My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. . . Yea, he shall see that even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Psalm 49:1, 10
We all spend a lot of time thinking about money. Just about all of us have wondered what it would be like to win the lottery and what we would do with a lot of money. Many of us work hard to climb the economic ladder, to acquire more and more material wealth. Most of us are concerned with having material sufficiency, but then we struggle with what “sufficient” is. Is it enough to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads? Most of us might say that, but honestly, we add, money to travel, kids’ college fund, investments for retirement, a good-sized entertainment budget, regular shopping for non-essential things, etc. And sadly, there are a good number of people who live in poverty, below what is sufficient to get by. As a society, we obsess about wealth. Those who have it want to get more of it. Those who don’t have it want to get it. And those who can’t get it complain about those who have it. And there is an increasing threat from politicians of who is entitled to how much wealth and trying to redistribute it. Think about how much stress is focused around our riches, or lack thereof.
This week, I have two funerals to preside over. One thing that is made very clear at funerals is that no one dies rich. One’s descendants might get a rich inheritance, but for the person who has died, there are no riches. The person who gets buried in the solid gold casket is just as dead as the person who gets buried in a pine box. The person who was the multi-millionaire is just as dead as the beggar.
This is why Psalm 49:10 tells us “Even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.” In fact, most of this Psalm is concerned with the folly of trusting in riches. If we read the Psalms for comfort, Psalm 49 is bound to make us a little bit uneasy.
There is one very positive verse in Psalm 49. It is verse 3: “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart understanding.” These are words from the Psalmist, imploring us to listen to what follows, which is an indictment of a life pursuing riches. However, if we focus on just these words, ignoring their context, we have a great piece of advice and comfort.
The mouth and the heart are connected. The mouth (and the hands and the rest of us) manifest outwardly the thoughts of the heart. The “wisdom” that comes out of the mouth is whatever the heart has learned and understood. If the heart understands the wealth is the most important thing in life, then the mouth, the hands and everything else will be focused on material gain. If the heart understands the riches of the spirit, and that the greatest treasure is faith, then the mouth will speak this and the hands will do this.
Faith rests in the heart. The mind controls thought, and our thoughts eventually go to our hearts, which transmit them to our mouths and our hands. Thus, it is crucial that our mind takes in things of faith. It is crucial that we read Scripture, because Scripture touches both our hearts and our cognitive minds. It is important that we worship, because in worship, our minds take in thoughts that shape our hearts and then our lives. If all we hear is violent music, that is going to sow violence in our hearts and bring out anger and violence in our lives. If our minds hear the praise of God, that will also translate to the heart and then to the rest of us.
Verse 3 reminds us that the meditation in our hearts should be understanding. Understanding of God, understanding of love, understanding our purpose, understanding service to others, understanding of repentance, and ultimately understanding of salvation. There are many people of all ages who don’t understand any of these things. The wisdom of their hearts is material gain, pursuit of power, a desire for fame.
The pursuit of Christianity is a combination of the mind—after all we are rational sheep, as we hear often in liturgical prayers—and the heart, which is where the thoughts take root. The mouth speaks the wisdom of the heart. Hopefully, then, the mouth speaks the wisdom of God, which is also supported by the work of the hands, which are used to serve, rather than to just acquire things. When the heart understands the things of God, the mouth speaks appropriately and what we do with our hands and our lives follows accordingly.
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 understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre. Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me, men who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice, ha he should continue to live on forever, and never see the Pit. Yea, he shall see 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 names lands their own. Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who have foolish confidence, the end of those who are pleased with their portion. 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. Be not afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. Though, while he lives, he counts himself happy, and though a man gets praise when he does well for himself, he will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never more see the light. Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49
Spend time taking in the things of God, so that our minds are filled with Godly thoughts, which will lead our mouths to be filled with Godly words, and our lives with Godly actions.
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