While information is abundant and accessible today, wisdom continues to be rare and elusive. Wisdom requires not only the understanding of true principles, but the ability to weigh those principles in the balance to determine which one carries the most weight in a given situation. The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is a powerful dose of wisdom in a complicated world. Consider the following section as it relates to business and our priorities:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
In this paragraph above, I see three connected thoughts which powerfully argue against greed:
- The love of money is a maddening and disappointing affair.
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income;
One of the cautionary tales told about men stranded at sea is to resist the urge to drink the salt water. If you drink it in desperation, it only increases your thirst and drives you insane as your brain dries up. (Note: it is important to distinguish ‘the love of money’ from either the necessary use of money or the possession of money) The love of money is not much different from the effect of drinking salt water. Ironically, if you love money, the more you have, the more dissatisfied you are with it.1
- The accumulation of money is brief and of small consolation.
When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
Wealth is like a magnet. A friend of mine assured me that, when you have capital, others will find you. The writer of Ecclesiastes says as you accumulate wealth, you also accumulate ‘wealth consumers’ around you, which is certainly stressful and highly upsetting if your goal is accumulation. Likewise, even while you have it, the only benefit is to look at it, which seems on reflection even sillier than it sounds.
- The enjoyment of our labor itself is more pleasurable than the comforts of wealth.
Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
The profound observation of the writer of Ecclesiastes is this—when we have worked a good day’s work at work worth doing, our tiredness actually increases our enjoyment of a simple, universal pleasure—sleep. By contrast, the wealthy person’s privilege of the frequent consumption of rich foods denies them that very simple but profound gift of a good night’s sleep.
In the end, the love of money is like every other form of idolatry. It is tiresome. The idol, being a dead thing, requires maintenance and upkeep—the expending of your energy to keep it in good order. In contrast, worshipping God, the author of life, produces and releases energy, as He pours into us. In John 10:10, Jesus says, ‘I have come that you might have life, and life abundantly.’ Instead of an endless cycle of keeping up with the Joneses’, let’s encourage each other to lay aside the love of money that causes despair and exhaustion, and lay hold of life that is truly life.