Surely men of low degree are a vapor, and men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor. Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, O lord, belongs mercy; for You render to each one according to his work.
We learn here that the rich and the poor are equal. In what way? David says that both of them are only vapors! A vapor appears as a mist and evaporates rapidly. He’s saying that, likewise, the substance of even rich men who don’t know the Lord is of no value in this life. Many of the rich were oppressors of the poor; many of the poor were robbers of the rich. He adds that if you’re blessed with riches, don’t take credit for that. In fact, beware of putting too much trust in your wealth. You’ve heard the old adage “Money talks.” Indeed it does, and it usually says, “Goodbye!”
David puts the focus back onto the Lord, saying, “Power belongs to God, and He renders to each according to their works.” In Psalm 49:6-13, we find a more detailed explanation of this: “Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of their souls in costly, and it shall cease forever—that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit. For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the way of those who are foolish, and of their posterity who approve their sayings.”
What David is saying here is that money may buy you a house, but it can’t make it a home. Money can’t do for you what must be done by God. It can’t redeem a soul; it can’t redeem a relationship; it can’t justify one before God, and it’s not evidence that you’ve obtained His favor. Power-hungry Absalom and Ahithophel may indeed be the ones in view here, but the same is true no matter what names we might fill in. Earthly riches fall far short of the riches we have in Christ. Is anything too great or difficult for our God? Philippians tells us, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Look at the connection between riches and God’s glory. Riches should be something that we realize are from the Father, and all the glory for them should be given to Him! Most people think it’s because of their personal achievement and look down on others, forgetting that their ability to earn riches at all comes from the Lord.
Meanwhile, the poor often allow their poverty to justify stealing from or carrying grudging attitudes towards those who have more than they. In truth, both groups need to remember that only God has a standard of measure by which He will judge the world. And guess what? Money has nothing to do with it! Even though we’ll be judged for what we do with what we have, money is of no value to God! David says it’s not the amount of riches that God will judge one for. It is by His own perfect standard of moral purity and what will bring Him glory. The result will be rewards for those who love Him for what He did in dying on the cross for their sins, and eternal judgment for those who refused to accept His gift of salvation, worth more than all the treasures in the world! The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Can we, like Job, say, regardless, “Blessed be the name of the Lord?” It’s certainly a thought worth considering.
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