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November 9, 2023

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Years ago, Grace asked me to describe my happiest memories. I told her about the time she and her sister were born, about the day I married their mother, and about the night I was ordained a minister. She agreed that those were good memories and felt satisfied by those answers.

But here’s a thought experiment. What if she had asked me to assign a monetary figure to those memories? What if she had asked, “Daddy, what is the monetary equivalent of those memories? How much money would I need to have in order to feel as happy as any of those events?”

I know; that’s a really odd question. But it’s one that an Australian professor named Paul Fritjers asked back in 2009, as the culmination of a surprising eight-year study. After surveying 10,000 people, he developed dollar value equivalents 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, here are some of his conclusions:

  • 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.

Frijters suggested that the study’s value might be in assisting insurance companies and lawyers in assigning dollar compensations for certain life events. He summarizes 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.”

Oof. 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 a message embedded in our natural urge to accumulate more material goods and earthly treasure. The only solution to this kind of wayward thinking is to align our finances around the biblical principles of generosity. 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. (Luke 6:19-21)

This Sunday, we continue in our Generosity Campaign Love for All with an exploration of Paul’s teachings on money, contentment, and generosity in 1 Timothy 6. We’ll hear more stories of transformation through the work of this church, especially at our downtown Portico location. And, we will lift up a reminder for you to prayerfully fill out your estimate of giving card by Commitment Sunday, November 19, so that the Finance Committee can responsibly plan for all the exciting ministries and programs for 2024.

By God’s grace, may we experience true joy, through contentment and generosity.

Grace and Peace,

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