Have you ever wondered why we crave money knowing it’s not the answer?

As we lurch from “Mini Budgets” to Autumn Statements in a cost-of-living crisis, many in our society are contemplating financial decisions which would be more appropriate in a Charles Dickens novel. Sad dichotomies between putting food on the table and heating our homes, amidst rates of inflation which every day make it more difficult to stay above water in a rising tide. We think that if we could just have a little more money, then it would all go away. Confidence in uncertain times is a function of where we place our security and most of us instinctively turn to our bank accounts.

I don’t claim to be any different. Since the war in Ukraine broke out and the cap on energy prices was lifted for the first time, I started renting out the spare room in our house and took on extra consulting work to earn more money. But at the same time I know, as I think we all do, that money in the end won’t make me happy. So why do we crave money knowing it’s not the answer? Have you ever wondered? Is there something through and beyond the material subsistence and provisional security that money is able to provide – something we might be able to see, more deeply at the heart of reality?

Since the ancient days, humanity has been wondering where happiness can truly be found. One work, above all, has shaped the trajectory of Western philosophy – Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics written in 400BC. In a work of multiple thousand pages, he starts with one thought which he takes to be fundamental to the understanding of human pursuit of happiness: that we do and seek things, according to what we think will result from those actions, revealing a hierarchy of purposes and motivations which link all the way up to one thing we take to be more important than anything else.

We do X, because we think Y will result – upon having Y, Z becomes possible and so on. According to this thought, maybe the reason we want food on the table is so we can work. Work earns us money, so then we can buy a house, a house becomes a home, a home allows us raise a family and so on. That seems like pretty sound logic. But then says Aristotle; if there is some end in all our actions that we wish for because of itself, wishing for all the other things we wish for because of it alone – this will be the chief good. “If we could know it, it would have great significance – like archers with a target we would be so much more successful in hitting the point if we had this knowledge.”

Unfortunately for him, this is where Aristotle came unstuck. He never worked out what that thing could be – that thing which might be an ultimately worthy pursuit, a source of happiness and security (though that didn’t stop him waffling on for thousands more pages). Fast forward a few centuries to Jerusalem and Jesus Christ comes along with his answer. Jesus doesn’t need thousands of pages – the Son of God speaks with his own authority. Jesus says: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and his righteousness – and to paraphrase – everything else starts to make sense under THAT.”

In the trenches of day-to-day life we find it impossible to keep focussed on the right things. When we’re in survival mode, worried that we might lose our job in today’s economic context or with umpteen other preoccupations, we construct security using pieces of a jigsaw which only add up to a picture reflecting THIS world: paying the mortgage, job security, husband, wife, children, girlfriend, boyfriend, tennis (I’m trying to take this up again), the environment, charitable causes, voluntary work, degrees and qualifications, status in society. These things are important – but we need to look through and beyond them – to see where we really ought to be seeking our happiness, and placing security.

CS Lewis used to say the good things of this world are like the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we’ve never visited. That country, according to Jesus is the Kingdom of God and there is more than just the material world around us – “life is more than food.” Sometimes it feels like God is not there, or if he is there, he’s got no interest in our lives. Especially in times like this. According to Jesus however, our Heavenly Father is committed to providing for us, and when our relationship with Him is in the ultimate position, that’s when things start to make sense. I wonder if you know that to be true? If there’s nothing else in your bank account, where else will you look?

You may not be someone who says they have any relationship with God, or even think that that’s important – but perhaps now is a moment to reflect on the question of whether you are walking in the security of the relationship you were created for? Have you opened your heart to receiving the love of God in a personal and direct way? It may be that that relationship with God is something you’ve never properly started, though maybe you’ve flirted with the idea or even outright rejected it in the past. We crave money knowing it’s not the answer. So in these crazy days, might it be worth seeking him first?