It is well known that King Solomon, the prolific author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond the imagination. His annual royal income, not counting investments, was valued (in today’s money) at approximately 1.1 Billion dollars.
And he ruled for forty years.
In addition to that, he had received regular tribute money from other countries every three years. This came in the form of gold, silver, ivory, spices, garments, armor, horses, and slaves and more.
In sum, his wealth was greater than the wealth of all the wealthiest people in the world today, combined. He was so wealthy and gold so plentiful, silver really had no special value in his country.
So, if anyone could ever understand wealth, he was the one who could. And what did he say?
Well, he said a few things, and they seemed to contradict. In Ecclesiastes 10:19 he says:
“…and money is the answer to everything.”
Reading the rest of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, we see that Solomon did not believe money was the most valuable thing, or even something to be sought after, but something that often leads to evil. So why this comment?
Ecclesiastes can be misleading if not read with the right frame of mind. We must understand Solomon writes in two directions: vertical and horizontal. When he writes vertically, he is looking upward to God. He is saying what he knows to be true, from God’s perspective. All throughout this marvelous book, he turns to God and states eternal truths straight from the heart of our Savior. All of his concluding chapter 12 takes a vertical view of life and God.
For most of the book, however, he wrote from a horizontal perspective. When he writes horizontally, he is looking across the world at man. He states what appears true from an entirely human perspective. Basically the entire chapters 10 and 11 of Ecclesiastes are a horizontal perspective on life. It is accurate, but only accurate as an average person sees life.
The Hebrew word for “answer” is better translated response. Solomon was actually stating that money is the common response to issues in life. So here, he states that “money is the answer (response) to everything” in the context of the kingdom of man. He ruminates about rulers, subjects, laziness, hard work, alcohol, etc, in life on earth. Money does fix everything in a political, governmental sense. Problems? Not for long, says the king… just raise taxes!
But in the overall view of life from one who knows God, Solomon speaks very differently about money. In chapter 5:10, he says “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money”. In Proverbs 23:4, he states: “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” In Proverbs 22:1, he affirms this truth: “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth. Favor is better than silver and gold.”
What does all this mean? In a strictly human sense, money is the best response to problems. If you have enough money, you can pretty much fix anything. You can even commit serious crimes and get off unscathed.
But in a spiritual sense, money is NOT the answer. Sure, it has its purpose, and has some real benefits, but those benefits are lost when money becomes the object of one’s desire. Money gained simply for money’s sake never leads to answered problems. It creates more problems.
Rather, we are to pursue God and His ways. In seeking to live as He told us to, we gain the much greater blessings of life, in addition to wealth. And what are those blessings?
“Riches and honor are with me, Enduring wealth and righteousness.” Proverbs 8:18