Money Can’t Buy Happiness

The sermon on Sunday was about the woman annointing Jesus' feet with oil before his crucifixion. The story has always made me hugely uncomfortable. When people have asked me why I've always wanted to say "Because Jesus would never simplify something like that." But it seems that he has. I don't know if I disagree with Jesus. Or maybe I've misunderstood what he means. But it's fairly clear cut.

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

In the sermon they'd found some version of the story where Judas was the only disciple who complained, and some commentary had been added about Judas only wanting to sell the oil so he could embezzle the money. But I couldn't find any references to that any any of the versions on Gospelcom.

It changes the whole focus of the story; especially given the aspect that Fuzz and Carolyn emphasised. They didn't talk about the virtue of giving to the poor at all. They talked about the kindness, generosity, selflessness and spontaneity of "Mary" (Magdalene I presume), who in the versions I found was just "the woman". And they talked a lot about how awful, selfish and criminal Judas was. They didn't say that all the disciples were saying the same thing. They finished the sermon with Judas was a bastard; Mary was a child of God. Which I thought missed the point entirely. Judas is a bastard. But that isn't the part that anyone is disputing. Mary did act lovingly, but no one is disputing that either.

The disciples discomfort (and I think mine) is entirely a matter of priorities. Jesus' comfort with having a year's wages worth of oil put on his feet makes me very uncomfortable. 100 people might have died that day from lack of food, and yet his death is worthy of spontaneous indulgence. Perhaps we might decide to "celebrate" his death somehow. But in him being so willing to accept it, he is behaving more like a human king than a Godly king. Or so it seems to me. It just doesn't seem to be the Jesus would normally behave. It's like compassion for the poor gets turned off for a day because more important things are happening. We all behave that way, but it validating as "right" and Godly reasonable.

I'm not sure how to best use resources/money. I don't think that using them to honour someone or to help someone can ever be wrong. But I do think that there are better and worse uses of resources/money. So what "the woman" did, to me, isn't a matter of right and wrong. It's not "right" to sell it and donate it to the poor, and it's not right to spend a year's wages on someone's feet, even if the feet belong to the Messiah. So I think his criticism of the disciples was unreasonable, since they were honestly trying to work out how to best help others. Which is what Jesus had been teaching them all along.

I just did a search for "wealth" and the wealthy people in the Old Testament look like corporate donors. God doesn't seem to have any problem with it at all. Which makes Jesus' statement about always having the poor even yuckier. It's like people now saying there are too many people to help. So it would be foolish to try and change things. Let's just help who we can and be content that.

I haven't made a lot of sense with this rant. I could have done it better.

Maybe money can't buy happiness. But it can buy food and hospitals and education and water, and pretty much everything you need to stop being unhappy. Lots of people die because they don't have enough money. Lots of organisations can't do as much stuff as they need to, because they don't have enough money.

I was talking with Jane and Emily in the car the other night about money wealth and time wealth. Jane was saying that time is more important than money. That money wasn't the most important priority. Last night on Foreign Correspondent I watched a doctor in Somalia drill through a girl's leg with a cordless Makita drill, because she need an operation desperately and there weren't any medical tools. That girl was what you'd call "time rich" and "money poor". But she didn't look that happy to me. Time is good, but there are more important things. I think money is one of them. With money she could have chosen to fix her leg, or use it to pay people to do things for her so she had even more time. I think she would have traded all her free time to have her leg fixed.

Money is about choice. In fact, money equals choice. And equality is mostly about giving choice to people who don't have it. So for that reason, I don't think money is the evil that a lot of people seem to. Time might be the choice someone ends up making, but we shouldn't force it upon them. Equally, telling someone in poverty that they'd be much happier if they spent more time with their children instead of working two jobs, isn't very respectful. Or telling them that they don't really need money. I don't know what is right for people. Maybe they'd be much happier if they ate at soup kitchens and slept in homeless shelters. I'm sure some people prefer that lifestyle, but I doubt that most would. It's especially unpleasant since the choice for a lot of people will be between poverty with zero spare time, or absolute poverty with a small amount of spare time. I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I can have loads of spare time and loads of money. For someone in my position (which is most of the people I've met in my life) trying to suggest that happiness is as simple as choosing more time over money, when I (and most people) haven't made that choice, is not very good.

I'm angry at Jesus, for putting so much stupid oil on his feet. Angry that he was so comfortable with the idea of an "eternal poor". Angry that he refers to "the poor" as though they're some distinct group to the disciples. And I'm angry at God for all his pandering to the rich in the Old Testament, not to mention lots of other things. And I'm angry at rich people who say that money is the root of all evil.

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Mathew 26:6-13

On a side note, Jesus was wrong about there always being poor. Lots of countries don't have poor. There just are none. They have lower-middle class perhaps, but no one anywhere near as poor as those Jesus was referring to. So what was his point? Because the poor are always going to be around, sometimes it's ok to not worry about them. Would it have been a different story if he'd known poverty was going to be eradicated? Would he have told the disciples to go out and mourn the passing of poverty instead of the his own passing? There are lots of people since who've had had much higher hopes for equality than Jesus obviously did. Thank God for them.

I reckon this is one of the big reasons why I want to be economist. For economists there is no redemption. No forgiveness. Until the problem is fixed, there is always more to do.

Google Has Changed

Oh my goodness. Google has changed for the first time I can remember. It's very weird. But I think I like the new Google more.

And it has Froogle. That's good. The Froogle is also cursed. That's good. But you get your choice of toppings. That's good.

Nice Bus Ticket Selling Woman

Most mornings I go to uni, I have to buy a ticket from the woman at the end of the queue because I can never afford a Travel 10. She's always so bright and cheery and calls me darling. Once when I tried to show her my student card she "Oh don't worry. I never look. Pretty much everyone is honest about it." I loved that.

Wonderful

I love St Johns. They have such funny prayers.

We pray for the world and your generous love and grace for peace. We pray for Isreal and Palestinian Territories where Israeli forces assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin; We pray for tolerance and justice where Hamas has vowed to kill Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in retaliation. Maybe the Israeli government cease their assassinations, And the Palestinians cease their suicide bombing. We pray for Afghanistan where fighting between rival warlords killed 100, including the country's aviation minister. May the production of so much heroine in Afghanistan by the warlords cease, And ways of peace, unity and development be found. We pray for developing nations where a UN survey shows that the average IQ in most developing is being drastically reduced byt dietary shortages of trace minerals and vitamins. And where and estimated 18 million children are born each year who are mentally impaired and that's not counting the 200,000 born each year with sever birth defects because their mothers didn't get enough folic acid. Thank you, God, for giving us hearts to care.

We pray for justice around the world: In the European Union where they voted to impose a massive find against Microsoft for its anti-trust activity in the way it sold Windows software. In Taiwan where President Chen Shui-bian narrowly won re-election, just days after he the opposition party accused him of staging the assassination attempt on his life to win votes and where the president himself called for an immediate recount to defuse the political crisis. Keep our actions open we pray, that we may be challenged when we do wrong, and not held guilty when we are innocent.

We thank you God that in India and Pakistan this past week, We saw sport bringing hopes for peace as cricket matches resumed after 14 years of high political and military tensions. We thank you, Lord, for all the cheers shouted by both sides, for the easing of international tensions, and the sheer pleasure of sports shared together. We pray for local governments around NSW, That compassion, community and justice make take precedence, Over short term gains and selfish ambitions. We pray these prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Good Thief

Emily and I went out for dinner with Cathy and Andrew last night. We were half an hour late, but they didn't seem to mind that much. Like I said to Emily, they're relaxed sorts. We had pretty good Thai and chatted about immigration and visas and funny people that talk a lot. We wandered back to their house for some quality flash cartoon and film viewing. Cathy had made an awesome Jesus story animation out of nothing but American business clipart. Chris might make some music for it we hope.

We watched The Good Thief. Super tops. Everything a good heist film should be, and with better music.

Andrew gave me epoxy to glue my show, and he presented me one of his cool little eftpos monitors. I have to find an extra video card, so I can plug it in to my computer and make it good.

Today I really need to so some work. I should have on Friday but I ended up chatting on MSN. For 13 hours straight (a PB). And I should have yesterday, but I ended up being beaten up and then had to clean the house.

Dead Weight Loss

I was reading our economics text book yesterday. And they were talking about the goverment's response to shortages. Often a government will make a fixed price that's lower than the natural price, so consumers don't have to pay more. The book said that this caused a loss in what economists call "economic surplus" - it's the difference between the highest amount I would pay for something and what I actually pay. It's free extra value I get out of stuff, which is different for everyone. The book says price-fixing is bad because it's kills value outright. It doesn't just distort things, it actually reduces the amount of stuff bumping in the economy, which most people would probably say is bad (in itself at least, forgetting about the environment and materialism and the like).

In general it is "bad" in the sense that less stuff produced the the people who most want the stuff won't always get it. But in the case of shortages (short term at least) there won't be any production loss, because production is limited by a logistical problem, not a lack of demand for the stuff at cost price.

Price fixing during a short-term shortage will cause rationing problems, but will almost definitely help the poor.

This post is dedicated to Robert Howie.

Not So Terrible

Today wasn't actually that bad at all. All of my classes and tutorials were interesting. And it was sunny. And I explored Randwick. And I got to sleep in the park. And I got to hear the word annuity oh so many times.

Commie Sit

Last night we had a commie sit instead of a dinner. It worked out pretty well I think, although I was a bit hungry by the end. We didn't deliberately not eat dinner; but we didn't particularly try to make some either. Four totally new people came, all of whom have blogs. Kaye, Rachel and James all came, who I've never met at all. And Nicol, Libby's boyfriend came for the first time. So that was very exciting.

And out of 16 (apparently according to Tom) people, only two didn't have blogs and one of them is going to get one soon. It was a pretty good night. We sat around and chatted. We listened to lots of music. We made fun of lots of people who weren't there. Gem drank lots of wine. Just the usual, despite the new format.

I'm also very happy about all the new bloggers. 302 posts in the last month.

Uni has been not much today. I'm blogging from one of the silly computer rooms. Accounting was sort of interesting, but had no one to talk to. Quantitative Methods was great because Louis said "annuities" a lot. But it had no one to talk to. And the microeconomics tutorial was fun, but, again, no one much to talk to. I'm going to wander up to Randwick now for some lunch. Then I'll come back for an economics lecture.

The lectures are quite easy. Much, much easier than the tutorials. Today's tutorial was majorly tricky. My quiet partner and I had to explain the impact of government subsidies on the overall economic surplus. But people didn't seem to understand us. I don't think we used enough different colours in our diagram. It definitely needed some green. Increased surplus was all the same colour as total original surplus, so it was a bit messed up. I might bring my own textas in future.

Very hungry. I hope Randwick has food, because Kensington doesn't. I checked.

Social Science Classes

So glad I chose to do social science with my economics degree. For a while I wondered if it was a bit silly doing both. But social science classes are so much more fun than all the others. No one talks at all in my commerce classes. But all we do in social science is talk and make stupid jokes. Much more edifying.

Although I still can't help but wonder if there are things I could do to get people to be more chatty in commerce. I'll have to think up some stratagems.

Scootering to the House of Kemp

Robert and I scooted 22km on Sunday morning. We got wet and hungry and awfully tired. But it was worth it. Jo was so kind to us when we finally arrived. And Barbs was kind to us in the morning. She made me toast.

I think Jo's brother James has the most comfortable foam matress I've ever slept on. It was the best sleep I've had in weeks. Jo even lent me her cool as icebergs Jebediah and NOFX tshirt. And and and, it had a scooter on it. It was just perfect. Robert had to sleep in some "Kuta Flowers" shirt, which I don't think he was so happy about. I thought the flowers were pretty though.

It was a good adventure. One of our more epic journeys I reckon. We'll have to have more like them.

The Shoemaker

Zapatero is the best. He's pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq unless the UN takes over by the middle of the year. I don't want the occupation to end, but I would be over the moon if the UN took over. And threatening to withdraw is a good start I reckon.

Terrorism is not defeated with wars. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero