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Psalm 49

To the leader. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.

Hear this, all you 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 harp.

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life,
there is no price one can give to God for it.
For the ransom of life is costly,
and can never suffice,
that one should live on for ever
and never see the grave.

When we look at the wise, they die;
fool and dolt perish together
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes for ever,
their dwelling-places to all generations,
though they named lands their own.
Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
they are like the animals that perish.

Such is the fate of the foolhardy,
the end of those who are pleased with their lot.
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
Death shall be their shepherd;
straight to the grave they descend,
and their form shall waste away;
Sheol shall be their home.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.

Do not be afraid when some become rich,
when the wealth of their houses increases.
For when they die they will carry nothing away;
their wealth will not go down after them.

Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy
—for you are praised when you do well for yourself—
they will go to the company of their ancestors,
who will never again see the light.
Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
they are like the animals that perish.

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  • christopher_y

    “He who dies with the most toys wins.” – Malcolm Forbes

    “He who dies with the most toys is dead.” – The Psalmist

    I know which strikes me as more to the point.

  • thereisnorule6

    this psalm would make a good rap song.

  • Fusina

    Or, as I have heard it, “He who dies with the most toys is dead. When’s the yard sale?”

  • christopher_y

    Like, +1, Favorite, vote up…

  • Amaryllis

    Side by side, their faces blurred,
    The earl and countess lie in stone,
    Their proper habits vaguely shown
    As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
    And that faint hint of the absurd –
    The little dogs under their feet.

    Such plainness of the pre-baroque
    Hardly involves the eye, until
    It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
    Clasped empty in the other; and
    One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
    His hand withdrawn, holding her hand

    …The stone fidelity
    They hardly meant has come to be
    Their final blazon, and to prove
    Our almost-instinct almost true:
    What will survive of us is love.

    from An Arundel Tomb, Philip Larkin

  • Amtep

    “they will go to the company of their ancestors, who will never again see the light.”

    How do Bible literalists square this with the promise of resurrection in Revelation 20?

  • The “they” in question appears to be in reference to rich men who did nothing but pursue wealth throughout their lives, so they wouldn’t be getting resurrected, I presume. Revelation 20 speaks of Sheol, the first death, and to my understanding, the final judgment takes place in a twilight state where Sheol and Earth become as one. Those who pass are resurrected, while those who fail go on to the lake of fire.

    Armchair theology though. I’m not a literalist. :p

  • reynard61

    tl;dr You can’t take it with you.

    (Though I’m sure that any televangelist worth his/her toll-free number will try to convince their flock that if they read verse X and verse Y and squint just right at verse Z, and then send in $50 for this vial of blessed water from the Sea of Galilee* to pray over at bedtime, it’ll unlock Teh Sooper Seekrit Way That *You* Can Bring Your Riches With You Into Heaven!)

    *Or prayer cloth, or splinter from The True Cross, or some other cheap little tchotchke that cost a few pennies to make.

  • Amtep

    It’s not just “they”, though, it’s also “their ancestors”. Is the moral here that you should hope none of your descendants ever become rich? :-)

  • That could be a callback to one of the lines in… Exodus, if memory serves. “I am the Lord your God, who visits the iniquities of the father unto his child’s child’s child’s child.” God can be a bastard.

  • Well, one usually didn’t get rich back then by working for it. Almost everyone who was rich had ancestors who were rich. Plus, those ancestors usually did not get rich in exactly ethical ways, but from war and slavery.