When being poor isn’t as bad as feeling poor

Once you have covered your basic financial needs such as food and shelter, being poor isn’t as bad for you as feeling poor. 

American researcher Robert Sapolsky notes in this video that a person’s subjective socioeconomic status is far more critical to their health and well being than their objective socioeconomic status. What he means is that feeling poor is worse than being poor. 

Comparison is the thief of joy

When you compare yourself to other people, how do you feel like you are doing financially? Your answer to this question can be an indicator of your overall health and happiness. Our society has become fixated on comparison and we are made to feel poor even though we are not poor. 

People we don’t even know, such as popular media stars or other public icons, can make us feel poor, or even poorly about ourselves.  We suffer from comparison to  fictional characters in movies or advertisements or to the composites of success and good fortune we build from our social media feed.

The truth about idolatry and contentment

The apostle Paul writing to Timothy notes, “So, if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:8-9 NLT).

Have you ever heard someone, following a trip to an impoverished third world country, remark at how surprised they were by how happy the people they met seemed despite their poverty? 

On the other hand, I am sure you can name more than a few Hollywood or music idols who have self-destructed in depression or drug addiction in the midst of great wealth.

God never intended for us to be consumed by wealth or money. But He knew that the idolatry of riches could bring many to ruin and destruction. Jesus reminded his followers that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:24 NIV).

If there is a way to avoid the “ruin and destruction” Paul mentions to Timothy,  we should be all in.

I think the best way to break the hold of materialism, greed, and financial self indulgence is  to remember that we are blessed with resources so that we can bring blessing to others. Ruin and destruction are derailed when we take our eyes off of ourselves, starve our personal appetites, and instead feed the needs of those less fortunate.

What measure of status really matters?

The idolatry caused by comparison is just as destructive. No matter our socioeconomic status, we should be content in our status as children of the King and heirs to His kingdom in eternity. Paul reminds his friends in Philippi, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” 

Lord, help me to learn to be content, no matter my circumstances and to fix my eyes on you. Help me not to compare myself to others. 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash