“Excuse me; do you know who I am? Do you know who you are talking to?”
The first time I heard this typical Nigerian question, I was in a bus en route my place of work. Two men were engaged in a heated argument and one of them was busy reeling off his qualifications and possessions, daring the other man to state what he had that could possibly match his. All efforts to pacify him or even know the cause of the altercation proved abortive. After Mr. Qualifications had finished bragging, the other man who had been quiet all through brought out his business card and showed it to him. Then he said, “if this is really where you say you work, then I am your boss. And your services are no longer required.” The silence that ensued was so deafening that Mr. Qualifications seemed to have lost his voice as he realized his error. He had just tried to intimidate his boss and consequently lost his job. The scenario above simply points to the dynamism of life. Sadly, many persons, like Mr. Qualifications, are yet to understand the vanity of life. If you critically examine the story, you will discover that Mr. Qualifications thought he had it all hence he wasted no time in showing off. But the shock he got will happen to some of us if we fail to realize that there is really nothing to life. And until we come to this understanding, there will always be the craze for material things, the urge to lord it over others and of course, the tendency to be proud and vain.
In the real sense of it, there is nothing bad in making money. However, as the popular saying goes, excess of everything is inimical to one’s existence. We fail to realize that the more we crave for material things, the less satisfied we are. Ecclesiastes. 5:10-11 reveals that, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his wealth, this also vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?”For many people, wealth is the key to real happiness hence they seek to accumulate it at all costs. Unfortunately, this belief is just an illusion that fades away with time. Have you ever wondered why the rich and poor die and are buried in the same manner? If money was the key, why do the poor outlive the rich? Why do rich homes have more problems than poor or average homes? Why do rich men die and their coffins are carried by the so called average men they had nothing to do with while they were alive? The answer is simple. No matter who you are in life, there is just one end for everyone and that is death. Not even wealth can enable men to escape this inevitable phenomenon that makes all men equal.
It is indubitable that money or wealth is extremely important to one’s existence. Otherwise, how do you get the dream cars, the houses, the good food, quality education and healthcare, and even status conferral? Money makes life easier for anyone and even the Bible reveals that God has empowered us with all it takes to make wealth. Yet we must understand that this is not all there is to life. There is more to life than money, power, influence and pride. We must understand that respect for humanity, and for life, is of utmost importance. Many people, perhaps because of their affluence or connections, seem to see life as their property.
Perhaps, the reason for this warped mentality is the fact that many people still see life as more of a race than a journey. If you see life as a race, then you begin to strive to best everyone else. You begin to see others as competition and you even use them as ladders with which you ascend to success. We however forget that two things happen in a race; you lose or win. So while you are busy making the most of life, somewhere in your mind, you are scared someone will catch up with you. Then you begin to delve into dubious and unhealthy things just to maintain what you have but the question is; to what end? This is probably why many wealthy people, with the wrong mentality, have sleepless nights over their wealth.
On the other hand, seeing life as a journey helps one comprehend, and live with, the vanity of life. You simply understand that no matter how fast or slow you journey, you will surely reach your destination. This removes the mentality of competition and unhealthy rivalry, and prepares you for whatever life throws at you. Take a look at the life of the Biblical King Solomon and you will have a better understanding of life and its vanity.
Unfortunately, many of us still act like we own life and dictate how it goes. But do you know that one man’s salary is another’s offering? Do you know that one man’s mansion is another’s warehouse? Have you observed that there is no difference in the death that kills a rich man and a poor man? Rich or poor, strong or weak, six feet under awaits everyone sooner or later. After all, there is nothing new under the sun and where one man’s wealth ends, another begins; and where one life ends, another begins. We all need to have a sober reflection on life and its vanity so we can change our perspectives. If you are still hanging on to the vain things of life, King Solomon says to tell you that, “ I have seen all the things that are done under the sun, all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 1:14)
If the richest man ever to live could term life as vain, then we all have no choice but to live diligently. We must understand that life is a journey, not a race, and sooner or later, we will all get to our destinations. It is good to get rich, but don’t die trying. Shalom.
Writer: Emmanuel Eromonsele