The Distraction of Wealth

“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 fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm 49:16-20

I would be hard-pressed to find a place in Scripture which better describes our modern reverence for wealth than this passage. Wealth and prosperity are highly regarded and people seek after it with all their might. Indeed, there is a certain security in accumulating wealth. I feel the same way at times about getting rid of debt and making a move toward more security and independence.

But all of this can come crashing down with something completely out of my control – the devaluation of our currency, a stock-market crash, plummeting home prices, a local war, etc. The fact is this – I cannot control my own security through earthly wealth, because I am not in control of what may happen. Even more important, I cannot take this wealth with me into eternal life – “his splendor will not descend with him.” Spiritual riches are what really matter for eternity, and these are gained through Jesus Christ alone. Knowing and serving him is far more valuable than anything this world gives me to hold.

Finally, the last sentence – “a man who has riches without understanding…” – implies that it IS possible to have both riches and godly wisdom. They are not mutually exclusive qualities. The life of Solomon reminds us of this possibility, though Solomon was not able to hold to both during his lifetime. Worldly wealth may be a distraction from the things of God, but it is not a guarantee of godlessness. We may be granted wealth by the Lord – and we should make every effort to honor God with it.


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