Don’t miss Janey Osterland’s post at WiseBread highlighting the recent Princeton University Center of Wellbeing Study reporting that “increasing one’s income up to about $75,000 per year lessens life’s stresses”.
Earn anything more than that and it’s all weeping and gnashing of teeth, the study adds.
Well, OK, they don’t quite conclude that. But they do discover statistically that wealth is not what it’s cracked up to be. The study’s authors pontificate as to why:
Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.
Or perhaps once one passes $75,000 one is completely sucked in by what Martin Luther called the “inward curvature of the soul”–the sinful bent that strengthens, not subsides, anytime one makes an effort to satisfy it. Janey provides links to several studies verifying the sad phenomenon we note periodically in this space, namely, that the more money one makes, the lower the percentage one gives away.
John Wesley once offhanded that the reason why rich people become less and less generous is that they see actual poor people less and less often. Perhaps once one reaches $75,000, the only people one sees on a regular basis are people who don’t really need much help. And maybe that reinforces the mistaken belief that the money is really much more needed in the bank account of the person who earned it.
I was writing the chapter in my book this week on Ransoming the Captive and describing how in the first eighteen centuries of church history it was a regular occurrence for free Christians to offer to take the place of slaves and prisoners as a means of securing freedom for the captive. I wrote about Oscar Schindler’s ransoming of Jews in World War II, and Maximilian Kolbe’s volunteering to go to the gas chamber to spare another concentration camp prisoner he hardly knew. It made me think how much generosity is related to the sights and smells and touches of direct contact and, thus, to love. So this is what I wrote:
It is a customary and not an odd thing to ransom a captive who is one’s own blood. The miracle is not in the act of ransoming a loved one but rather in coming to love the one who is not one’s own blood in the first place. This is the gift one receives through the habitual practice of the Works of Mercy.
Perhaps what happens is that making more than $75,000 a year requires such an expenditure of hours at work that we run out of time for anything more than ourselves and our family. We leave off the habitual practice of the Works of Mercy (i.e., sharing our bread, opening our homes, healing and comforting others) and thus the only needs that are directly and palpably real to us are our own.