My four rules of economics:
1. Most people make less money than they expect to make.
2. Most people spend more money than they expect to spend.
3. Most people do work that is uninteresting and/or undesirable to them.
4. Most people discover that the economic power that they acquire through their work isn’t nearly as satisfying as they expect it to be.
There are two realities that drive the system that generates this profound sense of disappointment:
Reality #1: the world of money making and money spending is a world where people are valued because of their usefulness. In this type of system, people are always going to try and get as much from each other as they can while giving as little as possible in return. This is the seedy underbelly of capitalism. It is also a way of life that is guaranteed to lead to much agnst, because it is a constant struggle to get what we want, both as income generators and as consumers.
Except for a very fortunate few, those who experience financial success do not come across it easily. For those who come by it honestly, it comes at great personal cost. It is a result of sweat, work, sacrifice, and endless hours of tedium and/or physical or emotional strain. For others, the ones who take pride in the fact that they aren’t constrained to “play by the rules”, the price for success is their integrity.
Ours is a world where people use each other to try and maximize their income as much as possible. It is a cold world where a lot of people are left behind. And I am certain that if everyone who WANTED out of the system suddenly GOT out of it, our economy would come to a screeching, catastrophic halt.
Reality #2: The Lie. Everyone is pursuing this gigantic lie: That with a LITTLE MORE WORK, with ONE MORE PROMOTION, with ONE MORE SALE or a FEW MORE HOURS in the office, everthing that wasn’t fixed the last time you ramped-up your income will be fixed. Eventually, the parameters get pushed so far, that you don’t even like what you’ve had to become to get there.
How people (including myself) get suckered into this thinking again and again is beyond me. This way of thinking NEVER seems to work out, yet it insidiously inserts itself into people’s lives over and over.
I’ll say it again, even more simply: the pursuit of money leads to much misery.
Which returns us to Max’s problem. Though it may seem so on the surface, his problem isn’t an economic one. With some realistic thinking, and some modest sacrifices, he can quickly turn his financial problems around. And as much as I appreciate the willingness of Christian financial counselors to provide help to people who struggle with net income issues, spreadsheets and budgets will only do so much.
The real problem here is a spiritual one. Its a problem that arises when people are so obsessed with the stuff that they can get that they become people that they don’t want to be to get there. Its a problem that begins when we are very young and make decisions about things that we want to have in life, and its a problem that continues every time we drive by a car lot, walk through a mall, or see the latest gizmo on a TV commercial.
It is a problem of greed and lust.
What is the one thing that my heart will pursue in life? If a person can somehow get control of their answer to that question, the transformation to bearhood can begin.