Dear Hyde Park Family,

A few years ago, Grace asked me to describe my happiest memories. I responded with some of the more obvious answers: the moments she and her sister were born, the day I married their mother, the night I was ordained as a minister. She agreed that those were good memories and was satisfied by those answers.

But what if she asked me to assign a monetary value to those events, with a question like, “Dad, what was the dollar amount of those happy memories?” In other words, how much money would I have to get in order to feel as happy as any of those events? $5,000? $10,000? More?

Wouldn’t that seem like an odd question? But that’s the one posed by an Australian professor named Paul Frijters, who back in 2009 published the results of a surprising eight-year study. [1] After surveying 10,000 people, he developed dollar values for the emotional effects of events such as marriage, childbirth, divorce, and home purchases. Positive dollar amounts indicated “psychic benefits,” and negative dollar amounts showed “psychic costs.”

For example, this is what the study concluded:

  • A man getting married feels like he just received $32,000. To women, it only feels like $16,000.
  • Divorce feels like a $110,000 loss to a man, but only $9,000 to a woman.
  • The death of a spouse or a child feels like minus $130,900 to a woman, and a whopping $627,300 deficit to a man.
  • And moving into a new home? A positive $2,600 for a woman, and a negative $16,000 to a man.

Crazy, right? Frijters suggested that the study’s value might be in assisting insurance companies and lawyers in assigning dollar compensations for certain life events.

He summarized his study with this statement: “Losing or gaining money can offset the effect of other life events quite well, and that is what we are formally looking at — the amount needed to offset an event or keep someone happiness-neutral.”

I don’t know about you, but the word outlandish comes to mind.

You know as well as I do: you cannot quantify your feelings with dollar signs, and you cannot put a price tag on life’s most significant moments. Yet that is precisely the subversive myth pervading our airwaves, advertisements, and innermost drives to accumulate more material possessions.

The only solution to this kind of wayward thinking is to align our finances around the biblical principles of generosity and stewardship. It’s captured in Jesus’ words to his disciples:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

This Sunday, we will have an opportunity to set our treasure right where it belongs: in the hands of the God who grants us joy, peace, and an abundant life that no dollar sign can define.

We’ll offer our pledge cards designating our financial commitment for 2019. Thank you to the more than 200 of you who have already turned in a card. And if you’d prefer, you can turn in your pledge online right now here.

And, we will celebrate all of God’s good gifts as we volunteer at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent for our annual SERVE Day. There are still many open slots for you to volunteer. Details here

Let’s get our priorities straight, and experience true joy, through contentment and generosity.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

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