“Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.” Psalm 49:16–17
The theme of today’s passage, Psalm forty-nine, is the effect of the accumulation of wealth on a person’s experience of death. The basic message of the psalm is that the wealthy have no advantage over the poor in death.
I think most people in the western world would say, “Well, yeah. Everybody knows that.”
But in the centuries past, when the scriptures were being written, people were often tempted to think that the wealthy did have an advantage. They believed that God did reward those he approved of, and that those rewards were tangible. Primarily those rewards came it two ways: wealth and possession, and children. A third flavor of divine favor, which some desired, was power and influence. If you had wealth, and children to pass that wealth on to, they believed that you were greatly blessed and the presence of this blessedness was proof to the world that God thought you were righteous.
But the author of Psalm forty-nine appears to have disagreed with this prevailing opinion. Some of those who are wealthy he calls foolish. Foolishness is not a trait of the righteous, and the height of foolishness is to deny and disobey the claims of your creator and God by pursuing a course of disobedience.
The psalmist observes that sometimes the wealthy boast of their accomplishments and proclaim their own praises by “blessing themselves.” My parents always told me praising yourself is empty; far better to let other praise you if you deserve it.
When it came to wealth Jesus advice to us is that we should, “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20) The humble living of a life of love and service to others; being kind, respectful, helpful, thoughtful, careful, considerate, generous, and acknowledging God and relying on him to guide you in the path of righteousness and to give you his forgiveness and favor, this is true wealth.
O Jesus, it’s easy in this life to be tempted to pursue wealth, and honor, and power, and success, and other tokens of the world’s estimation of achievement. Help me today to seek you and your kingdom first and to let you add to me, as you determine is best, all the other blessings.