Psalm 49 – You Can’t Take It With You

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

I have an app on my smart phone that presents 20 news stories that Google thinks should interest me. For example, I receive a daily dose of the Kansas City Chiefs and different ideas on barbecue. Of course, those articles are quite welcome and fun.

I also receive notice about the richest, most beautiful and most powerful people in the world. Apparently, Google believes that this is information I should not live without.

What Google doesn’t know about me is that I take Jesus’ words seriously. He said “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?” (Mark 8.36-37).

Not only did Jesus recognize the limited value of wealth, so did the author of Psalm 49. Like the Book of Proverbs, the speaker has important information for us about riches.

Don’t Make a Bad Deal

Why is gaining the whole world a bad bargain? This Psalm answers the question with stark clarity.

Verse 10 Anyone can see that even the wise die,
as well as the foolish and stupid.
They all leave their riches to their descendants.

Verse 12Our greatness cannot keep us from death;
we will still die like the animals.

In 2004 I sat by my father’s side, as he was nearing death. He had received numerous awards for public service, but none of those were important at that time.

Dad had a closet full of business suits, but he was clothed in the same kind of hospital gown that every patient in the hospital was wearing.

He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, but an infection on the brain had rendered his mental capacity to a complete zero.

Dad’s experience was very personal to me, but it is common to every person who has lived and died.

Jesus and the Psalm writer is right. There must be more to life than simply gaining wealth and honor.

No Hearse Pulls a U-Haul

The preacher who said, “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul,” was merely echoing the words of Psalm 49.

Don’t be upset when someone becomes rich,
when his wealth grows even greater;
he cannot take it with him when he dies;
his wealth will not go with him to the grave.
Even if someone is satisfied with this life
and is praised because he is successful,
he will join all his ancestors in death,
where the darkness lasts forever.
(Psalm 49.16-19)

These verses need little explanation. The common saying, “You can’t take it with you,” is absolutely obvious in death.

The bigger question is why do we resist Jesus’ counsel about material things? Instead of being filled with anxiety and worry about things, Jesus said we should, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33).

Can we rouse ourselves to apply the logic of Jesus and the Psalm writer to choose a different way of life than one of acquiring wealth and status, while we allow our spiritual life to wallow in poverty?

A Glimpse of Heaven

At the time of the writing of the Psalms, the idea of heaven was a vague concept. Jesus gave the definitive picture of heaven, which is only hinted at in this Psalm.

The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death. Jesus debated with them and said, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 33.31-32).

Jesus made it clear to his opponents. When God forms a relationship with a person, that relationship can not be broken by death, because God is the God of the living.

Here is how the writer of Psalm 49 worked through the issue of life after death.

We can never redeem ourselves;
we cannot pay God the price for our lives,
because the payment for a human life is too great.
What we could pay would never be enough
to keep us from the grave,
to let us live forever.
(Psalm 49.7-9)

By no means can we acquire enough money to pay God off and enter heaven. Neither can we accumulate enough good works, so that God will owe us a “mansion in glory.” To trust ourselves is absolute foolishness.

See what happens to those who trust in themselves,
the fate of those who are satisfied with their wealth—
they are doomed to die like sheep,
and Death will be their shepherd.
(Psalm 49.13-14)

Paul spoke of the way to heaven. He wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2.8-9).

The speaker in this Psalm knew that he had a relationship with God through the constant love of God. He knew that death would not cause his relationship to cease. He could speak with confidence.

But God will rescue me;
he will save me from the power of death.
(Psalm 49.15)

This Psalm is full of wisdom about the most important issues of life.

— Wealth and all that goes with it is not the ultimate value. What worth is all of the world’s possessions and glory if we lose our soul?

— The path to the best life possible is to seek first God’s kingdom and his way of right living. He will take care of the rest.

May We Pray for you?

The prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church is honored to pray for you. Please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the prayer team to pray, too.

2 Comments

  1. My parents were certainly not materialistic. There were possessions they valued, but they held relationships higher than possessions and always taught us by word and example that without Jesus, nothing in this life mattered. They both served others…through church, their neighborhood and many civic organizations. And even so, they managed to fill-to-overflowing a house of “stuff.” I am now tasked with getting rid of “stuff.”

    It is tempting to want to hold on to too much of it. As I find objects that evoke memories, or are pleasing to the eye, items that they valued as family heirlooms, difficult decisions must be made to let go.

    I had these same decisions and desires last spring going through my husband’s garage. Everything I touched seemed to hold a memory and yet, I knew it was selfish and greedy to not share with our adult children, to not donate clothes, boots, shoes to others in need. To pass tools along to young men and women so they could work to provide for their families.

    I’ve quoted your blog title many, many times in this process, followed by “because all this stuff is still here.”

    I’m not sure why God wired us the way He did….for our minds to want to hold possessions that hold memories. I think I’ve learned much about letting go. About generosity. About how easy it is to hold onto “stuff” that really is unnecessary. I believe there have been tests along the way. I have prayed, and continue to pray that I make the right decisions.

    As I sit here this morning and watch the sun begin to rise, I am thankful for the clarity of Scripture – for the everlasting truths that have stood the test of time to guide and direct. I am thankful for all that God has blessed me with and ask that He help me keep possessions and memories in His perspective.

    I know my treasure is in heaven….may I not be sidetracked from that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Denise, you honor Mike and your parents with the “touch” that their possessions give to you. In my mind that is “holy ground.” May God bless you as you remember them through the things they accumulated over the years.

    Like

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