Buying Immortality

Psalm 49: 12, 20 “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.”

Observation: This verse is presented twice in Psalm 49. In both places it references those who are rich in the things of this world: “Their inner thought is that their houses are forever … they have called their lands after their own name,” (v. 11) Then, “Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich … for when he dies he will carry nothing away (vs. 16–17). About such men and women it says, “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.”

Application: As I read this passage today a completely unexpected image dropped into my mind, and it was as chilling today as when I first saw the image many years ago. I was driving through endless miles of cactus and salt grass in south Texas when a series of identical signs caught my eye on a fence next to the highway. The details are lost to the cobwebs of my memory, but the thrust of the message was as heart-piercing then as it is this morning, that so-and-so donated these thousands of acres to some government agency. The intent of the sign was clearly that the wealth of this man might be recognized and is name perpetuated. There was even language in the sign making clear that it was the donor, not a grateful recipient, who had posted the signs. It was stomach-turning, and has caused me to pray for this man to be drawn to Christ that he might truly be eternally remembered in heaven for Christ’s singular accomplishment, not his own.

“Though men shall praise you … (you) shall go to the generation of (your) fathers … and shall never see the light.” (v. 18).

And I wonder: have I tried to buy immortality? Have I made gifts to children or organizations with the hope of self-glorification? Such gifts, whether during life or at death … have they been motivated by the hope that my “ … houses are forever, and (my) dwelling places to all generations? Have I called (my) lands after (my) own name? This is the way of those who are foolish” (vs. 11, 13).

The hardest part of my own estate planning has been to create plans that recognize that everything I have belongs to God. I know that He will take care of the people I love. He will take care of the ministries I am passionate about. And I also know that He would have both the people and the ministries I love learn dependence upon Him, not on an inheritance from me. This is, or ought to be, the core struggle of every Christian as they plan the distribution of their estate: how can I do this so what I leave does not make it possible for those I love the most to not have to develop their own deep reliance upon God?

Prayer: Father, You have worked a lifetime to pry from my fingers’ tight grasp literally everything of this world. Show me how to give it up to You with the same kind of joy and thanksgiving as I experience when the offering plate is passed. These issues are huge. You have said more about these things than about heaven and hell combined. So teach me, Lord. Guide my understanding as I work on my end-of-life plans so I can get in on what You are up to in my family’s life and in the ministries You lead me to help perpetuate. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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