Introduction: The love of money is a gateway sin which can lead to other more serious sins. Here, the psalmist compares and contrasts a person of faith with a sinner to warn about seven deadly sins which stem from the love of money. These include: (1) rebellion, (2) idolatry, (3) worldliness, (4) foolish covetousness, (5) spiritual blindness, (6) faithlessness, and (7) pride.
First, the psalmist began by urging all the peoples of the Earth (both wealthy and poor) to listen to the wisdom of God’s Word. But many consumed with the love of money will refuse to heed God’s warnings. By doing so, they commit the sin of rebellion against God. Second, the psalmist warned that people who are consumed with money frequently place their trust in it. For these persons, money can become a type of idol. Third, the psalmist warned that money cannot redeem a person’s soul. But a person consumed with money frequently will not care about this. Thus, the love of money frequently leads to the sin of worldliness. Fourth, the psalmist warned that people who are consumed with money frequently pursue foolish desires that will disappear when they die. Thus, the love of money frequently leads to the sin of foolish covetousness. Fifth, the psalmist warned that people who are consumed with money become blind to the things of God and eventually sink into Sheol. The love of money also leads to spiritual blindness and the inability to understand the importance of salvation. Sixth, the psalmist stated that the person of faith will find God’s redemption of their soul. But this is something that a person consumed with their money will likely not care about. Thus, the love of money frequently leads to the deadly sin of faithlessness. Finally, the psalmist warned that a person consumed with money becomes prideful. The sin of pride in turn places a person on the path of self-destruction.
1. Rebellion: The Love of Money Frequently Leads to the Sin of Rebellion. Ps. 49:1-4.
Submit to the wisdom of God’s Word. The psalmist urged all the peoples of the Earth, both rich and poor, to heed the wisdom of God’s Word regarding covetousness: “For the music director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. 1 Hear this, all peoples; listen, all inhabitants of the world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor together. 3 My mouth will speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart will be understanding. 4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.” (Ps. 49:1-4). Although the remainder of this Psalm makes clear that the subject relates to money, the psalmist’s opening words state that he would incline his heart to hear a “proverb” and express “my riddle on the harp.” (Ps. 49:4). Jesus later stated that He spoke through parables because mankind’s hearts had become so darkened to sin that they would reject a more direct message: “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matt. 13:13).
Mankind frequently rejects the wisdom of the Word because it loves darkness. God later lamented that His people are stubborn and refuse to listen: “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked by their own advice and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and they went backward and not forward.” (Jer. 7:24). “But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me.” (Ps. 81:11). “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,” (Is. 65:2; Ro. 10:21). We rebel against God because we love darkness: “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil.” (Jo. 3:19).
Submit to God’s Word, and He will bless you. Throughout the Bible, God promises to bless those who listen to and submit to the wisdom of His Word: “A Maskil of Asaph. Listen, my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.” (Ps. 78:1). “If only they had such a heart in them, to fear Me and keep all My commandments always, so that it would go well with them and with their sons forever! . . . You shall walk entirely in the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and that it may be well for you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.” (Dt. 5:29, 33). “Hear, My people, and I will speak; Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God.” (Ps. 50:7). “Hear, My people, and I will admonish you; Israel, if you would listen to Me! . . Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” (Ps. 81:8, 13). “Praise the LORD! Blessed is a person who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments.” (Ps. 112:1). “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.” (Ps. 128:1). Thus, if you obey God’s warnings and abstain from covetousness, He will also bless you.
2. Idolatry: The Love of Money Leads to the Sin of Idolatry. Ps. 49:5-6.
Avoid placing your trust in your wealth. The psalmist warned that those who place their trust in their money find a false sense of security and make their wealth a type of idol: “5 Why should I fear in days of adversity, when the injustice of those who betray me surrounds me, 6 those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches?” (Ps. 49:5-6). The psalmist drew a contrast between his walk with God and those who trusted in money. Any time you place your trust in money it becomes an idol. Thus, Paul defined greed as a form of idolatry that should be avoided at all costs: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:3).
Placing your trust in your wealth is a sin against God. Money by itself is not a sin. If it were a sin, God would not have blessed people like Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon with great riches. Instead, trusting in your wealth makes money a type of idol: “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his evil desire.” (Ps. 52:7). “Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth.” (Ps. 73:12). “One who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” (Prov. 11:28).
When money is your idol, you may become pulled off the narrow path to salvation. Jesus gave some of His strongest warnings to those who were consumed with their wealth: “And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus responded again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”’ (Mk. 10:24-25). God wants you to place your trust in Him, not in your wealth. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. . . . Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:10, 17).
If money is the most important thing to you, it is an idol. One commentator asks two questions that reveal whether money is your idol: “ One can know if he puts his trust in his wealth if he finds too much peace and security by his accounts and holdings, and if he despairs when such things decline. He can ask the question, What loss in life would most trouble me – material or spiritual?  One can know if he boasts in his riches if he finds deepest satisfaction in gaining and measuring his wealth and if he looks for ways to display his riches. He can ask the question, What am I appropriately proud of – material things or spiritual things? In general, God’s answer to these things for the rich is to practice radical generosity — a way for them to declare their trust in the LORD and to guard against a boast in their riches. Boice pointed out that in some ways this psalm is a commentary on the story of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-21. Jesus applied the principle from that story: So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Psalm 49 has in mind just that kind of man.” (David Guzik on Ps. 49) (emphasis original).1 Every person should pray for God to reveal hidden idolatry.
Faith allows you to trust in God’s protection. You never need to fear economic pain when you have placed your complete trust in God: “4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom should I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). “Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.” (Ps. 56:9). If you fear a financial trial, place your trust in God alone.
Work hard but be content with your pay and status in life. God expects you to work hard with the talents that He gives you. But a hard work ethic should include contentment with your wages or status and freedom from greed: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; . . .” (Heb. 13:5).
3. Worldliness: The Love of Money Can Lead to the Sin of Worldliness. Ps. 49:7-9.
Focus on the things of God because there is no worldly thing that you can offer Him. The psalmist warned that people consumed with money fail to understand that money cannot redeem their souls: “7 No one can by any means redeem another or give God a ransom for him— 8 For the redemption of his soul is priceless, and he should cease imagining forever—9 that he might live on eternally, that he might not undergo decay.” (Ps. 49:7-9). Because God created everything and you cannot take your wealth with you when you die, there is literally nothing that you can offer God to pay Him for your soul. God the Father paid the ransom alone through His son Jesus: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? Death, where are your thorns? Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.” (Hos. 13:14).
The love of the world over God’s Word will pull you off your walk with Him. When you love worldly things, your heart can be turned from God, and your passions for Him may fade out. Thus, the Bible warns not to love the things of the world more than the things of God: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15; Jam. 1:27). Thus, pray for God to help you avoid worldly pressures regarding wealth and status.
Jesus conquered death at the cross. The psalmist warned that wealth will not allow you to “live on eternally and avoid having your body “undergo decay.” (Ps. 49:9). These are some of the clearest Old Testament warnings about the need for eternal salvation. David previously wrote prophetically about the “Holy One” whose body would not undergo decay: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Ps. 16:10). This foreshadowed Jesus: “Therefore, He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”’ (Acts 13:35). Although the Old Testament included a series of required sacrifices to atone for sin (Lev. 1-7), Jesus’ atoning death forever fulfilled the need for these sacrifices: “who has no daily need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all time when He offered up Himself.” (Heb. 10:12). All that is required is faith in His redemptive death (Jo. 3:16).
Your wealth cannot pay the price for your sins to redeem your soul. Although Jesus conquered death at the cross, He warned that your wealth will not allow you to do the same: “For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). “For what good does it do a person if he gains the whole world, but loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk. 9:25). The psalmist likewise stated mankind on its own cannot avoid death: “What man can live and not see death? Can he save his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” (Ps. 89:48). Elihu also declared that wealth cannot save a person from distress: “Will your cry for help keep you from distress, or all the exertions of your strength?” (Job 36:19). Thus, God warns the sinner to work out their own salvation in fear (Phil. 2:12-13).
4. Covetousness: The Love of Money Leads to Foolish Covetousness. Ps. 49:10-12.
Avoid trusting in your wealth because your wealth will vanish when you die. The psalmist further warned that people consumed with their money frequently pursue foolish desires, which will vanish when they die: “10 For he sees that even wise people die; the foolish and the stupid alike perish and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inner thought is that their houses are forever and their dwelling places to all generations; they have named their lands after their own names. 12 But man in his splendor will not endure; he is like the animals that perish.” (Ps. 49:10-12). The psalmist called those who believe that their wealth will last forever “foolish” and “stupid” in their beliefs.
Greed violates God’s Tenth Commandment against coveting. When you long for something that was not meant for you, you violate God’s Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17; 5:21). Paul is clear that this Commandment still applies to believers today. It is included in Jesus’ command that you love your neighbor as yourself: “For this, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Ro. 13:9).
Guard yourself against greed and covetousness, which can defile you before God. Jesus warned believers to stay vigilant to guard their hearts against greed and any form of covetousness: “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”’ (Lk. 12:15). Coveting, like the other Ten Commandments, are sins of the heart that defile you: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). Thus, if you covet and refuse to repent, you are defiling yourself before God.
Wealth cannot pay the ransom owed for your soul. The Bible repeatedly warns that you cannot take your wealth with you when you die: “Certainly every person walks around as a fleeting shadow; they certainly make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.” (Ps. 39:6). Solomon, the richest man in the world, learned from his own errors that the love of money is an evil and futile error that should be avoided: “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is widespread among mankind: a person to whom God has given riches, wealth, and honor, so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God has not given him the opportunity to enjoy these things, but a foreigner enjoys them. This is futility and a severe affliction.” (Ecc. 6:1-2). James gave a similar warning: “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits, will die out.” (Jam. 1:11).
Like the animals, no person can escape the death. The psalmist warned that all will eventually “perish” “like the animals.” (Ps. 49:12). Solomon gave a similar warning: “I said to myself regarding the sons of mankind, ‘God is testing them in order for them to see that they are as animals, they to themselves. For the fate of the sons of mankind and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath, and there is no advantage for mankind over animals, for all is futility.”’ (Ecc. 3:18-19). Jesus warned that those who fail to plan for their eventual death are “fools”: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is demanded of you; and as for all that you have prepared, who will own it now?” (Lk. 12:20).
Store up treasures in heaven and not on Earth. Instead of hoarding wealth on Earth, Jesus urged believers to store up their treasures in heaven: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matt. 6:19-20). Any time you give in secret to help those in need or tithe in private to serve the Kingdom, you store up treasures.
5. Spiritual Blindness: The Love of Money Leads to Spiritual Blindness. Ps. 49:13-14.
Failing to seek after God leads to spiritually blindness to the importance of salvation. The psalmist warned that people who are consumed with the love of money become blind to the things of God, leading many on a path to Sheol: “13 This is the way of those who are foolish, and of those after them who approve their words. Selah 14 Like sheep they sink down to Sheol; death will be their shepherd; and the upright will rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no lofty home.” (Ps. 49:13-14). Covetousness can blind a person to their path of destruction.
The worldly wisdom to pursue wealth above all else is foolishness to God. Becoming wealthy and powerful are frequently praised in society as the highest measure of success. But the Bible warns it is foolishness to pursue the wisdom of the world: “Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God. . . .” (1 Cor. 3:19). Thus, you should be careful not to conform to the wisdom of the world. Whenever you feel trapped in the pursuits of money or wealth, pray for God to renew your mind: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2; Col. 3:2).
Those who reject God’s warnings are blinded to their self-imposed curse. Many will reject God’s warnings about greed and consider themselves blessed when they in fact curse themselves with great torment: “And it shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will consider himself fortunate in his heart, saying, ‘I will do well though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land along with the dry.’” (Dt. 29:19; Ps. 36:2). Thus, God’s warnings about money should be heeded.
The redeemed through Jesus will rule over those who reject His wisdom. The psalmist also stated that “the upright will rule over” those who make money their idol (Ps. 49:14). The Apostles Paul and John also made similar promises: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to form the smallest law courts?” (1 Cor. 6:2). “The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations;” (Rev. 2:26).
6. Faithlessness: The Love of Money Frequently Leads to Faithlessness. Ps. 49:15.
Have faith in Jesus as the sole path to redeem your soul. Unlike the sinner consumed with idols like money, the person of faith will find God’s redemption of their soul: “15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah” (Ps. 49:15). Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to redeem souls from Sheol.
With faith, God can spare you from eternal death. On other occasions, David gave thanks because he had the faith to know that God had redeemed his soul: “Be gracious to me, LORD; see my oppression from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,” (Ps. 9:13). “LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.” (Ps. 30:3). “For You have saved my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God In the light of the living.” (Ps. 56:13). “God is to us a God of salvation; and to GOD the Lord belong ways of escape from death.” (Ps. 68:20). “For Your graciousness toward me is great, and You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Ps. 86:13). “He sent His word and healed them, and saved them from their destruction.” (Ps. 107:20). “You will make known to me the way of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11). “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will see His face.” (Ps. 11:7). These psalms make it hard to understand how the Sadducees in Jesus’ day could have questioned Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife.
7. Pride: Pride is a Deadly Sin That Leads to a Path of Destruction. Ps. 49:16-20.
Avoid all forms of vanity and pride, which can lead to a path of destruction. Finally, the psalmist warned that a person consumed with money becomes filled with a false pride that will perish when they die: “16 Do not be afraid when a person becomes rich, when the splendor of his house is increased; 17 for when he dies, he will take nothing with him; his wealth will not descend after him. 18 Though while he lives he congratulates himself —and though people praise you when you do well for yourself— 19 he will go to the generation of his fathers; they will never see the light. 20 Mankind in its splendor, yet without understanding, is like the animals that perish.” (Ps. 49:16-20). Their pride leads to a foolish belief that they can protect themselves from any harm: “He says to himself, ‘I will not be moved; throughout the generations I will not be in adversity.”’ (Ps. 10:6).
Do not fear wealth and powerful people who flaunt their wealth. Many who are wealthy will sadly use their wealth to intimidate or oppress others. But the psalmist encourages believers not to fear such persons because “for when he dies, he will take nothing with him; his wealth will not descend after him.” (Ps. 49:16-17; Ps. 37:7). “As he came naked from his mother’s womb, so he will return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.” (Ecc. 5:15). “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either.” (1 Tim. 6:7).
Pride exalts your own accomplishments over God. When Solomon listed the sins that God “hates”, pride was number one on the list (Prov. 8:13; 6:16-17; 16:5). Solomon also warned that pride leads to “strife.” (Prov. 13:10). When left unchecked, it also leads to destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18; 18:12). Jeremiah also warned that pride can “deceive” the prideful person from seeing the truth (Jer. 49:16). Thus, pride blinds sinners into believing that they can love for the moment with no concern regarding where they will spend eternity.
The prideful will find destruction while the faithful will find eternal life. While the prideful person will gloat in their wealth, they ultimately go to a place where “they will never see the light.” (Ps. 49:19). In contrast, the person of faith will see God’s eternal light in heaven: “For You have saved my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” (Ps. 56:13).