10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. 13There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
(Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 ESV)
When we live life on earth as if life on earth is all there is we chase after things that don’t matter (called “vanities” by King Solomon). These include pleasure, career, and trivial knowledge. We also allow the evil things that happen on earth to upset us and steal our joy, as we learned yesterday.
In today’s passage Solomon employs a series of proverbs to point out the vanity of loving money. Anyone who loves money will not be satisfied because money cannot satisfy.
When one loves wealth and chases after it he will not be satisfied with his income. He will want to make more money so he can achieve the lifestyles he dreams about. But that is a never-ending chase. It also leads to the massive debt problem we have in America as people live beyond their means by borrowing money they can’t pay back.
We all think money will make us happy but as Solomon points out, money doesn’t solve any problems. It just brings more of them. One such problem is the fact that as our money increases so do our expenses and so do the number of “friends” who will help us spend it.
It also costs time, effort, and money to protect our money. Lawyers, accountants, and government are all too ready to “help” us with our money.
But sleep is sweet for those who don’t love money. Whether they eat little or much – whether they have a lot or nothing – people who don’t make money their master lead more content and satisfied lives.
Ironically, the security that the rich seek through money does not let them sleep. When they had no money they thought life would be better if they had a lot of it. But then they find out that is not the case. Their full stomach gives them a stomach ache.
Living within one’s means allows one to have what they need while enjoying the experience of being alive. Such people aren’t consumed with getting more when they don’t need more. They aren’t working to amass wealth they’ll never be able to enjoy.
And while they may never have the material wealth that the very rich have they do have something much more valuable: contentment.
John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil. He was the world’s first billionaire and lived much of his life as the richest man in the world. When he was once asked “How much money is enough?” he famously replied “Just a little bit more.” He knew that no amount of money could ever satisfy.
Rockefeller was also a great philanthropist, giving away much of his fortune including providing a substantial part of the funding for an African-American’s woman’s college – something unheard of in 1884. That college is now known as Spelman College in Atlanta. Rockefeller also knew that when riches are kept by their owner it is to his own detriment. The only way money can make anyone happy is by not having too much of it, even if one has to give it away.
For we all came naked from our mother’s womb. We entered this world with nothing and we shall leave with nothing. All our toil provides no eternal gain. No hearse has ever pulled a U-Haul.
A life lived for only the things this world has to offer, such as money, is a tragedy – a grievous evil. It is a wasted life.
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