• Money​—A Cruel Master

    ADVERTISING uses subtle psychological ploys to foster the consumer society. It persuades people to ‘buy things they don’t need with money they don’t really have, sometimes to impress people they don’t really like.’

    Many are induced to try to make lots of money in the hope of achieving security. But does this lead to the desired result?

    Liz, mentioned earlier, eventually married a financially secure husband. She says: “When I married, we had a beautiful home and two cars, and our financial situation allowed us freedom to enjoy anything the world had to offer in the way of material things, travel, and recreation. Oddly enough, I still worried about money.” She explains why: “We had so much to lose. It seems that the more you have, the less secure you feel. Money did not bring freedom from worry or anxiety.”

    Although the quest for money is a distinguishing mark of our times, true contentment rarely results. “An obsession with money may seem natural in the 1980s, an age of materialism,” writes David Sylvester in the Detroit Free Press.

    “But I see this materialism as only a symptom of our uneasiness.”

    Credit or Debit?

    Even if your income does not permit you to buy certain luxuries, our materialistic society would have you believe that it is your right to have them. This emphasis on the enjoyment of possessions, coupled with inflation, has spawned the booming credit card, or plastic money, business. The rationale is that ‘it makes no sense to wait before buying since the price will surely be higher if you do so.’

    Britain, with 22.6 million credit and charge cards, now carries the label of the “biggest user” of such cards in Europe, dwarfing France’s 6.9 million. Even so, it is claimed, the market in Britain is “not yet saturated.” How times have changed! “Debt was once something to be avoided,” comments The Listener

    magazine. “Today it is called credit, and is urged on consumers from all sides.”

    As a result, global debt has soared and now threatens the world’s richest nations. And on the individual level, debt as a proportion of income is higher than ever. This situation is by no means limited to one country or even one continent. “In days gone by, black people never used credit,” comments a black resident of South Africa. But he adds: “It is their credit that helps many firms, such as furniture shops, remain in business.”

    “We’re the IOU generation,” comments business writer David Sylvester, “overspending, underinvesting, living like tomorrow never will come​—or if it does, social security will bail us out.” So, has this materialistic approach to life brought happiness?

    Sad Consequences

    “City high flyers ‘ease pressure with cocaine,’” headlined The Daily Telegraph

    of London. Yes, more and more highly paid young businessmen, faced with tremendous pressures as they negotiate money deals, fall afoul of a growing plague: drug addiction.

    New York’s financial district, centered on

    Wall Street , suffers the same epidemic. A Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent reportedly said: “Those involved are very discreet. People don’t just blatantly snort coke but make no mistake, 90% of them in the financial district accept its use. Those whizz-kids burdened with all their pressures are scared stiff that they can’t make a deal unless they’re high on something.”

    But the criminal activity that currently stains the financial markets is by no means limited to drug abuse. There are reports of massive fraud and insider trading.

    “How can people who earn more than $1 million a year need money so badly that they are prepared to break laws to get even more?” asks Wall Street psychiatrist Jay B. Rohrlich. Answering his own question, Rohrlich continues: “Some people actually get high and hooked on money in the same way that others become addicted to alcohol and cocaine and other drugs.” To them, he explains, “money becomes the antidote to a perceived sense of insufficiency.”

    In our increasingly materialistic world, the amassing of a fortune is no longer frowned upon. A survey, published in the French magazine Le Figaro, reveals that money does not have ‘a bad smell’ anymore. Interestingly, when asked what they thought money can offer, 45 percent of the French surveyed answered: happiness. But, sadly, just the opposite is true.

    Can anything be done to counteract the inordinate desire for money that has resulted in so much unhappiness?

    Need for Self-Examination

    You may not feel that you are addicted to money. But consider: Is money or what money can buy a main topic of your conversation? Do you place a lot of emphasis on money? Do you reason that your view of it is nothing out of the ordinary and so justify a craving for it?

    No question about it, there is a danger in falling under money’s spell, becoming its slave. A wise teacher of two thousand years ago warned of its “deceptive power” and likened the pleasure of having lots of money to thorns that choke the life from nearby fruit-bearing plants. (Matthew 13:22 ) The Bible also warns that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things” and that those who pursue it ‘stab themselves all over with many pains.’​—

    1 Timothy 6:10 .

    Truly, when money dominates, it is a cruel master. Yet, it has a useful role in today’s world​—as a servant.

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