Ecclesiastes 5:10 - “He who loves money will never be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is a vanity.”
As you consider this verse, let me encourage you to make it personal by participating in an easy exercise. The following is a list of statements, including a blank. Based on your age and/or stage of life, fill in the blank on each statement that relates to you. Stop! I know what you’re thinking — I’m just going to skim over these statements and get to the teaching below. But please don’t skip this. Find the statement (or statements) below that match your situation best and with a pen; actually write a number in the blank. If you don’t, it will mess up this day’s entire devotion. Ready? Here they are:
- As a high school student, I think $____ is a lot of money.
- When I graduate from college, I hope to make $____ a year in my chosen profession.
- If I could just get $____ in my retirement portfolio, I’d be set for life.
- If my employer would give me a raise of $____, my life would be so much easier.
- If my spouse made $____, I could stay home with the kids.
- If I won $____ in the lottery my life would be awesome.
- I’d consider myself rich if I had $____.
- I would move anywhere and take any job for a salary of $____.
- I wish a long-lost relative would leave me an inheritance of $____.
I hope you took some time to think about a number and fill in at least one of the blanks above. Maybe you resonated with three or four of these statements and have several numbers. Take another look at the amount or amounts you wrote down. That’s the amount of money that you think is “enough” to make you happy or keep you secure. It’s your number for financial satisfaction. There is no right number and yours may vary greatly from others in your small group, your friends, and even your family. I don’t know your number, but I can tell you something about it. Whatever you wrote, however high the amount, however outlandish it may seem—according to our Bible teaching for today, it’s not enough. And this verse was written by someone who knew what he was talking about.
For thousands of years, most scholars have agreed that King Solomon authored the words we have read today in the Old Testament book of wisdom called Ecclesiastes. This is significant for our verse today, because although Solomon is touted for his wisdom, there was no one (perhaps in the history of the world) who had more wealth than King Solomon. I Kings 4 gives us insight into that wealth by detailing all that it took to feed everyone in his palace operation for just one day. Beginning in verse 22 and following we find that this included over 6,000 liters of flour and 12,000 liters of corn meal. Of course, it’s not a king’s meal without meat, so every day (every day!) they prepared ten oxen, twenty cows, and a hundred sheep. A few chapters later we find that Solomon’s annual income in gold alone was almost 50,000 pounds (666 talents – see I Kings 10:14). I could go on, but the point is that Solomon’s actual number is far higher than any hopeful number you may have written down in the blanks above. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Late in his life, when he was thought to have written this book, the rich king assessed all his wealth (and everything else in his life) as — “vanity.” The word “vanity” may be translated as “meaningless” in your Bible. Both are good translations of the Hebrew word “heh’ vel” which means “breath,” “vapor,” or “mist.” Solomon uses this word five times in Ecclesiastes 1:2 and it becomes the theme for his entire book, appearing in 29 other verses. For him, money, income, and wealth are just another part of the human reality that appear like a mist and just as quickly vanish. To this ridiculously wealthy king, falling in love with money is pursuing a mist, grasping a vapor, a meaningless endeavor, a vain pursuit, and a complete waste of time. Why? Because when you grasp at a mist, you can never truly hold it.
The love of money is like this mist. We set out to make money and most of us do; from the part-time job at the fast food place, to the labor of the construction site, to the creativity of the design studio, to trading on international markets, to making corporate decisions, to teaching students, and more. And for all these professions we receive some sort of compensation. But although we find some satisfaction in work that contributes to a better world, it is not enough for true fulfillment. And no matter how much money we make, we won’t be satisfied. Satisfaction for both Solomon and for us means to be “sated.” This is an old word meaning to be filled or complete. Hear the wisdom of Solomon today. He had unlimited financial resources and everything that wealth could buy, but it didn’t fill him. He was rich, but he was empty. It was true for him, and it’s true for us. In nearly thirty-four years of ministry I’ve never heard anyone say, “Money fills me.” I suspect I never will.
Go back to that number you wrote at the beginning of this chapter. If that fictitious, dream number will not satisfy you, then what will? And what does this say about wealth and our pursuit of it? Count the cost with me today. Are you pursuing a number that constantly changes and is always out of reach or are you resting in someONE who is the same yesterday, today and forever? The truth is that even if you received all the money you listed in the blanks, you would not be satisfied. Only Jesus can fill the blanks in your life because if you have Jesus, you have enough.