slogans or sayings on them. As a minister, I also get a few ideas from the wording.
Recently, as I drove by a bank, though, I saw words on a marquee that were quite sad. This is a bank that I have some dealings with and usually respect quite highly. The customer service has been good, and the “atmosphere” is usually upbeat and friendly. In talking with a few folks in the bank, I have never felt like I was being “sold” something, but have been taught about products, services, fees, and benefits of the different services offered.
So, when I saw the marquee, I was surprised. It said, “Buy. Build a house. Be happy.”
Now, at first, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Honestly, I was looking for the word “or” to be between “buy” and “build,” but it wasn’t there. Maybe that’s what they meant. Or, it could just mean exactly what it says. Buy (anything). Build a house. Be happy.
Does spending money, even on something as substantial as a house, equate to happiness? Sadly, for some people, it does, but that happiness is fleeting. There are many who think that what they have gives definition to their lives, and is the “sum and substance” of life. I have dealt with a few individuals like that, and it is truly sad. They are always describing something they bought, why they bought it, and (often) how much it cost. However, as the conversation continues, it usually turns toward something else they would like to own.
They aren’t seeing the “happiness” brought by this purchase as fleeting, and that’s tragic.
After telling His disciples to be on guard against the sin of covetousness, Jesus stated, “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15b). If we do not imbibe these words, we will be trying to buy happiness.
How can we keep from defining happiness by what we purchase or build? Here are 4 suggestions:
1. Value People More than Possessions.
Usually, the same people who stand and talk about all they own rarely have strong relationships with other people. They might have a few “buddies,” but that’s about it. They have forgotten that building true friendships and strong relationships have a far greater value than any house, car, boat, outfit, collection, or anything else they might have. Spend serious time with people getting to know them and investing in the relationship. You won’t regret it.
2. Understand that Things Will Perish.
All that “stuff” that you saved up for and bought? It’s all going away some day (read 2 Peter 3:8-13). Even if it makes it to the end of the world, it is still just stuff. Jesus said that the treasures of this world are things that moth and rust often corrupts and that can also be stolen by thieves (Matthew 6:19). We may not want to believe that description, but deep down, we know it to be apt. How “happy” are you, when you consider that your stuff will not last forever?
3. Use What Things We Have to God’s Glory.
All that being said, it is not sinful to have “things” (so long as those things don’t “have” us!). When we look at what we own, do we see ways we can utilize it to God’s glory? That house? It can be used to invite over someone who is hurting, or who needs to study the Bible. Your car? It can be used to go visit a person who is shut in, or to travel to a Bible study. Your TV can be used for more than just movies and ball games. You can use it to watch religious programming, or to use Bible studies that are on DVD. We need to change how we view our stuff.
4. Be a Giver.
The best way to get out of the mindset that buying and owning makes us happy is to have a heart of generosity. You will never be so happy as you are when you give. Is it any wonder that the word “miserable” begins with “miser”?
So, with all due respect to a good bank, I’m going to find happiness in something other than just buying and building earthly things. I’m going to find true joy in building a relationship with Christ and His people.