There is one person who would have been guaranteed not only to top BRW’s list of the richest people, but also to be at the top of other lists of celebrity and interest. He would have appeared regularly on the cover of Women’s magazines, been editorialised and analysed in the business and political pages, and had his works reviewed by literary and legal personnel alike. With wealth greater than Bill Gates, political power greater than the U.S. President, and legal power greater than the High Court, there is arguably no person with greater influence in any time than that held by King Solomon.
And to top it all off, his wisdom is still celebrated some 3000 years later, enshrined in the common Language. ‘The wisdom of Solomon’ is a phrase still used to describe superhuman abilities in decision-making on the thorniest of issues.
Given that the standards achieved by Solomon in any one of these areas are believed today to be enough to guarantee the sort of lifestyle which most would want to aspire to, it is interesting to read Solomon’s reflections on where his life had taken him, and what it ultimately meant. Such musings are recorded for us in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon reflects on the different aspects of his life, whether it be the pursuit of wisdom, of wealth, or the enjoyment of the pleasures it brought, and remarks ‘everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.’
Solomon does not deny the beauty that wisdom brings, nor the advantages of wealth, but tempers this in the knowledge that the destiny of every person is death, and what advantage do either of these bring in death?
The couple who recently won $30 million in Tattslotto returned to work the Monday after their win, drawing an incredulous response from a correspondent in one daily paper. The writer regarded this action as reason for investigation of their mental capabilities. Clearly the writer thought that having that much money was reason simply to indulge oneself and make no further productive contribution to life. In contrast, the now-wealth couple still perceives a greater purpose.
At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes a summary of his thoughts, and the implications for those who read them. In paraphrase he says, “Keep the perspective of God firmly on the horizon: this is our duty.” It is so easy to get caught up in today’s rat race and its values, that we forget what God deems important.
February 11, 2001
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