John D. Rockefeller Sr., the famous oil tycoon and one of the wealthiest men who has ever lived, was once asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little more.” To be fair to Mr. Rockefeller, he was an incredible philanthropist and he faithfully tithed to his church, so one cannot use his quote, as many do, to depict him as greedy and heartless. It would not be inappropriate, however, to point out how this quote shows how created things can never offer final satisfaction. One can amass the largest fortune imaginable, but if one’s true love is the fortune itself, one will always be grasping for more.
Unsurprisingly, this is a biblical principle. We see people all around us—and maybe we were once one of them—who are never satisfied with what they own but always need more. but Scripture tells us infallibly that our minds do not deceive us when we conclude that those who love money will never have enough. As we read in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.”
The Preacher calls this reality “vanity.” Often in Ecclesiastes, this term refers to that which escapes our understanding, and it is perplexing that many people remain discontent even when they can afford any comfort they desire. We could even broaden this and note that we have all worked hard for some kind of goal, achieved it, and then found that the prize—be it an academic degree, new job, or some other such thing—was not all that we had hoped it would be. The consternation this can bring begins to make sense only when we remember that we were made for eternity, that God has made us for Himself and that our hearts will be restless until they rest in Him, as Augustine once said (see also Eccl. 3:11).
By no means does the Bible view money negatively. One can be a true servant of God whether one has great wealth like Abraham or lives in poverty like John the Baptist. Yet the Bible does warn of the dangers associated with money. Paul’s warning that the love of money—not money in and of itself—is the root of all kinds of evil is well known (1 Tim. 6:10). But even those who amass a large fortune without making wealth an idol should know that riches bring with them their own peculiar complications. As wealth increases, so do the number of people who seek to devour it (Eccl. 5:11). Government aims to increase taxes on the wealthy. Many so-called friends show up, looking for a handout. The end result is that even the richest among us cannot enjoy all the fruit of their labor (v. 11).