Money Madness

He who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.
–Haggai 1:6

Charles Feeney amassed a fortune by founding a series of duty-free shops. By the 1990s, he was raking in millions of dollars every year. But what people did not know was Feeney had secretly given most of the money away. Though his net worth was estimated to be in the billions, it was actually less than $5 million. To most of us, $5 million is still a lot of money, but for Feeney, it was proportionately a very small amount. Even more amazing than the fact that Feeney gave his fortune away was his reason for doing so. In an interview with the “New York Times,” Feeney said, “I simply decided I had enough money. It doesn’t drive my life.”

Money can drive our lives if we are not careful, and that is one of the myriad problems with wealth Solomon talked about in the book of Ecclesiastes. In chapters 1-4, he talked about the futility of building your life around pleasure, wisdom, and work. Then in chapter 5, he tackled the issue of money madness. Why is money an unstable foundation on which to build your life? Solomon gave several limitations of money beginning in verse 10.

First of all, no one ever has enough money. Look at verse 10: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” No one is ever satisfied with his income. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote, “Riches . . . are like sea-water; the more you drink the thirstier you become.” No one ever has enough money.

Second, money attracts parasites. Verse 11 says, “When good things increase, those who consume them increase.” In other words, the more money you make, the more people will appear who want to take a bite out of your income–whether it is your relatives, your employees, or the federal government. Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? It says work expands to fill the available time. Here is Jeffress’s Law: expenses rise to fill the available income. It does not matter how much you make; as your income increases, so do the expenses. Haggai 1:6 says, “He who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

I think Solomon was probably thinking about his own situation. He looked at the palace payroll and saw all these guards, attendants, servants, and concubines, and he thought, “Where did all these people come from?” As good things increase, so do those who consume them.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Money Madness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Charles Feeney, as quoted in Judith Miller, “He Gave Away $600 Million, and No One Knew,” New York Times, January 23, 1997, https://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/23/nyregion/he-gave-away-600-million-and-no-one-knew.html; Arthur Schopenhauer, “Property, or What a Man Has,” in “A Series of Essays by Arthur Schopenhauer,” trans. T. Bailey Saunders (New York: Peter Eckler, 1915), 37.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

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