by Pauline Simonsen
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Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
According to the World Inequality Report 2021:
The richest 10% of the global population currently take home 52% of the income. The poorest half of the global population? Well, they earn just 8% … And, when it comes to wealth (valuable assets and items over and above income) … the poorest half of the global population owns just 2% of the global total, while the richest 10% own 76% of all wealth.¹
And yet Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, laments:
As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a labourer is sweet … but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.
I suspect this is Solomon’s personal experience talking.
One of the richest men in the world today lives in loneliness and depression, his only hope for the future is to escape this dying planet and search for a better life somewhere else in the cosmos. His wealth buys him everything material but can’t buy him stability, joy and peace. ‘What do they gain, since they toil for the wind? All their days they eat in darkness, in great frustration, affliction and anger’ (Ecclesiastes 5:16,17).
The richer get richer, but it does them no good because, finally, we all leave the world as naked and empty-handed as we entered it. What was the purpose of all that toil?
No wonder Solomon says, ‘Meaningless, meaningless – it’s all meaningless!’ (Ecclesiastes 1:1).
At least, it is without God.
When our view is turned not onto our wealth (or poverty) but onto God, the giver of all things, suddenly life has meaning. We know who we are, children of a loving Father. We know we have been redeemed and made new through our Saviour Jesus. We experience the presence and fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We live in the security of God’s grace and favour, whether we are rich or poor. And with this new perspective, we can even say with Paul:
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12,13).
Solomon says, ‘God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart’.
Lord, turn our eyes from our material circumstances to you. Give us the gift of contentment with what you have given to us and grant us ‘gladness of heart’ as we trust you. Amen.
¹From the World Economic Forum website, cited 13/7/22
Pauline is a Bible college teacher and spiritual director in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She’s married to Roger – who is recently retired – and she says she enjoys having him home a bit more! When she gets some free time, Pauline loves cooking and reading and likes nothing better than sitting with a cat on her lap and watching the birds in her garden.