“Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”
- Ecclesiastes 5:10
It would always be nice to have a little more money.
I think we all (kind of) know though that if we have more, we just spend more. More money won’t necessarily make us more happy.
Lauren Greenfield’s entertaining documentary Queen of Versailles proves this on an epic scale in the lives of one extraordinary family. The film illustrates the financial wisdom of Ecclesiastes devastatingly well. Or, as David Edelstein wrote for New York Magazine, it’s “A brilliant metaphor for everything screwed up about the U.S. economy and the culture that shaped it.” The film traces billionaires Jackie and David Siegel as they try to build the largest home in America. The “queen”, Jackie, is a former Miss America with a rags to riches story. David likewise came from humble origins, but built massive wealth through creating successful time-share resorts. When the recession hits, they find out they’re losing much of their net worth. It becomes obvious they’re living outside their means. The building project stalls. They have to let go many of the workers that kept their current mansion in order, and so they’ve got dogs pooping all over the place and other pets dying. David is losing sleep, and he doesn’t enjoy simply eating with his family, exemplifying two “grievous evils” from Ecclesiastes 5. They go to McDonald’s in a limo, and fill their 26,000 sq ft home til it’s “bursting at the seams.” It all feels pretty obnoxious at points.
The craziest thing though, is that they are so quintessentially American. They have the same impulses and habits as many other Americans, including myself. They’re just living those impulses out at a gargantuan scale. They’re like us. We think we would handle billions of dollars more frugally, and with better taste, than this family, but there’s no way to know for sure. The words of Jesus from Luke 16:10 give us a pretty good hint though: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
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