The Chelsea Hotel in New York has been a hangout for artists for centuries. Mark Twain once lived there, as did Janis Joplin. At times, artists were allowed to pay the rent with their artwork. One long-time resident, Bettina Grossman, used her room not only as a studio, but also as storage for her artwork. She created and collected so much artwork that she nearly suffocated in the mounds of work stacked from floor to ceiling and in boxes around her apartment. She got to the point where she lived in the hallway outside of her apartment, sleeping in a chair.
For some people, there’s never enough. It might be art. It might be books. /Looks at rooms in house and wonders where to put the next bookshelf so I can put some of the books that are stacked on the floor away. In many cases, the issue is money. The old joke about Americans asks how much money the average American needs to be satisfied. The answer is “just a little bit more.” No one ever has enough money, we always want a little more no matter what our income level is. Solomon described Americans long ago…or maybe he just understood human nature in all cultures. “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless…. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10,19)
These two verses in Ecclesiastes present a wonderful contrast between people. Some are always looking for “just a little bit more.” They may be billionaires who use money to keep score. They may be people living in poverty trying to scrape together enough to eat. Both want a little bit more money to achieve their goals. Admittedly, we understand those who live in poverty looking for a little more. At the same time, we look at those who are wealthy who are still doing everything they can to amass more wealth. We are aghast when we hear stories of Hetty Green, once the world’s richest woman, trying to get her son to check into a free clinic to fix his broken leg or never turning on the heat to save money. When she died, she left a fortune of over $200 million – never once being able to enjoy it.
Solomon, who wrote Ecclesiastes, was one of the wealthiest kings of Israel. As he amassed wealth, he began to realize the futility of that process. That is why he came to the conclusion that someone who had wealth and the ability to enjoy them was gifted by God. When my wife and I go out to eat, we make it a point to ask our server if we can pray for them and if there is anything specific in their life that we can pray for. While traveling recently, our server asked us to pray for world peace. He later felt the need to clarify his request by saying, “I have enough in life. I’m just concerned about others.” Compare that attitude to people who win big in the lottery. Often, they go on spending sprees and do such a terrible job of handling their money that they end up broke. Perhaps the lesson that we need to learn is what Solomon seeks to teach us: blessings in life do not come from the abundance of wealth; blessings come from contentment with the wealth God gives us and the ability to enjoy that wealth. So, whatever your wealth status may be, enjoy what God has given you. If He has given you more than you need, ask yourself if there is some way that you can give it away to help others and increase your own joy.
Oh Lord, I have more than enough money in life. What I don’t have is more than enough contentment and joy. Help me to be satisfied with what You have already given me. Help me to enjoy that wealth. Most of all, make me willing to give away some of my wealth to help others, and experience that joy.