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The Tragedy of Wealth

When I was a boy, I loved to watch the popular television show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. In each episode, host Robin Leach gave a virtual tour of mansions, properties, automobiles, and vacations. Focusing on all that the wealthy could afford in this life, the show held out the prospect of affluence and success. It would be interesting to interview people who were on the show thirty years ago to find out where they are today. How many of them would we discover have suffered the pain of family strife, broken marriages, bankruptcy, sickness, crime, and loneliness?

Scripture often reminds us about the futility of wealth and its inability to satisfy. The book of Ecclesiastes gives us a survey of what the Russian poet Pushkin called “a heart of pain.” The Teacher writes, “There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil” (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2, ESV). The man in these verses seemed to have it all. He had everything that most people are seeking after: wealth and fame. Yet, for all his possessions and status, he was never able to enjoy them or be satisfied by them.

So often, we foolishly convince ourselves that if we just made a little more money or achieved a little more success, we would be happy. The moral of this story is that the ability to amass wealth and the power to enjoy it both come from God, and the one does not necessarily follow the other. The Teacher has been speaking about life under the sun here on earth. When we look to the things of this world for pleasure, we will find ourselves unsatisfied. However, when we look to God for satisfaction, we will find that we can even enjoy and utilize possessions for His glory. The apostle Paul gave Timothy instruction about how to address the wealthy Christians in his congregation, saying, “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy” (1Timothy 6:17).

When we discover the kingdom of heaven is the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price, we learn to place worldly possessions and pleasures into their proper place (Matthew 13:44–46). Only then will we not spend our lives running after them. Instead, we will learn to find satisfaction in God alone as “those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away” (1Corinthians 7:31).

 *This post originally appeared at hereadstruth.com