The Vain Search for Riches
When it comes to playing the lottery, I like to tell people I’m way ahead. When their eyes widen, it begs the unspoken question, “How did you do it?” Then they fall when I reply, “I haven’t lost a dollar yet—because I haven’t bought a single ticket.”
My inclination to save my money ever since Colorado started its game of chance more than 38 years ago received a strong (albeit indirectly) endorsement recently.
It came in the form of a story released by a personal finance site out of London, headlined, “Lottery winners who blew the lot.”
Statistics show 70% of lottery winners end up broke and a third go on to declare bankruptcy, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, reported LoveMoney.com.
“Runaway spending, toxic investments and poor accounting can burn through a lucrative windfall in next to no time,” the article observed.
As evidence, it chronicled 27 lottery winners who found this out the hard way.
One of the saddest stories involved a couple whose fortune didn’t compensate for the wife’s unfaithfulness. The woman wanted to give some of their winnings to the two children she had birthed out of wedlock while married to her husband, a fact previously unbeknownst to him. After learning about it, her doctor-spouse injected her with a lethal dose of drugs. He served seven years in prison for the crime.
Ironically, just before seeing this story online, my wife and I had started a study on the book of Ecclesiastes, which one could call “Solomon’s Book of Laments.”
After a brief introduction, it begins: “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” (v. 2 MEV). Then he adds in verse 14: “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and indeed, all is vanity and like chasing the wind.”
If that weren’t enough, he adds in verse 17: “And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know the folly of ideas and to know foolish behavior, and I know that this as well is like chasing the wind.”
I brought more than a passing interest to a deeper exploration of Solomon’s concluding thoughts on life.
Earlier this year I did some substantive editing on a new book by Hawaii pastor Mike Kai, That Doesn’t Just Happen: How Excellence Accelerates Everything.
Focused on teaching business leaders the importance of excellence in customer service, Mike used the example of Queen Sheba’s visit to Solomon at his palace in Jerusalem.
Startling Statistics on Solomon’s Riches
Drilling down into the story, Mike uncovered some statistics that I hadn’t previously known:
- Given the value of gold in late 2020, the gift Sheba brought to Solomon was worth more than $200 million. And that doesn’t count the spices and precious jewels lugged along by her caravan.
- The fund drive to build the first temple generated silver and gold worth roughly $100 million in today’s currency.
- Solomon’s annual haul of gold netted him the equivalent of more than $59 million a year in income.
When someone who knocks down that kind of fortune is reflecting and calling it all “vanity,” I’d say we can learn something from him.
Starting with the fact that money can be gone faster than a lottery jackpot. As Solomon also wrote in Proverbs 23:5: “Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”
Considering the fleeting nature of riches, best not to fall in love with it.