Take Hold of True Life Today

By Mark D. Roberts

November 4, 2016

The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough — so that they should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others.

Psalm 49:9-10


Dandelion back lit by the sun.A few years ago, as I was walking through the financial district of New York, I encountered a large, boisterous group of people who had camped out in Zuccotti Park. Unintentionally, I had stumbled upon the Occupy Wall Street protest. Placards, banners, and chants announced, “We are the 99%.” They decried what they considered to be the injustice of the 1%, the wealthiest Americans, many of whom worked on Wall Street.

As I observed the protest, all of a sudden a reporter stuck a microphone in my face. A TV cameraman filmed as I was asked, “What do you think of this protest?” I said something about being glad to live in a land where people are free to express their views openly. I doubt what I said was incendiary enough to make the six o’clock news, however. I guess I looked like someone who was about to rail on the protest. The reporter seemed disappointed in my patriotic and calm response.

In retrospect, I wish I had remembered Psalm 49. You see, this psalm speaks directly to those who resent the power and privilege of the wealthy. It offers unexpected comfort: Even the rich cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God (49:7). Indeed, no one can ever pay enough to live forever and “not see decay” (49:9).

I wonder what would have happened if I had said to that television reporter, “Oh well. I don’t worry much about the 1%. They’re going to die, just like everyone else.” I might have made the evening news if I had paraphrased Psalm 49: “Those rich folk on Wall Street, they will die, just like these protesters. Just like you and me, in fact.”

Psalm 49 should not be used to defend injustice or to suggest that it’s fine to be rich and unconcerned about the suffering of the poor (see Micah 6:1-16James 5:1-6). There is plenty in Scripture that calls us to care for the poor (for example, Isa. 58:1-14). But, the fact that we all will die puts life and riches in perspective. It can help us break free from the bondage of resenting those who have what we do not. It reminds us that true life is not to be found in the accumulation of goods, but in using what we have been given for good. As we read in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life! Such life is to be found, not in riches, not in resentment, but in Jesus Christ, and in living each day for his purposes. Don’t you want to take hold of the life that is truly life today?


How do you respond to Psalm 49? Do you find this Psalm encouraging? Scary? A downer?

How might the fact that everyone dies — including you and me — make a positive difference in the way you live today?


Gracious God, thank you for the reminder of that which I’d rather forget. When I remember that I will die, I once again entrust to you all that I am. May I live each day for you and your purposes.

I also thank you, dear Lord, for delivering me from death through Jesus Christ. Thank you for the abundant life you have given me, which I am beginning to experience now. May I experience this life today in all that I do.

To you be the glory! Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Anxiety when unscrupulous people succeed (Psalms 49, 50, 52, 62)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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