I flipped on the TV recently just in time to hear a talking head say, “The United States has twice as many millionaires as Finland does people.” The segment was nearly over, so I never caught why he was using Finland as an example. That thought settled in my brain for a couple of days, so I jumped on my trusty Internet machine to see if I could figure out why that particular country was even mentioned.
I never did figure it out, but I learned a lot of cool stuff about Finland. For example, Finland is the eighth most expensive country in Europe. I bet you didn’t know that. Well, now you do. I also discovered that they speak Finnish (surprise, surprise), but they also recognize Swedish as a second official language. How Canadian of them. At least they HAVE an official language (unlike some other countries I could mention).
The Happiest Country
The most interesting thing I gleaned, however, is that Finland is the happiest country in the world. Apparently, there’s an organization that measures these things, although I’m not sure how. I suspect the final decision is rather subjective, but I’m happy for the Finns (or maybe I should simply say, I’m delighted for them—happy seems to be taken).
Having learned all that, I tried to tie it back to the original shared fact that the U.S. has twice as many millionaires as Finland has people. The closest guess I can make is that the talking head was referring to the pronouncement that Finland is the happiest country in the world. If that was, indeed, the subject, the moral of the story would seem to be, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” The people of Finland are short on millionaires, but their happiness abounds (at least, according to the World Happiness Report). Apparently, the happiness index is not overly influenced by wealth.
I learned this to be true when I was but a young lad. I was listening to my favorite rock musicians (the Beatles), and they taught me that money “Can’t Buy Me Love.” I was extremely exultant to hear that, because I didn’t have any—money, that is. Since love makes the world go around and is the root of all happiness, I was glad I didn’t have to buy it. If that sounds like it’s a circular argument, it probably is. Nevertheless, I’ve been rather happy for a long while—poor as I am.
That, of course, brings me to the Word of God (like everything else). The Bible, like the Beatles and the World Happiness Survey, also indicates that happiness does not lie in riches. In fact, it seems to suggest the opposite. Our wealth seems to make us happy for a while, then our economic bliss fades. Whether it’s because we get bored, greedy, or indifferent, we always end up seeking true happiness in other arenas of life.
Another Finnish tidbit: Their population has been stagnant for many years. Maybe we should all move there.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]