6 Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, 7 none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him— 8 for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever— 9 that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit. 10 For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. 12 Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. 13This is the way of those who are foolish, and of their posterity who approve their sayings. Selah
What the psalmist in today’s verses is saying is exactly what Jesus said: Wealth can’t bring to your life anything of lasting value. Verses 7-9 tell us that salvation cannot be bought. No one will get into heaven through philanthropy. Building hospitals and orphanages, digging wells in Africa, and even feeding the poor, as good as those acts may be, will not purchase salvation for anyone.
What is salvation? We are saved when trust in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 1:8-10). Good works don’t save you, but they are part of the life of the saved. The best things in life feed the spirit, not the flesh. Verses 6 and 7 above tell us that those who trust in their wealth, thinking they can buy their way into heaven and won’t see the Pit, are fools. The buildings named after them and the land holdings in their name—soon no one will even remember those names.
Please remember: There is nothing wrong with having “things.” In 3 John 3, he wrote that he prayed for his beloved friend Gaius that he would prosper in all things even as his soul has prospered. But the most precious possession of Gaius, according to the verses, was that he walked in the truth. Can we honestly say that that is our most precious possession? Listen, there is nothing wrong with travel and leisure and enjoying life, but having money will do nothing for you when you face that great equalizer, Death. Life is a short opportunity to sow into eternity. There is little time left to reach this lost world before all hell breaks loose on the earth. The danger in our day is that some people get so busy that all of their efforts and resources are dedicated to making a name for themselves instead of exalting the name of the One who saved them.
Are you putting as much effort into building God’s kingdom as you do your company or career? When you die, your name might still be on the building, but after you’ve been dead for a while, no one will remember, the building will sell, and someone else’s name will be on it. Did you ever stop to think that it’s possible to have a saved soul and a wasted life? That’s the heart of Psalm 49, accompanied by a warning to the wealthy about trusting in riches to do what cannot be done with money. What is more important in these last of the last days: the accumulation of wealth, or evangelism? You know the answer to that question. I just think we need a reminder once in a while of what is truly important.
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