You Can’t Take It With You

Psalm 49

One of the most difficult to translate – “Parts of Psalm 49 are extremely difficult to follow.” Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal Made more difficult since subject addressed is complex, implications for all people in all time in every part of life. Deals with profound concepts from practical, experiential perspective. At the root, addresses issue of confidence – what is it’s object; is it worthy; will it endure; does it make sense to trust in that? what are consequences of trusting in that? how should we think about those who trust in that? if we don’t trust in that, how should we think about that? what is truly important and significant in life?

Now, for the expositor, the pastor-teacher, how do you take all that and apply to these people on this day? Only by addressing a few basic principles, encouraging further meditation and study!!

Four divisions to the psalm which is more preaching than praying or singing: first, a call to attention (1-4); second, analysis of those who trust in things (5-13); third, contrast between the materialist and the godly (14-15); finally, exhortation and reminder to live well in light of these truths (16-20).

A. call to attention v.1-4

listen up, everybody; I mean everybody!

principles apply regardless of geographic or political boundaries

not something that works for third-world countries, maybe developing nations, but top industrialized nations can safely ignore (or vice versa)

same is true with respect to social and economic status

when it comes to trust in the ultimate sense, the rules don’t change

don’t advance / evolve from one set of needs to another, from dependence to independence

children may outgrow dependence on parents, no one outgrows dependence on God; in reality, no one ever has, ever will be truly and completely independent

includes heaven, too! creatures by design are dependent

what comes next is important

things being declared are not personal opinion, did not have origin with him

“he had no intention to vend fancies of his own, but to advance what he had learned in the school of God.” Calvin

purpose is to reveal and explain what is otherwise obscure

life sometimes seems to serve up riddles – intent is to solve the riddle, to provide understanding

is life really the way the materialist thinks it is?

B. their foolish confidence v.5-13

here’s the challenge: think about it, do your fears have real substance; is your mistrust warranted (5)

is it rational to think this way about my situation? more important, is it biblical? is it how God sees it, would have me think about it?

“I feel as though I was laboring to carry a truck full of Teamsters (Think big, fat, dead weight…you get it) on my back and it was just taken off. Nothing has changed [in the situation], but much has changed in this home because God has helped me to see some things I was not focused on in this conflict. Namely……Him. My perspective has changed in relation to feeling attacked, how I should view things, why I should be concerned, etc….”

what sort of people think this way (6)

“It is to be noted that they are not described as vicious or God-denying or defying. They are simply absorbed in the material, and believe that land and money are the real, solid goods. They are the same men as Jesus meant when He said that it was hard for those who trusted in riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Expositor’s Bible

described another way: just going through life, thinking only about the immediate

“Let’s live for this moment right now, because what else are we really sure of?”

living as though nothing matters or even exists beyond what we can detect with our senses

amount of wealth/possessions not the important piece; it’s the attitude about it – that stuff can meet their needs

even those who boast in their abundance have deep down doubt – is it really enough, will it really satisfy

here’s how you ought to look at it: (7-9)

even the wealthiest can’t buy their soul

limitations to what “money” can buy, where money can buy things – Confederate money didn’t work in North; cannot buy health, life, strength, love, satisfaction, joy, success, wisdom

Jesus asked: Matt. 16:26 What will a man give in exchange for his soul?

one person cannot ransom another from death, much less acquire their own ransom

bottom line – “the ransom price for a human life is too high” NET; if those who practice / promote abortion & euthanasia & assisted suicide believed this, they would stop

price for a life is a life; since condemned sinners don’t even have one life, situation is truly hopeless – apart from a substitute

death comes to all (10)

the record is unmistakeably clear: no one escapes death, yet the fool still tries –

cryogenic preservation in hopes of future technology

surgeries and spa treatments and nutritional supplements and gimmicks at best deny advancement of time

not just that individual dies, materialistic hopes / investments against death die with him

A priest, a rabbi, a doctor and a lawyer are gathered at a mutual friend’s graveside to mourn his passing. The priest says to the others, “I think our good friend would have liked to take something with him to his next life.” He pulls a $100 bill from his wallet and drops it on the casket. The rabbi agrees, “That’s a fine idea,” and drops his own $100 bill on the casket. The doctor, not to be outdone, does the same.

The lawyer murmurs, “What a wonderful thought,” as he gazes down at their friend’s casket. Whipping out his pen, he quickly writes a check for $400, drops it in to the grave and takes the three $100 bills as change.

monuments are temporary (11)

even “old man of the mountain” is no more

monuments lose their significance – people and events they memorialize are forgotten, e.g., Stonehenge

successive generations overwrite earlier record: Hurricane Road / Wilson Road

what separates you from the critters? not much! (12-13)

as far as enduring mark left in ever-changing world, not so much

no real guarantees you’ve left the world a better place – depends on what others do with what you leave behind

take moment, think about what we’ve just described; make you feel all warm and fuzzy??

C. my comfort v.14-15

stark contrast between materialist and godly – all comes down to confidence, trust

what is object of trust? in what or whom do you rest confidence… for today…. for future

who is your shepherd?

death is their shepherd (14)

they gave no thought beyond this life, their investments could bring them only as far as the grave

God is my shepherd (15)

otoh, God is shepherd who cares for his sheep in life and death and eternal life; he is only one who has power to redeem life from death – he made it obvious when he conquered death at empty tomb

take another moment, think about the contrast; to one who can think spiritually, right choice is obvious

D. final exhortation v.16-20

you can’t take it with you (16)

never mind the rich materialist, the one with power, position, possessions; only lasts for this life

even if he takes it all with him, only goes into the ground and no farther

death brings it all to an end (17-19)

like the guy in the coffin, he’ll never cash the check; whatever glory, recognition, “blessing” he enjoys confined to this life

for one who has truly trusted in his stuff, no matter how awful his last days may be he’s not in a better place in death

don’t be like those without understanding (20)

repeated theme from v.12 – one who trusts only in stuff has no understanding, is no better than favorite pet

applies to all those who follow their way of thinking, who buy into their philosophy

live like you get it

speaker presumes his audience is step or two above the beasts; otherwise why un-riddle the riddle for them

that being true, has some expectations: having pointed out foolishness of materialist, fundamental truth that you can’t take it with you, what should you do?

make sure the pattern of your life not like that of the fool

So,… has your life counted for something? that will endure after you have entered the next life? Requires investing time and treasure in what is not limited to this life, to present existence. Remember Jesus’ words: “lay up treasures in heaven”. IOW, investing in people, directly or indirectly, with goal of building the kingdom. Comes about by adding saints to the kingdom, enabling and equipping other saints to do their part to add to the kingdom. Personal witness, copies of the Scriptures, supporting those on the front lines: pastors, missionaries, church planters, Bible translators.

Means we must hold loosely those things God has entrusted to us, value the things that God (not the world) values, look for opportunities to use them for his glory and good of his church. Far better to cultivate the grace of giving rather than the skill of hoarding.


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