A Dark Saying: Wealth in Bad Hands
Psalm 49:1-20
Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world:…

The author and the date of this psalm are alike unknown. There are, however, matters concerning it of much more importance, which we do know. One of these is that the writer was a believer in God; and that while the dark problems of life perplexed him, as they do and have done so many others, he saw light above and beyond them. Another is that in this psalm we have the words of one who had "inclined his ear" to hear what the great Speaker would say unto him, and what he would have him write. He would not put pen to paper till he received the word from heaven. "Antequam ad alios loquar, prius devote audiam ipse Spiritum Sanctum intus me erudientem." "In the words, 'I will incline mine ear to a similitude,' it is plainly implied that the wisdom which the psalmist would communicate is no self-sprung possession, but one that has been acquired by him... he only brought forth what he had learned in the school of God" (Hengstenberg, in loc.). The theme of the psalm is suggested by the fact, so often observed, that much of the world's wealth is in the hands of the ungodly. Concerning it, "in Psalm 37. David, in Psalm 49. the sons of Korah, and in Psalm 73. Asaph, teach the same truth" (Fausset, p. 258). In dealing therewith we shall portion out the homiletic expositions in three distinct outlines. In this we deal with the darker side of the theme.

I. ONE OF LIFE'S MOST PERPLEXING FACTS IS THAT SO MUCH WEALTH SHOULD BE IN BAD HANDS. No observant man can fail to see many illustrations of this. The greatness assumed by the rich often overshadows humbler souls. It sets them wondering why God should let so many of his people struggle with poverty while many of the ungodly are rolling in wealth. And, to the eye of sense, it darkens the world's outlook when, while "money answereth all things," the great bulk of it should be possessed by the godless, the selfish, the oppressors, and the vile. The fact creates fear (ver. 5) in the evil day, since those who have the money-power, and are in a sense the lords of the world, use their power unrighteously. So much so that our Lord employs the striking epithet, "the mammon of unrighteousness ' (Luke xvh). Only one hint, indeed, is given, in the word "iniquity" (ver. 5), that these rich men are evil men. "But this seems to be designed, as m our Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus, to show that the selfish, proud, boastful use of riches, the mere luxuriousness of wealth, apart from violence or unscrupulousness of conduct, is evil, and finds its end in the outer darkness" But let us note -


1. Wealth cannot screen from death (vers. 7, 8, 12). There may be (Leviticus 25:47-55), according to the Law, redemption from poverty; but no brother has any ransom price wherewith to prevent death or to deliver from it. Then, it must be given up altogether.

2. After death the wealth cannot be controlled; it is left to others (ver. 10).

3. The departed one must see corruption (ver. 10).

4. He can carry nothing away (ver. 17; 1 Timothy 6:7). The "rich" one is "bankrupt" at the moment of death.


1. They trust in riches (ver. 6; Mark 10:24).

2. They boast of their wealth (ver. 6). Yet wealth can never ward off care or sickness.

3. They shut their eyes to their precarious holding of their wealth (ver. 11).

4. They even cherish "inward thoughts" of perpetuity (ver. 11).

5. They make special efforts to perpetuate their honour (vers. 11, 12).

6. They congratulate themselves on their greatness (ver. 18; Luke 12:19). And all the while they are "fools" in wisdom's eye (ver. 13).


1. Like the brutes, they will yet be reduced to silence (ver. 12). Their proud boasts will soon be stilled.

2. They will descend to Sheol; i.e. to the realm of the departed, Neither the word "Sheol" nor the word "Hades" contains per se any moral significance, nor does either word convey per se the notion of joy or sorrow. But the connection may give such significance to the words. Such is the case here and in Luke 16:23; in both the thought of evil and of sorrow is conveyed.

3. Death will shepherd them. They will be under him, for him to lead and feed them. What a shepherd - death!

4. Their flesh will consume away; their glory will be gone (vers. 14, 17, 19, 20). No light ahead!

5. In the great awakening, "in the morning " - the morning of the resurrection - the upright, whom they despised, shall have dominion over them (LXX., κατακυριεύσουσιν). The lordship was theirs during the night, because of their riches; in the morning that lordship will be transferred to the upright, because of their righteousness (Revelation 2:26, 27). Hence, note:

1. There is no reason to fear in the day of evil; for evil itself is in the restraint of infinite Power.

2. Where the world sees cleverness and riches, be it ours to see folly and poverty, if godliness be not also there! "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness." - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.} Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:

WEB: Hear this, all you peoples. Listen, all you inhabitants of the world,

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