The World’s Richest People and A Little Wisdom on Wealth
Money’s a funny thing. Most people spend their lives wishing they had it as they toil away at their jobs. We worry about it in our off hours, and for some it’s a pleasant daydream to think about arriving.
A few actually get it. They arrive. What if that were you? What would you do if your net worth was so high that you would never run out of money?
I was reading in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible not long ago, and as I read Solomon’s musings on life under the sun and his wisdom on wealth, it caused me to ponder: I wonder what Solomon’s net worth actually was?
So I googled it. I found my answer in a 2017 MSN Money slideshow article titled, “The 20 Richest People of All Time.”
The World’s Richest People
Funny thing, the wealth of that group make Buffet’s and Gates’ fortunes look like chump change. For instance, coming in at No. 12 with a mere net worth of $212 billion: William the Conqueror. Andrew Carnegie checked in at No. 8 with a net worth of $337 billion; John Rockefeller eked out a win over Carnegie with $367 billion.
King Solomon? He checked in with a tidy net worth of $2.2 trillion. He reportedly received 25 tons of gold for each of the 39 years of his reign (666 talents of gold annually, “besides that which came from explorers, merchants, kings and governors”).
Augustus Ceasear was No. 4 with $4.63 trillion and No. 1 was Ghengis Khan, with a net worth in the $100s of trillions (talk about a real estate acquisition strategy!).
How Would You Handle $2.2 Trillion?
But back to Solomon, how do you put $2.2 trillion in perspective?
According to Kiplinger’s “14 Ways to Spend $1 Trillion,” Solomon could have bought nearly 41 million cars with an average price of $23,000, and he’d still have another $1.2 trillion to spend.
So Solomon really meant it when he wrote in Ecclesiastes 2.10 “And whatever my heart desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure….”
But Solomon wrote quite a bit more from his unique experience of unimaginable wealth in Ecclesiastes, preserving a range of thoughts on riches:
- Satisfaction escapes those who love money. Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. Ecclesiastes 5.10
- Wealth increases consumption. When goods increase, they increase who eat them… Ecclesiastes 5.11
- Wealth increases worry. …but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep… Ecclesiastes 5.12
- Wealth inevitably passes on to others. …a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them… Ecclesiastes 6.2
- Wealth by itself is empty. I had also great possessions…I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces….and behold all was vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2.7-8, 11
More Wisdom on Wealth
Interestingly, Solomon offered additional wisdom on wealth in the book of Proverbs, yet without the world-weariness that’s evident in Ecclesiastes. Here are a few of those proverbs:
Whoever trusts in riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Proverbs 11.28 ESV
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15.16 NIV
Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is Maker of them all. Proverbs 22.2 NIV
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Proverbs 23.4-5 NIV
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. Proverbs 28.6 ESV
The End of the Matter
I think you could safely say that being rich is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Attaining wealth comes with a trap. It promises happiness, security and status, but those promises prove hollow in the end.
Solomon pointed to a greater and higher purpose than acquiring wealth: serving the Lord by living with honor, integrity and faithfulness. Indeed, Solomon closes out the book of Ecclesiastes with a simple dose of summing-up wisdom on wealth and all of life:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12.13 ESV
Indeed, I would argue that those who live in this way truly have the highest net worth.
Photo by Vita Vilcina on Unsplash