You Can’t Take It with You
September 4, 2011“Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.” — Psalm 49:16–17
Several years ago, a popular bumper sticker (and even a T-shirt) proclaimed the following: “He who dies with the most toys wins!”
The phrase was supposed to be a humorous statement about men and their toys, an offshoot of the joke that the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. Basically, it meant that the person who had accumulated the most stuff in life won.
The writer of Psalm 49, however, had a very different outlook on our final end, when it comes to death. Rich or poor, no matter how little or how much wealth one amasses during a life time makes no difference in the end.
Indeed, the Psalmist wrote, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them — the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (v. 7). In the end, our money, our possession, yes, even our toys, are of no value, “for they will take nothing with them when they die” (v. 17).
A sobering reminder that at the moment of death, we all will be empty-handed before God.
While we may regard this message a depressing one, Psalm 49 can also be viewed as a wake-up call as to how we consider our money and our possessions. You see, many who have wealth trust in themselves and their resources. They look to their wealth as a protection from the harsh realities of life and to provide security for an uncertain future. But, as the psalm writer points out, such security is an illusion, “People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish” (v.12).
Rather than focus on investing in earthly treasures, our efforts should be investing and following godly pursuits. We should regard our worldly wealth as a gift received from God to be shared with others. As we bless others with our resources, God promises that He will bless us.
As the psalm writer concludes, there lies our true hope and our real security lies with a gracious God who “will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself” (v.15).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein