Don’t Envy the Temporary Success of the Wicked

Sometimes it is so hard for Christians to see the unabated success of the wicked in the face of some significant trials and struggles. If the troubles weren’t bad enough, it is made worse when the unbelievers around us point out how foolish we are for clinging to hope in Jesus when we could simply make it easier on ourselves and do what it seems like everyone else is doing to get ahead.

In Psalm 49, the sons of Korah wrestled with this very issue and want to help us to endure by clinging to the Lord. To do this, they inject a massive dose of truth that we can easily forget. To begin with, they need to get our attention:

Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together! My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.” (Psalm 49:1–4, ESV)

With the false health-wealth and prosperity gospel out there, many people all over the world are convinced that they can have all the wealth and riches that this world offers and heaven too. With Joel Olsteen, Hillsong Church, TBN preachers, and other snake-oil salesmen selling a false gospel for profit, it seems as if you are losing out if you don’t get a piece of the action. It’s not that the Lord is against wealth, but those that would seek to do anything to gain it, or who make it their god and driving desire in life become shipwrecked in their faith.

To address this tendency to seek pleasure and success apart from God, the psalmist slaps his readers with the truth to awaken us from the stupor that can overcome us. He writes:

Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah

(Psalm 49:5–15, ESV)

Below are 4 Great Truths that We Can Take to the Bank Regarding those Who Have Made Success and Money Their God.

  1. Great Wealth Cannot Buy Spiritual Freedom.Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (Psalm 49:7–9, ESV)
  2. Great Power Cannot Stop Death.
    • Everyone dies.For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.” (Psalm 49:10, ESV)
    • Everyone is buried.Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah” (Psalm 49:11–13, ESV)
    • Everyone is raised up: The wicked to eternal death, and the righteous to eternal life.Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:14–15, ESV)
  3. Nobody Will Take Anything With Them.For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.” (Psalm 49:17, ESV)
  4. The Wicked Rejoice in Temporary Pleasures. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light.” (Psalm 49:18–19, ESV)

Therefore, Get Understanding! With this truth and clarity comes the reality of where we need to focus. “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20, ESV). Do not be like a dumb beast that simply lives for its next meal. Instead seek the living God who is worth more than silver or gold.

Our Enemy’s Great Deception

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“We are told that men no longer believe in Satan; that for our generation the invisible house of bondage, with its fallen monarch, no longer exists! If this be so, a great deal more is or will be presently disbelieved in as well; but a Christian who submits to and accepts the teaching of the New Testament cannot but be struck with this fresh proof of the finished ingenuity of our great spiritual enemy. Like those masters of the art of earthly war who conquer less frequently by an ostentatious display of force on the battle field than by carefully concealed surprises which turn the position of an antagonist, so Satan, it seems, has persuaded a frivolous and shallow generation that he no longer exists but as a discredited phantom of the past, as an extinct terror, as a popular joke! Ah! he has not been at work upon the human heart for nothing during these many thousands of years; he knows how to lull us to sleep to the best advantage, that he may take our thoughts and affections, and, above all, our passions, well into his keeping.”

—H.P. Lidden