Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.
In Psalm 39, David ponders the meaning of life in light of his suffering. He considers how short life can be (39:5) and how readily we fill it with emptiness. We go around “like a mere phantom” as we “rush about, heaping up wealth” (39:6). This verse is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, which reflects upon the vanity of life. In fact, the word hebel, translated as “vanity” or “meaningless” in the NIV, and used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, is the word behind “in vain” in Psalm 39:6.
Does my life have solidness? Am I filling my relatively few days with that which really matters? How much time do I waste on emptiness? How often am exhausting myself on that which won’t last?
David points to one prime example of how our busyness leads to vanity. We “heap up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be” (39:6). Though we might intend it for our offspring, we cannot be sure they will be able to use it or even if it will be there for them when we die. It’s hard to think of a more relevant insight for our time of history, when we’ve seen our nest eggs drying up and our economic hopes dashed. Sometimes we feel as if we’ve been rushing around like “mere phantoms,” living without substance.
Psalm 39:6 challenges me to take stock of my life. Does my life have solidness? Am I filling my relatively few days with that which really matters? How much time do I waste on emptiness? How often am exhausting myself on that which won’t last?
Jesus deserves to have the last word here: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21).
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you sometimes live as a “mere phantom”? When?
Are there areas or habits of your life that are distracting you from what matters most?
What helps you to invest your life in the things that matter most?
Gracious God, today I’m reminded of how easily I can waste the relatively few days I have on this earth. Yes, indeed, I can fill my life with hebel, living as a mere phantom.
Forgive me, Lord, for so often squandering the gift of life you have given me. Help me, I pray, to live for what really matters, or perhaps I should rather say, for who really matters. Teach me to live first and foremost for you and your kingdom.
In particular, may I store up treasures in heaven today. By your Spirit, help me not to worry about my finances, but to trust you with them. May I invest more of my life – more of my working life – in the work of your kingdom. Amen.