"Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world… I will incline my ear to a proverb…Why should I fear in times of trouble when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me?" Psalm 49 is a psalm about listening, about tuning in to hear the voice of God's wisdom amid all the voices surrounding us. This passage is a call to reject the world's calling, which trusts and exalts influence, power, and wealth. Psalm 49 gives us our spiritual compass in a world that veers back and forth between creating our own hope and absolute despair.
The Psalmist's world described in Psalm 49 sounds all too familiar. Sadly, we also live in a world where wealth brings power and arrogance, and the weak and vulnerable suffer. The universal disease of this sin promotes the lie that you can lead a different life from everyone else with enough money and power, a life that appears to place you above the law and out of God's judgment. This sin leads to little or no regard for the well-being of others.
The abuse of wealth to cover up misdeeds and to cover up the suffering of others is as depressing in our day as it was in the Psalmists and can lead us to despair or make us long for power. However, when those thoughts take hold of us, we must remind ourselves of the truth of Psalm 49. The affluent and influential share the same destiny as those they have ripped off, ignored, abused, and exploited. We will all stand before God, and ill-gotten or ill-kept wealth will not insulate or insure them against the great reality of death.
The certainty of death changes the meaning of life. Psalm 49, in its proverbial wisdom, tells us that the rich have a false sense of security and perception of invincibility, but this psalm says: not so fast. There is a time limit on their power and influence, and it will fade away. This psalm is a needed reminder that our power and life on this earth are temporary.
Jesus called us not to seek temporary glory from this earth: "How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44). He knew that He would be put to death by the powerful who were too afraid to upset the status quo, "for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God" (John 12:43).
Psalm 49 is a proverb that warns us of the dangers of trusting in wealth as a means of lasting security. All people will die, but not everyone has the same fate. May we pray that the Lord would grant us all the wisdom to resist the call that wealth will answer our deepest needs. May we pray that we walk the path of righteousness even when it is difficult and we are despised, like our Savior. May we ask God to stir our hearts in the darkness and save us from the lure of power and control.
Lord, help us live a wise life where our ears are attuned to your voice and truth. May we be reminded of our Savior's voice who urges us not to seek fleeting glory but to live a humble life, blameless and innocent, amid a crooked and twisted generation, among whom we may shine as lights in the world; leading others to You.