Psalm 49: You Can’t Take It With You

Read Psalm 49:1-20

You Can’t Take It With You

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.
(Psalm 49:16-17)

“You can’t take it with you!” We ought to somehow tattoo that bit of wisdom into our minds and think about it every morning as we head off into the day, and then reflect on it every night as we lay our head down on the pillow. In our culture, as I suspect has been the case in every culture, it is so easy to get caught up in the race to get rich, to have things, to look good, to gain power, to become admired, and to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.

But at the end of the day, this truth remains intact: You can’t take it with you.

There was once a very rich man who knew he was going to die, so he had all his assets converted into gold bars, put the gold in a big bag on his bed, draped his body over the bag, and then he died! When he woke up, he was in heaven at the pearly gates. Saint Peter met him, and with a concerned look on his face said, “Well, I see you actually managed to get here with something from earth! That doesn’t happen too often. But unfortunately, you can’t bring that in.”

The man pleaded, “Oh please, I must have it. It means everything to me. It’s my life!”

Saint Peter wasn’t impressed: “Sorry, my friend, if you want to keep that bag, then I’m afraid you’ll have to go to ‘the other place.’ You don’t want to go there, believe me.”

But the man was unchanged, and he said, “Well, I won’t part with this bag.”

Peter said, “Have it your way. But before you go, would you mind if I looked in the bag to see what it is that you’re willing to trade eternal life for?”

The man said, “Sure, go ahead. Then you’ll see why I could never part with this.”

Saint Peter looked in the bag, saw the gold bars, and with a puzzled look on his face, said to the man, “You mean you’re willing to go to hell for what we pave our streets with?”

The writers of this psalm said, “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… But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” (Psalm 49:13-15)

Make sure to keep that perspective; it will save your life. And do your investing in the only One who will make your efforts count beyond this life for all eternity.

There is nothing like a calm look into the eternal world
to teach us the emptiness of human praise.”

—Robert Murray McCheyne

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