A Slippery Foothold
How should we view the wealth of the wicked? How should we feel when we ourselves experience either great abundance or lack of resources? This psalm answers these questions by reminding us that wealth can often be here today, gone tomorrow. Wisdom teaches that our financial circumstances are never an appropriate cause for either self-reliance or fear.
Psalm 73 is a companion to this psalm. But rather than beginning with Psalm 49's clearheaded recognition that wealth is tenuous, Psalm 73 opens with desperate questions about the intolerable pride of the affluent wicked and their seemingly carefree existence. Both psalms, though acknowledge the slippery nature of financial security.
Best selling author Philip Yancey admires to an ambivalence about money that is shared by many Christians:
I feel pulled in opposite directions over the money issue. Sometimes I want to sell all that I own, join a Christian commune, and live out my days in intentional poverty. At other times, I want to rid myself of guilt and enjoy the fruits of our nation's prosperity. Mostly, I wish I did not have to think about money at all.
Commenting on Jesus' words in Matthew 6:19-21, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald reflects as follows:
Most of us are forever collecting things - treasures, if you will. Children collect stuffed animals, toys, lucky stones, and special mementos. Teenagers collect music CDs, baseball cards and caps, celebrity pictures. And we adults? Money, expensive playthings, and trophy homes.
And why do we do this? Perhaps it has something to do with the attempt to add to our personal sense of value. Or maybe it has to do with our perceived need for security. If I have this much at my disposal, I can protect myself from any catastrophe. Then again, having more than we really need may be bound up in the issue of power: The more I have, the more weight I can throw around.
Wherever Jesus went, he came across people acquiring wealth in the way squirrels store up nuts for the winter! One rich young community leader Jesus knew was afraid to part with what he had in order to follow Christ.
Jesus saw each of these individuals and more like them, storing up what they had: secreting it, protecting it, expanding it, bragging about it. However, this is not the kind of treasure Jesus encouraged his followers to store. His warning rings in our ears today: 'Don't do it! '
Holding on to our earthly treasure makes one increasingly vulnerable. By their very nature, there treasures are only temporal. For that reason, putting one's main attention into acquiring these things is not a prudent investment.