There is an expression, “You can’t take it with you.” This sentiment is clearly expressed in Psalm 49. Not only can one not take their wealth with them, but it won’t save them from the grave (verses 6-9) and it can’t redeem another.
God gives us truths throughout the Bible. Truths . . . answers . . . that are waiting to be found if we only look for them. If we are seeking after God through his word. This particular Psalm was one that sparked Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and was a clear refutation of the selling of indulgences, for as verse 15 clearly states, it is God alone who can redeem a soul from the power of Sheol.
This Psalm also brought to mind the poem, “Richard Cory,” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
1 Hear this, all you peoples.
Listen, all you inhabitants of the world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor together.
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom.
My heart shall utter understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to a proverb.
I will open my riddle on the harp.
5 Why should I fear in the days of evil,
when iniquity at my heels surrounds me?
6 Those who trust in their wealth,
and boast in the multitude of their riches—
7 none of them can by any means redeem his brother,
nor give God a ransom for him.
8 For the redemption of their life is costly,
no payment is ever enough,
9 that he should live on forever,
that he should not see corruption.
10 For he sees that wise men die;
likewise the fool and the senseless perish,
and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inward thought is that their houses will endure forever,
and their dwelling places to all generations.
They name their lands after themselves.
12 But man, despite his riches, doesn’t endure.
He is like the animals that perish.
13 This is the destiny of those who are foolish,
and of those who approve their sayings.
14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol.
Death shall be their shepherd.
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.
Their beauty shall decay in Sheol,
far from their mansion.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
16 Don’t be afraid when a man is made rich,
when the glory of his house is increased;
17 for when he dies he will carry nothing away.
His glory won’t descend after him.
18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul—
and men praise you when you do well for yourself—
19 he shall go to the generation of his fathers.
They shall never see the light.
20 A man who has riches without understanding,
is like the animals that perish.
1 The LORD reigns! Let the peoples tremble.
He sits enthroned among the cherubim.
Let the earth be moved.
2 The LORD is great in Zion.
He is high above all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
He is Holy!
4 The King’s strength also loves justice.
You do establish equity.
You execute justice and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the LORD our God.
Worship at his footstool.
He is Holy!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel among those who call on his name;
they called on the LORD, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud.
They kept his testimonies,
the statute that he gave them.
8 You answered them, LORD our God.
You are a God who forgave them,
although you took vengeance for their doings.
9 Exalt the LORD, our God.
Worship at his holy hill,
for the LORD, our God, is holy!
1 Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the holy ones.
2 Let Israel rejoice in him who made them.
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his name in the dance!
Let them sing praises to him with tambourine and harp!
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people.
He crowns the humble with salvation [yeshu`ah].
5 Let the holy ones rejoice in honor.
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 May the high praises of God be in their mouths,
and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To execute vengeance on the nations,
and punishments on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings with chains,
and their nobles with fetters of iron;
9 to execute on them the written judgment.
All his holy ones have this honor.
Praise the LORD!
Passages from the World Messianic Bible