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Money and meaning

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. — Ecclesiastes 2:11

People are more than animals—but that doesn’t mean we’re happier. Animals search for food, while people search for meaning. Animals are driven by instinct, people by desire. Animals forage happily in the mud while people look to the stars and ponder existence. Animals sleep peacefully in holes in the ground while people toss and turn fitfully on beds of ease. Animals find contentment in little, but people find dissatisfaction in plenty. What are we missing?

People find some satisfaction in working hard, but we always look for something more. We translate work into money and channel money into everything our heart desires. With money one can put food on the table and a roof over his head. With more money one can fill his belly with delicacies, his home with treasures, his garage with vintage cars, and his cellar with vintage wine. Money will buy abundant pleasure. But pleasure generates an appetite for more—grander experiences, bigger thrills, costlier adventures. Then, after desperately pursuing pleasure and purchasing all that money can buy, the person retires to his bed and wonders why he is still unfulfilled, why life seems so meaningless.

These are often the musings successful people have in their heart. Remarkably, these were the same questions that Koheleth, which means “the Teacher,” had about his experiences in antiquity. The questions are not new—they bothered men in bygone yesterdays as much as they do today. This suggests that these struggles for meaning and fulfillment are not the products of circumstances so much as the results of a common human experience of dissatisfaction.

It is true that God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). Then why is it that people have difficulty finding that enjoyment? It is because they forget the God who gives the things, and they substitute the things for God! People too often trust in temporal things that pass away, rather than in the eternal Lord from whom all things come.

So what should people do? They should work as an act of worship to the Lord, who gives them the ability to work. Then they should treat their earnings as treasures that God has committed to them to manage, and they should administer these resources in a way that pleases the Lord.

They will discover that the purpose of life is not to make money but to serve and enjoy the God who made everything!

For further study: Ecclesiastes 2:1-12

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.