Ask most people out there if money is their master and you’ll undoubtedly receive an emphatic and resounding ‘no’ in response. Granted, there may be a few people who’ll unashamedly disclose that money is their god and the main pursuit of their life, but rarely will anyone freely acknowledge that money is their master – not least because the horror of this realisation lies not in accepting that money is your master, but in finding out that you are in fact its servant. Understanding your relationship with money and the role that it plays in your life – whether as master, servant, god or mere commodity – is pivotal to your underlying personal happiness and fulfillment. And if you’re unknowingly serving the deceptive task-master and time-thief called money, personal happiness and fulfillment may be very, very far from your reach.
A mere commodity of trade and a lifeless inanimate object, money is undoubtedly the master of deception. Although in and of itself it has no power, it is the most important commodity in our lives and is something that we quite simply cannot survive without. Money has become a synthetic symbol of status in a world that unashamedly worships wealth. The seriously wealthy are pervaded by an almost ethereal quality that somehow suggests to the world that they can magically obtain and experience what is seemingly impossible to us lesser mortals. Money instills in them a counterfeit sense of confidence, courage, credibility and capability that wouldn’t exist but for their impressive bank balances. Rather than publicly applaud and acknowledge the genuinely good works of men and women, we’ve stooped to measuring where individuals lie on the ludicrous ladder of money. Populating a rung on the Forbes’ list of wealthiest men and women in the world is considered a sign of true success, a measure of happiness and a symbol of almost certain personal fulfillment.
Money, as the deceiver, can lead us to believe it has power to create a plethora of virtues that some humans spend a lifetime searching for – personal contentment, internal satisfaction, genuine happiness and a purpose for life being just some of them. The reality, though, is that money remains a mere commodity to be traded for goods and services, and the moment we allow money to assume any purpose over and above this, we exalt it to the position of master and we become its unwitting hand-servant.
Stuck in the ever-turning economic wheel of survival, it’s easy to understand how so many people become lured into a master-servant relationship with money without realising it at all. Living in a world where we are constantly implored to buy bigger houses, faster cars, smaller computers, wider televisions, smarter phones, more exciting games, sexier clothes and more exotic food, it’s no wonder that money has become the common denominator for most people’s perceived happiness. The problem, though, is that material possessions only provide fleeting moments of not-so-real happiness that are soon usurped by financial worries that far outweigh whatever happiness your money ostensibly created in the first place. And if you’re worried about money, consider that worry is a very real symptom of misplaced trust. Have you entrusted your happiness to your money? Are your decisions being controlled by money? Can you be bought? Is money your master?
Entrusting money with our happiness is easier and more common than one would believe. In our pursuit for more, we have no choice but to work harder, smarter and longer. The more we work, the more money we earn. Earning more money allows us to acquire more. Acquiring more assets to put on proud display improves our perceived status in society as we vie for a place on our neighbourhood’s very own unofficial Forbes list. And so the cycle of ‘work, earn and spend’ continues to the detriment of our personal health, our relationships and our pursuit of lasting and genuine happiness. The problem with the ‘work, earn and spend’ cycle is that it encourages us to trade a priceless and irreplaceable commodity (our time) for a lifeless and completely replaceable one (our money). In doing so, we put a monetary value on our time and allow money to rule over our precious hours. As Shepard Fairey once said, “A dollar is worth exactly what you are willing to give in order to get it.”
Whilst one can never underestimate the value and nobility of hard work, earning a good income, providing for one’s family and obtaining personal fulfillment from ones chosen career, we need to accept that the real value of money lies in its versatile utility and the power within each of us to use it for good. As necessary traders in the economy of money, we would do well to believe that the only successful relationship we can have with money is that of confident and qualified master over it. Assuming the role of master in the human-money relationship automatically subjects money to the role of obedient and faithful servant willing to do our bidding and achieve our God-given purposes. Any relationship with money that purports to be anything less than this is robbing us of our most precious earthly gift– time.
In the beautiful words of an anonymous wordsmith, “What you do today is important because you’re trading a day of your life for it”. Make sure you are the master of whatever it is you’re trading.