Psalm 49 – God, Death, and Cold Hard Cash

Bible opened to Psalm 49 with Endangered Species dark chocolate with cacao nibs

Today’s passage: Psalm 49

Today’s chocolateEndangered Species dark chocolate with cacao nibs

This psalm actually answers a question that I wasn’t entirely aware that I had. I’d started thinking lately: what if we die because we run out of money? We can’t afford food or medical attention or supplies–we can’t buy what we need to remain living. Perhaps, even in the case of needing medical technology that doesn’t even exist yet, we die because we can’t afford to develop the technology, we can’t pay the cost to make what we need possible. This is an absurd proposition, but it had started to take hold in my mind.

And the sons of Korah know it’s absurd. In Psalm 49, they tell us,

No man can by any means redeem his brother
Or give to God a ransom for him—
For the redemption of his soul is costly,
And he should cease trying forever—
That he should live on eternally,
That he should not undergo decay. (7-9)

Why can no amount of money prolong a man’s life indefinitely? It’s not because it would require an infinite amount of money. It’s because ultimately the world is the Lord’s. And without glossing over the message of Genesis 1-3 that God allowed human death to enter the world as a consequence for human sin, death is ultimately here because God wills it. You will die at the time that you will die because it’s part of God’s plan: and how much are you going to pay God to get him to change his mind? Your cash is just a wad of paper or a lump of metal, and when all is said and done, you’re only able to hold onto it for a little while because God lets you. And then you’re dead and someone else owns your money.

Knowing the futility of money to save them from death, the sons of Korah entrust their fates to God. The psalm states: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol [i.e. the place of the dead], for He will receive me” (15). The line is vague, with no explicit reference to heaven or God’s kingdom after death, but in some fashion, the speaker expects God to save him from being devoured by the jaws of the grave. It’s foolish to count on money, he tells us–so count on God.

Question of the Day: why bother with a question of the day when you’re just going to die anyway?

 

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