What to Make of the Growing Wealth of the World’s Richest
Wealth in 2019 showed itself in all shapes and sizes, and it grew in leaps and bounds for the world’s wealthiest individuals.
A Bloomberg article by Tom Metcalf and Jack Witzig, “World’s Richest Gain $1.2 Trillion in 2019 as Jeff Bezos Retains Crown,” details some of the facts and figures on the fortunes of the world’s 500 richest people.
The wealth of the top 500 grew by 25% in 2019. Their collective net worth stands today at $5.9 trillion. To put that number in perspective, Becky Kleanthous in “How Much is a Trillion?” wrote that it would take an American with a median income of $50,000 with no expenditures 20 million years to save just $1 trillion—let alone nearly $6 trillion.
By the way, this is not a blog ranting against the wealthy as some are prone to do. Instead, when I consider such immense wealth, I pause and ask some foundational questions. What and who enables some to make wealth and not others similarly situated? And what’s the purpose of wealth?
Indeed, wealth creation comes in all forms. Metcalf and Witzig highlight Oklahoma native Willis Johnson founded a network of junkyards to sell damaged cars—his fortune is calculated at $1.9 billion. The Korean family that helped popularize the “Baby Shark, doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo” song is now worth a cool $125 million. Kylie Jenner sold a 51% stake in Kylie Cosmetics for $600 million to become the world’s youngest billionaire. The “old rich” like Zuckerberg and Gates saw their personal fortunes increase by a combined nearly $50 billion.
On the other hand, Bezos’ fortune, while remaining atop the list, declined by $9 billion because of his divorce settlement. And Rupert Murdoch, after making his kids billionaires, saw his net worth drop by $10 billion.
Solomon Weighs in on Wealth
While these gigantic numbers might be fun to read about, I can’t help thinking of the words of King Solomon (who is estimated to have had a net worth of $2 trillion as king of ancient Israel):
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. (Ecclesiastes 2.17-18 NIV)
No matter how wealthy, death is the great equalizer. God will ask the same question of all of no matter our net worth: What did you do with what I gave you?
Our answer to that question will be more important than our balance sheet.
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Published January 17, 2020
Topics: Culture Commentary