A lesson from the wealthiest men on Earth

January 11, 2021 · Print This Article

Being a teacher of teenagers is amusing as it is unpredictable. But one predictability is their answer to the question, ‘what do you want to be when you are older?’, the answer I’ve heard more than any other is…

“I want to be rich”.

Maybe we do too. But deep down we know there is something missing from this answer. And what’s missing is revealed by the two richest men on Earth.

Last week, eccentric entrepreneur Elon Musk became the richest man on earth. Overtaking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who held the top spot from 2017. This reminded me of a Bezos interview just after he acquired the richest man title. Asked for his reactions, he said, “I would much rather they said, ‘inventor Jeff Bezos’, or ‘entrepreneur Jeff Bezos,’ or ‘father Jeff Bozos’, those kind of things are much more meaningful to me”. Interesting answers. So what about Musk? He simply tweeted dismissively, “How strange…Well, back to work…”. And Musk is not going to be hoarding that wealth either, “About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth, and half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life”[1]. So what do these answers tell us?

They tell us something important about living a fulfilling life. That meaning is not easily persuaded into your life through wealth. Indeed, meaning and fulfilment comes in the opposite direction of money. What do I mean? I’ll answer that with another question, what is the connection between Bezos and Musk’s answers and activities?

Wealth is not what gives them meaning, rather it comes from what they put into the world, not what you take out of the world.

The “I want to be rich” answer fails to understand that we are driven by deeper motivations than just material acquisition. What these men are doing with their riches uncovers a human and universal truth. It is much more meaningful – much more fulfilling – to put something into the world, than to take something out. Maybe it is how we are wired, or maybe it’s because meaning demands that we aim for something bigger than our being. Whatever the reason for this truth, it confirms a principle Jesus taught himself, saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”[2].

I suppose if we live a life trying to ‘get money’ as our primary focus it will inevitably reap a harvest of life deficient of meaning. That’s a soul-sickness, an internal lostness, I would prefer to avoid. Instead, a life meaningfully lived is a life that gives more than it gets.

So this week, what are we going to give? What are we going to put into the world?

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] Elon Musk becomes world’s richest person as wealth tops $185bn – BBC News
[2] The Bible, Acts 20:35 (NIVUK)
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