I was recently reminded of the wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes. Whether or not your faith leads you to the Bible, I believe we can reflect together and agree with the wisdom in this ancient text.
The main character, a king, set out to use his riches to find meaning. He spent sums of money we cannot comprehend attempting to find lasting fulfillment. He built palaces, hired servants so he never had to lift a finger and sought solace in nature by building gardens and vineyards. He tried hedonism, paid for lavish food and drink, sought constant entertainment, and then threw himself into his work. In the end, he was left empty and unfulfilled by each of these quests. He then thought a plan to leave his riches to his kids would bring ultimate joy—but then was troubled by the thought that they may not be good stewards. What would have been the purpose of that?
If we’re honest, we’ve each sought (and failed to find) fulfillment through money at some point in our life journey—earning it, saving it, spending it.
It’s easy to throw ourselves into our work, to target a certain dollar amount in our 401(k), to focus on buying that car, to strive to exceed a specific income level or solely focus on building a legacy for the next generation. While the quest might bring pleasure or happiness for a moment, the goal post moves, and we are onto the next target—it never feels like enough. Or as our wise king said, “it is like chasing the wind.”
Thankfully, the king gives us some hope. He notes that in the end, he found true satisfaction in his faith, in hard work (not overworking) and in life’s simple pleasures—like a good meal and time with loved ones. The money—earning it, saving it, spending it—was useful, but did not provide fulfillment or lasting joy.
During the time of the year when we reflect on our accomplishments from the past year and look to where we’re heading in the next, let us step back and remind ourselves not to place our hopes for fulfillment on those goals which, if we’re honest, will last only as long as it takes us to achieve them. Instead, let’s pause and enjoy the simple pleasures—like the satisfaction of a job well done (regardless of the monetary value attached) or a slice of pumpkin pie with a loved one. And for at least one day, let’s let that be enough.
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