The surveys and studies performed by secular psychologists today are claiming newfound truth: wealth and happiness don’t go together. Amazing. Apparently no one ever told them that Solomon, the great king of Israel, had already discovered this truth, thousands of years ago, as written it in his work “Ecclesiastes” of the Bible:
“What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:3
For all of the labor and toil that go on in this world, there sure seems to be a massive lack of genuine happiness. Look at America, the land of the free, the home of the brave. Is she happy? Is she content? No? Why not? But she’s really, really wealthy, isn’t she?
In most of the world, and most definitely in America, people are trained to think that the gaining of worldly wealth is something to be highly valued and sought after. Get rich, get things. Get things, get happy.
Train car loads of pills are consumed every day by millions, trying to calm their nerves, help them sleep, and perhaps usher a little peace into the internal storm raging in their hearts. Psychologists and physicians are booked out for months by patients seeking someone to tell them how they can feel better and happier.
Why is this?
“And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.” Ecc 1:13
The writer of Ecclesiastes understood fallen creation. He knew that mankind abides in a world of sin and depravity. He understood that because of sin, nothing would be as it should, as God originally intended. God made all things good, and man’s rebellion ushered in world of pain.
“I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.” Ecc 4:4
Why aren’t people satisfied? Is it because they are lacking, or have real need? Not a chance. It’s because they want to “outdo” their neighbor, their friend, their brother, their sister, their co-worker… Most people who are striving for wealth are in the business of bettering someone else.
This is truth, whether people realize it or not. And this is a major source of the grief that accompanies the gaining of wealth.
It’s kinda like catching wind. If you could catch it, it would no longer be wind. It would then just be air. So, perfectly suited as a metaphorical example, “striving after wind” is an utterly futile pursuit. And so is happiness by wealth.
All of this doesn’t mean that our lives here on earth are meaningless and void. Quite the opposite. God has graciously given us the “secret” of happiness. He has proclaimed it over and over in His Word, and given us freely of the source of genuine contentment. Here is a hint, from the 3rd chapter of this great book:
“What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given to the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” Ecc 3:9-11
Do you see the secret here? It is so simple. You see, WE ARE ETERNAL BEINGS. This is the key! If we were merely physical, as are the other creatures, material things like food, money, pleasure… could and would make us happy. But we are not merely physical. We are immensely more than that.
God has set eternity in our hearts. This means we can be satisfied ONLY by eternal things. From one perspective, humans don’t give themselves enough credit. We are incredibly complex, fascinating creatures, handcrafted by God Himself, with the aptitude to understand vast concepts such as love, forgiveness, time, and other metaphysical ideas and yet we will reduce our appetites to such banal activities like eating a meal, engaging in sex, or counting our money. Its pitiful.
In His grace, God has given us the ability to reach out and touch Him and His glory, to understand His plan for our lives. We have EVERY POSSIBLE FULFILLMENT made available to us for our happiness. How can we reject such a free gift? How can we settle for lowly, unfulfilling pursuits?
Whoever is truly happy and content, he or she can thank God, because God has made it possible. He made it possible in His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is God’s entry gate for people into the heavenly realm. Without Christ, the best we can achieve is a physically satisfied life, which falls far short. But through Jesus, our relationship is made right with the Father and then, and only then, can we realize our full eternal potential.
Wealth and happiness don’t dance together. Wealth is physical, and so are all other material desires so commonly pursued by mankind. But we are eternal. Let’s stop trying to make our eternal selves be satisfied with mortal things which can never last, but pursue God, His holiness, and His ways.
Only then will we be able to dance with real joy.