“. . . give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”
- Proverbs 30:8
Is it true that the one who dies with the most toys wins? Or how about the one who accumulates the most money and property, the real life “Monopoly” game? What about the one who is the most brilliant and has the most advanced degrees, or the one who has reached the highest level in his or her organization, the one who has traveled the most, is the best athlete, the most talented artist or musician, has won the most awards, or become the most famous or the most powerful? In the end who is the winner?
If you could ask the wisest and richest man who ever lived, a man who spent most of his life accumulating and experiencing everything he could, gaining more wealth and fame and enjoying more sensual pleasures than any of us could ever imagine, King Solomon’s answer would be none-of-the-above. He summed it up in an essay we know as the Book of Ecclesiastes in which he declared emphatically that nothing on this earth can fully satisfy the desire for complete fulfillment – nothing. “Meaningless! . . . Utterly meaningless!” he declared. “Everything is meaningless . . . a chasing after the wind.”
Let’s be clear, however, Solomon’s intention was not to discourage the pursuit of success through hard work and best use of our gifts and talents; for there is no denial of our need to provide for ourselves, take care of our families and have the ability to help others, to prosper through our endeavors. Yet, it does beg the question, how much is enough?
A wise father, the father of one of my closest friends, instructed my friend as he was completing his education and about to strike out on his own, “you need to have enough,” he said, “but you don’t need to have too much.” I suspect my friend may have been confused at first by his father’s words, for he had worked hard at preparing himself to become successful as he had always been encouraged to do. But his father understood the wisdom in the Proverb writer’s prayer, “. . . give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you . . . or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” It was a great lesson my friend received from his father, and one I’m thankful he passed along to me.