A Divine Proverb to the Rich and Poor

In my reading of the Psalms, this particular psalm, Psalm 49, caught my attention and had to read it several times. It reads like a wise counsel to those who are wearied about our current economy – e.g., “Why should I fear in days of adversity, when the iniquity of my foes sourrounds me, even those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches?” (vv. 5-6). You need to read that in the context for proper understanding. Here’s the whole chapter of Psalm 49:

NAU Psalm 49:1 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

2 Both low and high, Rich and poor together.

3 My mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will be understanding.

4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.

5 Why should I fear in days of adversity, When the iniquity of my foes surrounds me,

6 Even those who trust in their wealth And boast in the abundance of their riches?

7 No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him–

8 For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever–

9 That he should live on eternally, That he should not undergo decay.

10 For he sees that even wise men die; The stupid and the senseless alike perish And leave their wealth to others.

11 Their inner thought is that their houses are forever And their dwelling places to all generations; They have called their lands after their own names.

12 But man in his pomp will not endure; He is like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the way of those who are foolish, And of those after them who approve their words. Selah.

14 As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; And the upright shall rule over them in the morning, And their form shall be for Sheol to consume So that they have no habitation.

15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah.

16 Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, When the glory of his house is increased;

17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him.

18 Though while he lives he congratulates himself– And though men praise you when you do well for yourself–

19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers; They will never see the light.

20 Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, Is like the beasts that perish.

A Heavenly Perspective

In light of present plunging of the Wall Street, we all need to be reminded of following words of Jesus:

  • NAU Matthew 6:19 ¶ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regarding those words of Jesus, here’s some helpful exegesis:

  • Treasures in ancient time meant “an abundance of anything that was held to be conducive to the ornament or comfort of life” [Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 70].
  • Treasures means “Whatever one prizes most that puts above everything else” [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 153].
  • By treasures, Jesus means “the things we prize most dearly” [Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1997), 136].
  • “Where the affection is not entire, there is no true worship of God” [John Calvin, “Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke” in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 338].