The Expository Files


  The Life and Death of the Fool

Psalm 49

I am pretty sure none of you who are reading this would want to be rightly called foolish. But if we looked into the word of God and found that we were so described, what could we say? If, while we were reading through the word of God, we find the life of a man described and it was as ours now is, what would we do?

Well, nothing. We could not refute what is said, for the word of God is truth (Psa. 119:160), so we would have to admit that we were fools! Wouldn't that be a scary thought? It would, indeed, be a scary thought to be described as a fool by God, but wouldn’t you also want to know, if you were? Since a fool is a person who lacks sense, when it comes to spiritual matters and matters that have to do with our eternal destination, we need to do our utmost to ensure we are not found a fool in the sight of God, for He is the ultimate judge. In Psalm 49, the psalmist describes for us The Life And Death Of A Fool — the life he lives and what he says and does that makes him such. Could this psalm be describing me? Let’s find out…

The Life of the Fool. The foolishness of this man’s life is obvious to all, for he thinks his house will last forever and his home will stand for generations (v. 11); basically he thinks his reputation will outlive him and people will “ooh and aah” over his memory for generations to come. He thinks his family name and the power and influence that comes with it will survive long after him, foolishly trusting in his own name rather than in God’s name, and lives with the thought that all others bow to him and come to him for favors. He sees no glory or honor in wearing the name of the Lord, but all his trust is in himself and his descendants who will follow.

He likewise thinks that his literal house will also stand forever. Have you ever watched the A&E Channel's "America's Castles"? There are some beautiful and fantastic mansions and literal castles that have been built over the years by some of this country's richest men. Just the mention of names such as Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt brings fantastic fortunes to mind, and if you've seen the houses they built, it is easy to see that they built these mansions to last well beyond their own years. Why is this foolish? Well, think about these men now; what good did spending so lavishly on building these mansions do towards their spiritual standing before God? The foolishness of it is that none of them apparently looked beyond this life to see the eternal home that is promised by the Lord, but each man invested all his wealth and efforts into the material and visible — and temporal.

His foolishness is further seen in the fact that he names cities and lands after himself, in some sort of effort to perpetuate his memory (v. 11). You don't have to look far to see this kind of foolishness even today because, in this country, we have a few states and thousands of towns named after men. But where are those men now? What glory or honor do they now have and what good did it do? While the foolish man sets himself up to receive honor and glory from other men, and if necessary, from himself, he sees no value in glorifying the Lord or honoring Him. He makes no effort to make the name of the Lord known throughout his life or for coming generations, but seeks to elevate his name alone.

While he lives, the foolish man spares no effort in making his own life comfortable while thinking little or nothing about others (v. 18). He indulges in all the pleasures of life, buys himself whatever catches his eye, and does whatever suits his fancy. He looks out for his own interests, and will often stop at nothing to make himself at ease — in the physical comforts or of the conscience. He makes no effort to bless others or to contribute to the Lord's work, but blesses himself continually — all as he boasts of his own accomplishments. ["Look what I've done!"]

The sad part about the life of the foolish man is that so many others contribute their own measure of foolishness by honoring him for all these efforts (vv. 12, 20)! While he lives, others honor him as they clamor to rub elbows with the rich and powerful and seek his favor at every turn. They feign love and pleasure in his company as they look to benefit from his position and wealth, fawning at his feet and catering to his every wish. The foolish one receives many honors because “men will praise you when you do well for yourself” (v. 18). In all these things, he makes no effort to honor the Lord, but willingly and continuously receives the honor of other men — or from himself.

The Death of the Fool. The great foolishness of this man inevitably comes down to the end, because for all his efforts to exalt himself throughout his short life, he will die just like all others (v. 10). Though the foolish one has enjoyed the many pleasures of life and received many honors, his end is as any other man of this earth: He dies just as the wise man dies. Though the foolish man has enjoyed many things in his life that the wise did not, their end is the same. In the end, he is no different. He is still a man and he still must die (cf. Heb. 9:27). The difference will be made known in the judgment that follows.

By  Steven C. Harper
From Expository Files 18.11; November 2011