If you have read through the proverbs or the book of Ecclesiastes, a lot of what we read in Psalm 49 will seem familiar. Solomon, amidst his many riches and wives was granted God’s wisdom and realized that all of it was worthless and without meaning. The psalmist gives an introduction telling us to pay attention, as he will sing us a proverb with his harp. It would be neat if we could hear this melody in its original form but today we are left with just the words. So let us not only lend our ears, but our hearts. As we read this psalm, let us intently listen with what God is trying to relay to our hearts so we don’t fall victim to the foolishness of this world.
In today’s world of consumerism and especially the current holiday season that tends to feed into it, we must be wary of why we do what we do. The bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than receive, but it does not say we should give to receive. The psalmist points out that it is easy for man to boast in his riches. When we shop for that “perfect gift” for someone…what makes it perfect? Is it how they react? Is it that we spent more money than they did on their gift for us? Does it seem more extravagant? Is it most fitting to their personality? (how clever are you!) While we may read this psalm to talk about financial wealth we can also look at wealth of different kinds: accolade, appreciation, likes on Facebook…the list really does go on about how much we boast in ourselves. We are reminded by this sobering psalm: none of it matters! When you die (and you will die…) it’s very unlikely that your obituary will say, “they were the best gift giver ever!” and nobody is going to fork over the money for your tombstone to be engraved “world’s best gifter”.
Maybe, as is pointed out in verse 7, we think we need to add more value to our lives so God will give us or someone we love more time on earth. I don’t think this is a very conscious thought, but deep down if we are honest with ourselves we might find that as a child we didn’t feel very valued or important, so we work so hard to increase our own personal value in the lives of others. In Psalm 46 we read, “cease striving and know that I am God.” The psalmist uses that same concept here in verse 8 that we need to stop trying to redeem ourselves in the eyes of others and the eyes of God. We simply cannot do it. This is why God redeemed us through Jesus! If we could do it on our own, then Jesus wouldn’t have been necessary!
It’s been said that you never see a U-Haul being pulled behind a Hearst. I have heard, however, of some pretty elaborate methods of being buried and “laid to rest” to include a classic Cadillac which was piece by piece unearthed by thieves long after the deceased was buried in it! We try so hard to leave our legacy behind by putting our names on buildings, buying land, and establishing “permanent” structures and such but nobody really cares. Just like our bodies will decay so will our legacy because it is of man, not of God. Only His legacy will endure and if we buy into anything else, we are stupid sheep being fooled and guided by death itself. It’s a slow, foolish death to try to increase our value and worth. The psalmist reminds us that we will die just like the filthy animals of the earth and leave nothing behind that will last.
In Matthew 6, Jesus encourages us to invest in the everlasting Kingdom:
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.
Is your value counted here on this earth that one day will be no more, or in God’s Kingdom which will last forever? The only thing that endures forever is God’s love. How much of THAT are you giving this holiday season?