Words of Wisdom – Psalm 49

The author of Psalm 49 wants to give you wisdom to guide your life. Will you listen?

Hear this, all you peoples;
    listen, all who live in this world, Psalm 49:1

The psalmist encourages us to have an eternal perspective on our lives and on money. He does this by focusing on the inevitability of death. None of us enjoy thinking about death, but there is great wisdom to be found in meditating for a moment on our mortality.


Psalm 49 is the last in a set of 7 songs by the Sons of Korah. The psalm is a wisdom psalm with a relatively simple structure.

The psalm begins with an introduction asking you to listen to the wisdom of this song. This is followed by two sections each ending with a similar refrain reminding us of our mortality.

The central theme is found in verse 11:

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
    their dwellings for endless generations,
    though they had named lands after themselves. Psalm 49:11


Introduction: Listen to My Proverb

Psalm 49:1-4

The first four verse simply encourage us to listen to this wisdom poem. We are told that we will become wiser and gain understanding if we will pay attention.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3

We All Die

Psalm 49:5-12

This section introduces us to the two main themes:

  1. Everyone dies
  2. Your money cannot save You

The simple truth is that money cannot buy eternal life. No matter how much money we accumulate, it won't make any difference in the end.

the ransom for a life is costly,
    no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
    and not see decay. Psalm 49:8-9

In the end the rich and poor, the wise and foolish all die. To hammer this truth home the psalmist ends this section with a refrain.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
    they are like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:12

Redemption Is Found Only in God

Psalm 49:13-20

After this rather discouraging first section, the poet switches to a comparison between the one who trusts in riches and the one who trusts in God. Yes they will both die, but the one who is upright, the one who made God his focus, will find the better end.

But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
    he will surely take me to himself. Psalm 49:15

God is not impressed by our wealth. No money is enough to protect us from death. But the one who trusts in God will enjoy the presence of God forever. Our true treasure should be God and our faith should be in God not money.

In addition to the refrain, found in verses 12 and 20 there is also a strong contrast set up between verses 7 and 15.

"No one can redeem the life of another" verse 7 -- "But God will redeem my life from the realm of the dead" verse 15

So what is the psalmists point?

Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
    when the splendor of their houses increases; Psalm 49:16

Don't let the splendor and riches of other people get your mind off of what really matter. There are magazines and TV shows dedicated to showing off the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It is easy to think that money is what really counts. "If only I had a little more money then I could ..." But wealth is temporary. At best it can bring freedom and influence in this world, but in the end it makes no difference.

The only thing that will matter in the end is whether you placed your trust in God.

People who have wealth but lack understanding
    are like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20


Where is your focus? Money or God. One hundred years from now only one of those two will matter.

Jerry Wyrick

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship, Psalms and tagged , .