Psalm 49:12-13 But man, despite his riches, does not endure;
he is like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
This whole Psalm is about the futility of wealth in the face of mortality. I chose to write on these two verses on the basis of the phrase, “trust in themselves,” in the NIV, only to discover that the Japanese doesn’t say that, but rather calls such people “foolish.” It is certainly foolish to trust in yourself, but this makes me wonder what the Hebrew says. Regardless, the writer himself, knowing his Creator, trusts that death will not be the end for him. (verse 15) That was a pretty high level of faith for someone who didn’t know about the cross and resurrection of the Messiah! The writer doesn’t dwell on that, but closes the Psalm with his own summary of it: “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (verse 20) The writer concedes that riches are counted as a blessing and certainly bring social advantages, (verse 18) but he is warning us not to be blinded by them. Going back to my original passage, it is indeed very dangerous to approve of someone just because they are wealthy or “successful,” much less become their follower. However, we see that around us all the time. People become oddly blind when shown great material wealth! If we are financially blessed we need to be grateful, recognizing that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth, (Deuteronomy 8:18) but remembering that just as this Psalm says, material wealth is insignificant on the scale of eternity.
I don’t think I’ve ever been especially overawed by wealth for its own sake. Pictures of huge mansions, such as are plastered over the Internet, largely disgust me. At the same time, I recognize that poverty can be grinding indeed, so I don’t discount the material in terms of this life. Right now Cathy and I are at the most financially comfortable place we’ve been in our marriage, but we still don’t reach the level that I saw in an article just yesterday that defined “middle class” in the US. Regardless, I feel assured that I have “the riches of glory,” (Ephesians 3:16, etc.) and that is more than enough.
Father, thank You for Your provision on all levels. Thank You also for the awareness that every bit of it is grace. Help me be the steward You want me to be of all of it, whether it is material, intellectual, or spiritual. May I be a useful vessel in Your hands, for Your provision to flow as You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!