Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases;
for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.
Though while he lived he counted himself blessed – and men praise you when you prosper – he will join the generation of his father, who will never see the light of life.
A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish. (vv 16-20)
This psalm jumps to our attention as an abrupt shift in style and topic from those we have read up to now. This is a proverb taking the much longer and poetic form of the psalm and intended to be accompanied by the harp. There are two messages contained within the text and each is read differently depending upon which socioeconomic strata the reader approaches from. For the poor, there is assurance. Despite appearances, the wealthy shall not hold an advantage in God’s kingdom and that their wealth shall not substitute for pious lives.
For the wealthy reader who has mistakenly placed their faith and trust in their wealth, the message is more ominous. Since lucre and possessions shall not travel from one plane of existence to the next, it will be of no benefit when facing the God of the universe.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers who approve their sayings.
like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning: their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. (vv 13 – 14)
The next verse points to the only opportunity for salvation from this reality:
But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. (v 15)
That is the only promise worth our investment…
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