Points to Ponder/Do You Enjoy Being Rich?
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
I hardly watch television or news programs. I usually hear the morning broadcasts when I’m working out in the health club. The radio plays on one side; the T.V. on the other.
In the one corner, I was listening to the “tabloid trash” segment of one radio program. They talk about the “stars”, the rich and the famous. Usually the topic is a divorce, a new love affair, their drug or alcohol problem, and who’s talking about them. (You know the “source close to the star”). One recent morning I heard that a certain singer had stopped dating so she could help her 30-year-old drug addicted son to stay straight and clean. Whether one is a multimillionaire living in a mansion, or not, heartache can still strike. I wonder if a devotion to career, the accumulation of earth’s wealth, as well as the praises of millions of fans, is worth the price of broken marriages and troubled children who never outgrow what they were born into.
On the other side of the gym, I heard the Today Show going through the recordings of the late Princess Diana. Rich, famous, beautiful, and married to what at one time seemed to be a Prince Charming, turned out to be bulimic, depressed, and at times suicidal. Imagine having it all and yet finding you have nothing.
Remember the videos of the opulent wedding of Charles and Diana? What a gorgeous, romantic and wonderful wedding - and a lousy marriage.
Prince Charming goes off to have an affair, which the whole world knows about, and the princess eventually dies in a limo with her boyfriend as they tried to escape photographers. What a life. I do not hear anybody talking about that “beautiful wedding” much any more. At first, they seemed to have it all.
I’m not trying to judge the individuals in these stories. I actually ache for them. If I happen to read People Magazine or catch some of these stories about the celebrities and their lifestyles, I feel sad for them. They sound so empty and unhappy. Maybe most of them are not but so often they seem to be enormously troubled people; and money is not helping them fix it.
Yet, how many ordinary folks work their lives away pursuing the dream of financial freedom, wealth, and leisure - the stuff all these celebrities seem to already have? Pay attention to these things. See if you are not in fact pursuing the “dream” at the expense of a real life. Even the best dreams vanish once you open your eyes.
Solomon was the richest man in the world. He literally had everything he ever wanted and lots of it. Imagine if you had everything you wanted just the way you wanted it and then looked back at how you got there and where you are now. From that perspective, ask yourself: “Am I truly fulfilled? Am I now satisfied?”
Solomon was not.
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 NIV)
Most every one who’s reading this IS wealthy. Compared to the majority of the six billion people on earth, you and I are very rich. Yeah, we are not millionaires; but they are not rich, they are just richer than us. The painful truth is most of us do not believe we are rich. In fact a lot of Americans complain about what they do not have, how lousy the economy is, and how tight money is.
I recall one woman asking me about how to tithe. She found that money was just too tight. I asked her if she has cable television. Yes, she said. Another man I know always walked out of the church service just before the offering was collected. He claimed he had no money to give. I pointed to the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and large coffee he always has in his hand as he comes up the walk on Sunday morning.
Our perceptions of wealth, the famine of thankfulness I witness among well-fed people, and this driving pursuit of luxuries as if they are necessities has yielded a people who are largely dissatisfied and unfulfilled. When Solomon took the time to stop and think about it, he saw the meaningless of life when it is lived for its own sake. He had it all and yet it was nothing. How about you?
In the last chapter, Solomon concluded that the real purpose of and meaning in life is to “fear God and keep His commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 13:13b) The old catechism tells us that the chief end of man is to love and glorify God and to enjoy Him continually.
“Enjoy him continually.” What a thought. Do you enjoy a relationship with the Lord God? If you really stop and think, what in the world can you do or buy that could be more satisfying than knowing the One who created you? WOW...
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.