You can’t take it with you!
We’ve probably all heard this before. And we know what it means: whatever we amass in this life in terms of wealth, it stays here when we die. Whether our net worth is billions of dollars or zero dollars, it stays.
So if we know this—and we do—why do we live as if we don’t? Why do we live as if the acquisition of wealth is the primary driving force in our lives?
I’ve lost track of the number of multi-level marketing plans I’ve been invited to join with the underlying (or sometimes overt!) concept: this will make you financially independent. “Get rich quick!”, they seem to promise. But for the few that do actually gain great wealth, the vast majority make little if they even break even.
Yet at the end of it all: you can’t take it with you.
As we continue our journey through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, we find King Solomon reflecting on the same thing. Let’s read Ecclesiastes 2:17-26.
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 that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil 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 person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Solomon gave three reasons he was disgusted by the pursuit of wealth:
- We can’t keep it for ourselves. On a practical level, money is worthless until you give it away in exchange for something else.
- We can’t guard it. It’s bad enough we can’t take it with us, but we don’t know how our successor will spend all that hard-earned wealth.
- We can’t live carelessly once we have it. When you have much to lose, you’re much more careful with how you spend your money.
King Solomon’s solution: pursuit of wealth for the sake of pursuing more results in sinful behavior. This means God will take away what you’ve amassed and give it to a Godly person. God has no time for foolish living.
When a Christian pursues the heart of God in all things—and yes, this means our finances as well—the Lord is content to allow us to enjoy our toil. This is the opposite spirit of the worry, fear, and anxiety of those pursuing wealth for the sheer sake of gain. What we read is we should live for the sake of the Lord. This is not only morally good, it’s actually good for us.
So…go work hard today! Earn! Save! Spend! But seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness (cf. Matthew 6:33).
Use your wealth to please Him first and enjoy the fruit of your hard work.
Otherwise, your running after “stuff” is only a fool’s errand: chasing the wind.