John D. Rockefeller is known as the richest man in modern history. Rockefeller was the first ever American billionaire in the early 1900’s, which by today’s standards would be about 340 billion dollars. That is more than three times the net worth of Bill Gates! When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller famously responded,
“Just a little bit more.”
Can you imagine being J.D. Rockefeller and not being satisfied with the amount of money you have? Instead of fully embracing his wealth and enjoying the fruits of his labor, Rockefeller spent his life in much worry and strife. So much so that his last fifteen years were spent eating gruel because of stress-induced stomach issues. He had all the money in the world, yet he couldn’t enjoy the simplest task of eating a meal. I often wonder if he would give up any of his fortune to be able to eat normally again. I wouldn’t call Rockefeller greedy as much as I would I would say he does not understand how to be content.
In Ecclesiastes 5:5, Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money will never have enough money. Whoever loves luxury will not be content with abundance. This also is pointless.” Just like Rockefeller, Solomon is learning this the hard way. He was the Rockefeller of his time after all. He was the wisest, richest, most powerful man on the planet at that time. Yet, he wasn’t content with these things. He kept striving outside of God’s will to find purpose, contentment and value.
Do you ever find yourself picturing that contentment is one step away? As soon as I land this big account, after I secure this promotion, once I pay these bills off, once I add one more zero to my bank account, then I will be happy, at peace, better off, relaxed, etc. You get the idea.
Conversely, wise old Solomon shares a key lesson in being content in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:
Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
Solomon is saying that it is good and smart to enjoy the fruits of your labor, whether your labor produces little or much. These wages are a gift from God. If God makes you rich, be glad. If God makes you poor, be glad. Happy is the laborer who accepts his lot in life with joy and thanksgiving, as it is gift specifically chosen for him by God Himself. The content laborer does not often dwell or contemplate his place in life. He is too busy being occupied with the Lord’s plan to worry about what he has and doesn’t have, what he is doing and not doing.
Unfortunately, we spend too little time contemplating the reality of eternity. If we did, we wouldn’t strive for things of this world. If God’s plan is to build our bank account or get that vacation home, that’s awesome – enjoy it. But we shouldn’t push our will ahead of God’s in order to obtain worldly things.
Solomon adds in verse 12, “Just as he came naked from his mother’s womb, he will leave as naked as he came…” I’m sure you have all heard the saying that “you never see a U-haul following a hearse” or “you can’t take it with you.” We can’t take earthly things to a heavenly place.
What are you striving for in this world instead of laying treasures up in heaven? If it isn’t part of God’s plan, I can assure you the momentary pleasure it may provide will quickly evaporate and potentially cost you some of those heavenly treasures that last for eternity.