You Can't Take it With You (or Can You)? (Psalm 49)

PrintWe are continuing a five-part series on our perspective on work and wealth. This week we are taking a look at Psalm 49. This is a wisdom Psalm designed as a moral lesson for everyone, presenting a meditation on the riddle of life. In Psalm 49:2, the psalmist invites "all who live in this world" to listen.

The main question of the psalmist is in v.5 "Why should I fear when evil days come...?" As human beings, one of our primal drives is fear. Fear can be a very good thing. It is something that God built into us to keep us alive and out of danger. Fear can keep us alert and on our toes. Holy fear is a healthy respect and awe of God (Proverbs 9:10). But fear can be a very bad thing too. Fear can be something that causes feelings of dread, a distressing emotion aroused by threats real or imagined. When these types of fears consume us, it can paralyze us and erode our faith and trust in God.

When we are driven by fear and uncertainty, there are two things people tend to grab hold of to feel secure: 1) wealth and 2) themselves.

This psalm was written thousands of years ago but it is still true today. Many people pursue wealth because they think it will bring happiness and security. We constantly strive after wealth for security and comfort believing the lie, "If I had more money, I would be happy" or we are consumed by fear and worry, "I don't have enough, I need more."

The psalmist is brutal in his assessment of this mindset in v.12 "People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like beasts that perish." And earlier in the passage he says that those who are wealthy will still die and leave their wealth to others. They can't take it with them.

The second thing that people trust in is themselves. Unfortunately this is not a great strategy either. In v.10 and in v.13-14 the psalmist bluntly says we are all "destined to die" and nothing we do can stop or control that.

So where is the hope? What can we take with us? From a New Testament perspective, the seeds of hope in Christ are like buried treasure in this psalm. The psalmist writes in v.7 "No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them-the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - so that they should live on forever and not see decay."

But Jesus Christ, the Son of God can and has given Himself for our rescue. 1 Peter 1:18-19 describes it beautifully: "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."

Another nugget of treasure is in Psalm 49:15 "But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself." This points to the promise of resurrection to eternal life that we have in Christ. (Romans 8:11)

There is truth in the saying "You can't take it with you." So then, how are we invited to live now? What can we take with us? Psalm 49 is a clear reminder not to be consumed and deceived by the fears, anxieties and hopes that the world has. The world seeks security, identity and hope in wealth, power and the ability to control your own destiny. But we all know that in the end, death is the great leveler.

What can we take with us?  When our hope is firmly rooted in Christ, we can trust God for our past (our sins are forgiven), our future (we will have eternal life in heaven) and our present (as we seek first His kingdom, God will provide for us and we can join in His kingdom work until He returns)!

Because you are secure in Christ, you can trust God to live simply, save wisely and give generously.

Will you put your trust in Christ today and everyday instead of putting your fears and anxieties in things that will never prevail?