Work and money not recipe for happy life
TWO news items caught my eye last week.
The first was the tragic story of Moritz Erhardt, a student from Germany who was spending part of his summer vacation working as an intern at the London offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Aged just 21, he collapsed and died in the shower of his East London flat after apparently working a 72-hour shift without sleep. Erhardt was known as a dedicated and hard-working young man.
But apparently he had become so focused on his future career that one of his former teachers warned him not to concentrate solely on work and making money – this was not the recipe for a happy and healthy life. The teacher was right.
Meanwhile, in the second news item, researchers from the University of Southampton and the Humboldt University of Berlin have written a joint report which suggests that too much religion can harm a society's economy by undermining the drive for financial success.
Religious people, it seems, are content with less wealth and fewer possessions and therefore have less interest in "getting and spending".
The academics claim that religion creates "anti-wealth norms", which means that religious people are not contributing to wealth creation as much as they should.
The report, which is to be published in a journal called Social Psychological and Personality Studies, (catchy title!) therefore differs markedly from the classic work by economic historian R H Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926).
There Tawney explored the relationship between Protestantism and economic development in the post-Reformation era. He argued that Protestantism, especially in its more Puritan forms, extolled the virtues of hard work and industry and therefore stimulated the development of capitalism.
Well, academics will always differ. It's what they do. But what matters for us is to get money and possessions into proper perspective.
Jesus was concerned to warn people who put their faith in material possessions that these will avail them little in the eternal scale of things.
The image he gives us is of a rich landowner building bigger and better barns to keep his crops and his goods.
And God says to him: "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?" And Jesus added: "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God."
I think it is sad some businesses have developed a highly-competitive culture of extreme working hours which can drive young people to their deaths.
As one commentator put it: "It's a glamorous, high-octane life on the face of it, but it means working all the time.
"Six-and-a-half days a week is standard. If in a month someone's in single-digits for all-night working, they're one of the lucky ones."
We weren't meant to live like that. Those who do should heed Christ's warning – urgently.