Comments Off on Billionaires

To listen to this reflection as a podcast, click here.

Throughout the month of August, we’re looking at Ecclesiastes, that strange and seemingly “modern” Old Testament book that depicts what happens when humanity searches for ultimate meaning apart from God. 
Imagine for a moment that you’re a billionaire.
At the beginning of the day you notice that you’ve got four $5 bills in your wallet.  You take a short cab ride.  The driver asks for eight bucks.  You give him two of your bills – that’s fare plus a tip.
An hour later, however, you notice you only have one $5 bill left in your wallet.  What happened to the third one?  Maybe you dropped it somewhere.  Or you accidentally gave it to the cab driver. 
What are you going to do about it?
Are you going to freak out?  Retrace your steps?  Call the police and demand that they hunt down that cabbie?  Of course not.  You’re a billionaire.  Which means you’re way too rich to let the loss of five bucks ruin your whole day.
Now let’s say you’re a committed follower of Jesus.
Somebody criticizes you.  Or a financial investment flops.  Or somebody you were really counting on fails to come through.
Author and pastor Tim Keller once pointed out, “Those are real losses – of your reputation, of your material wealth, of your hopes.  But what are you going to do, if you’re a Christian?  Will this setback disrupt your contentment with life?  Will you shake your fist at God?  Toss and turn at night?”
Keller concludes, “If so, I submit that it’s because you don’t know how truly rich you are.”
Life seems calculated to produce a never-ending stream of irritations.  There will always be someone who will hurt your feelings.  And someone who knows how to push just the right buttons to make you feel like screaming.  There will always be situations in which you can’t be in control.  And situations that will make you feel isolated or disrespected.
Are such things driving you crazy?
Then it appears you’ve lost touch with your identity.  That’s because you’re a spiritual billionaire.  In Christ, you are rich beyond your wildest dreams. 
So don’t give life’s disappointments the power to ruin your day. 
Our culture, however, routinely insists that the only way to be truly happy, truly free, and truly in control of things is to be truly rich.  Financially rich, that is.  Has anything changed since the days of Ecclesiastes?  Consider the author’s words in chapter 5, verses 10-12:
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless.  As goods increase, so do those who consume them.  And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?  The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.”
There are two ways of being rich.  We can either pursue the richness of having or the richness of being. 
Everyone agrees (when in their right mind) that the meaning of life comes down to the richness of being.  “But maybe,” we think, with our fingers crossed, “I can achieve the richness of being by excelling at the richness of having.” 
We’re fooling ourselves, of course.  If there’s anything humanity has discovered from millennia of frenzied experimentation, it’s that getting more stuff does not produce the peace and joy we so desperately seek.
But that’s OK.  We don’t need to be financial billionaires. 
Not when all of us can be spiritual billionaires. 
Life will always include irritations, curve balls, and losses.  But nothing that happens to us can ever drain our spiritual bank accounts. 
Which means there’s really no need to let five bucks’ worth of disappointment spoil your day.