money on my mind

Sam Smith - Money on my Mind (2014)

Sam Smith articulates a problem we all recognise - being motivated by money will distort and twist our lives. He sings about the pressure of singing as a puppet for the numbers. The video shows lives that lurch up or down on the throw of a dice in Vegas along with a questionable marriage that may or may not be for love. It’s everywhere, from living under the weight of debt accumulated trying to get the stuff that promised life to the living at the office to provide a “better” life for the family.

Smith knows he needs money to keep making music, he asks the listeners to help him make it work, to use money but not be used by it. We all know this but find it difficult to escape - we know money doesn't make us happy, but we’re still dreaming about a bit more of it.

Trying hard to stop being motivated by money will not work. Smith recognises, like Thomas Chalmers, that we need the expulsive power of a new affection. Smith is not singing with money on his mind, he’s doing it for the love.

Love sounds like a noble motivation but if it’s not defined it quickly becomes about feelings. But if love is something defined by my feelings then it is inherently selfish, meaning that being motivated by money love will distort and twist our lives. What if music stops bringing Smith approval or satisfaction? All of a sudden he’s a slave singing, not for money, but for significance. If you’re marrying for self-defined love, what happens when you don’t feel it? If you’re working for power or influence or self-worth, what happens if you’re criticised or there’s someone better at the job than you? If your friendships are based on how they make you feel, what happens when there’s conflict?

What we need is the God who is love - Jesus. He defines love by giving. He gives up the riches of heaven and gives up his life for us. With this LOVE, life is undistorted and truly enjoyed. Finding significance in God frees us to enjoy music or work without needing them to define us. Finding approval in God frees us from using people or working to maintain an image. Finding security in God frees us to use money and not be used by it. Finding love in God frees us to truly love others by not requiring love in return.

Money motivation distorts life. Self-defined love is no better. Jesus, the God who is love, is where true life is found.