The Tragedy of Wealth
Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 6:1-12, Matthew 6:19-24, Mark 10:17-31, 1 Timothy 6:6-7, Revelation 3:17-20
Several months ago, our oldest son earned a toy by accomplishing a series of educational milestones. He had worked hard, and we were eager to celebrate him, so we drove to the store and purchased a LEGO set as his reward. All seemed well until we were pulling out of the parking lot and I heard his little voice from the back seat: “I wish this part of the set was different.” Not five minutes after we had purchased the toy, he was already disappointed.
I have watched my son experience the same disappointment again and again. The trinket he bought with his own money. The dessert he picked out. The Nerf gun he begged us to give him for Christmas. As soon as he gained possession of each promising new prize, his satisfaction evaporated into thin air.
My son and I have this conversation often. He complains when his latest present is disappointing. I explain that he cannot derive the fullness of his joy from material things. Around and around we go. It’s a struggle my son will experience for the rest of his life, and I know this because it’s a struggle I’ve had for all of mine.
On some level, we all know that money and possessions cannot satisfy us. And yet, if we are being honest, most of us seek after them anyway. Perhaps not as cravenly as the “wolves on Wall Street,” but who among us is not enticed, and then duped, by the promise and the security of having more?
In Ecclesiastes 5 and 6, the author explains the vanity of this search. He does so by describing multiple scenarios in which the accumulation of wealth amounts to nothing. One man spends his whole life growing his wealth, but is never fully satisfied by it (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Another accumulates wealth but then loses it all in a bad venture (v.13–14). Still another earns riches and honor, which are then taken by another (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2). Over and over he depicts the precarious fragility of money, and the spiritual futility of striving after it.
In these chapters the author is harsh, because he wants to communicate a counter-intuitive idea. Counter to our logic, the accumulation of wealth is not the answer to our problems. Instead, it has all the dependability of a house of cards. Wealth and possession look sturdy to the eye, but they snap like a toothpick under the weight of our souls. That is why so many wealthy people still feel insecure—because they are. Because wealth and material things are inherently fragile and empty, no matter how much we have.
When “all of your labor is for your own stomach,” the truth is you “will never be satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 6:7). It’s a lesson that many of us will choose to learn the hard way, or never learn at all, but we cannot escape its reality: no matter how much we earn or gain or accomplish, the pursuit of wealth is like standing atop a house of cards, when we were created for the Rock of Ages.