How Much Do You Need To Make To Be Happy?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the perfect salary for happiness is US$75,000 a year. This is based on a Gallup poll conducted between 2008 and 2009.

Yet that number seems incredibly arbitrary. Do people in poverty-stricken countries need to make US$75,000 a year to be happy? In those cultures, they would be considered rich. And what about past generations—did this rule apply, with inflation adjusted numbers?

In my travels to Mozambique on the continent of Africa, my friends who all lived well below the US poverty line seemed every bit as happy as any of my friends in America.

How much do you really need to make a year to be happy?

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.


Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
1 Timothy 6:1-21
Psalm 89:38-52
Proverbs 25:28


Jeremiah 37:1-38:28. The life of a prophet certainly isn’t glorious. First, Jeremiah is beaten by the king’s officials, then the king asks Jeremiah for an encouraging word from God. Jeremiah pleads for protection from the king’s officials, and the king grants his request…for awhile. The king then allows the officials to do with Jeremiah as they please, so they throw him into a muddy cistern where he’s left to die. Then at the request of another official in the royal palace, the king orders 30 men to pull Jeremiah from he mud. Finally, King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah again. We like prophets when they tell us what we want to hear and we don’t like them when they tell us what wee don’t want to hear.

Proverbs 25:28. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. ” Here’s the Klassen updated paraphrase of this verse: “Like a computer without a firewall is a person who lacks self-control.” Without self-control, we live with the constant threat of attack—not only in the form of temptation, but from an outright assault from Satan.

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Do you ever lay in bed at night and wonder what your life would be like if you were rich? I admit that I do. But at this point in my life, I doubt riches will ever find me.

Even if it did, though, Paul’s words in today’s reading keeps things in perspective. He writes, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). What are some of those traps?

  • Indebtedness and bankruptcy
  • Workaholism
  • Broken marriages and families as a result of the above
  • Spiritual anorexia

You don’t recognize the last malady? Actually, it’s a phrase that just hit me as I thought about how we can replace spiritual food with activity and the pursuit of a better life. Scripture gives it another word that isn’t so sexy: idolatry.

What we think is the “better” life can lead to a life of spiritual destitution. It’s kind of like eating candy bars at every meal instead of the solid food that comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

While US$75,000 a year can bring a measure of happiness, I know plenty of people at that income level who aren’t happy—and besides, no one can ensure they will be able to maintain that for the rest of their lives. Paul describes riches and wealth as “uncertain.”

Happiness is so fleeting. It’s dependent on an infinite number of variables ranging from good health to making a specific amount of money. And strangely enough, Scripture never promises happiness nor does it offer happiness as a worthy pursuit.

But Scripture does offer us a worthy pursuit: “But…flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 italics added). Notice that none of these qualities involve the accumulation of income or stuff. In fact, it doesn’t even involve sound financial stewardship.

When I lay in bed and consider what my life would be like if I were wealthy, I remember Paul’s words: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). If I were wealthy, I’d probably decide that I need more in order to be happy. But godliness and contentment affords me a meaningful life regardless of my income level.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does contentment look like in your life?
  3. What prevents you from living content?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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5 responses to “How Much Do You Need To Make To Be Happy?

  1. Mike:

    Love the firewall “paraphrase.” It makes so much sense for my computer driven life.

    I have a friend who always says the more money you make the more money you have to make. It escalates your supposed needs. You are right that happiness is based on so much more than how much we earn.

    I had a tough time with your “spiritual anorexia” phrase. It hit too close to home. Anorexia (and its many sister diseases) is a complex and devastating disorder. Anorexia is not about replacing food with other things, especially anything resembling a “better life” or candy.

    Food in anorexia is just one of the symptoms rising out of a deep, painful struggle with self-worth. But like other diseases, it also has a major physiological component. Probably too much information but it struck a nerve.

    Thanks for writing and putting yourself and your love for God out there though.

  2. elna

    In Africa there are people that live on 1 dollar a day or less. One of the most well-used statements by preachers about money is :God is not against rich people, or their money, only against their love for money…so give me some of yours! I do believe that God is ‘against’ money, and not only the love of money, ….because it get’s in the way of God. To use the old favourite Job: God did not built a relationship with Job when he had wealth but when Job was down and out…a real bum, sitting on a ash heap. Throughout the scriptures God warns against wealth as in Deut 6:11-12. And David prays that God shouldn’t give him too much for fear that he would become arrogant and not too little for fear that he should steal (a good prayer to pray) All through scriptures God promises to take care of his people but then they must remember that all blessings come from Him.
    How do we know if we are the ‘rich’? Do we have more than someone else? Then…we are the rich!
    In Isa11:4 God says that Jesus will come to save the poor, and also in Isa 14:30. This statement is also repeated in Luke 6 ‘blessed is the poor’. Is the current economic state of the world a curse or is it a blessing, and an amazing harvest of people, that like Job, lost everything and have nothing left except God. Do we recognise the harvest for what it is?

    • Money seems neutral to me. What we do with it and our attitudes about it make it good or bad. I will say, though, that all things being equal, God sides with the poor–at least according to what I read in Scripture.

      If living by faith is most important to God, I often wonder if wealthy people find it much more difficult than the poor. How do you live by faith when you can buy your way out of almost any problem?

      Thanks for your insights, Elna.

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