As I have written before, I think fear is a great crippler to us all. It can certainly cripple the leader who lives and leads from fear. Yesterday, my pastor taught on the subject of fear and made these statements, “Fear reveals our values and what is essential in our lives” and “Fear can turn us all into false prophets.” The effects of a fear based, fear driven life will alter our perspective and response to the world. It typically causes us to either double down on control or flee as fast as we can. I would suggest that both are an unbiblical response. Yet, I find both of these responses very familiar to my daily reality.
Today, I was reading and reflecting on Psalm 49 during my devotional time with God. In the ESV the title of this psalm is Why Should I Fear In Times Of Trouble and is attributed to the sons of Korah. This psalm is laid out in five stanzas: v.1-4; v.5-9; v.10-12; v.13-15 and v.16-20. The first stanza is largely introductory and proclaims the intent of the psalmist. In v.5-6 the psalmist states his thesis and reason for writing, “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches.” We can all feel oppressed at times by those who seem to have an advantage over us and do take advantage of us to their own gain. We can believe that we are one down to the wealthy, the 1% if you will. Certainly this is a mentality that is being propagated today. For whatever reason the psalmist felt this inequity. In some way the psalmist was being oppressed by the wealthy and powerful. And it caused him to fear. Fear always involves a sense of loss. It could be not getting what we want. It could be losing what we have. It could be getting what we want and then fearing we will lose it. The psalmist provides us with some critical principles of perspective to correct our fear based living and leading.
1. No person, no matter how wealthy, can ransom his own life or the life of another. Wealth always looks like a great advantage on the earth. But when it comes to heavenly things, when it comes to the salvation of your soul, wealth matters not. The psalmist begins with the end in mind. No one can ransom their own soul or the soul of another. And that is what really matters at the end of the day. To fear the wealthy and the powerful is to miss the bigger picture. God creates and God requires. Eternity is lived out within his parameters. And a ransom is required.
2. All people perish, even the pompous. “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” This famous phrase is attributed to Daniel Defoe and Benjamin Franklin. Many people fear death. Some try to cheat death. Those with money often try everything in their power to cheat death or the aging effects of death. But everyone will die. This is the great equalizer. This takes the edge off of fear towards those with great resources because they face the same fate as everyone else. In that regard they are no different.
3. There is a God who has ransomed the souls of all who believe. The fourth stanza is the center piece to the psalm. The psalmist lays out his strongest reason for not fearing the wealthy and the powerful who oppress. There will always be people who have foolish confidence and their entourage who adds their boast. Their path leads to Sheol. Sheol in the Bible is a place reserved for the dead apart from Christ and is a place of eternal punishment. The psalmist declares, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.” The psalmist’s ultimate confidence is in God alone who has the power and authority to ransom a life. The broader storyline of the Bible points us to the person of Jesus Christ as our perfect ransom payment for the penalty of sin. The greatest reason not to live and lead in fear is that for all who follow Christ we have been ransomed from the snares of death and the power of sin. We are free from death thinking, from fear itself.
4. The wealthy and powerful who oppress are no better than the beasts. In verse 20 the psalmist returns to a theme he has stated earlier in verse 12. All men perish from life on this earth. Those with pomp and without understanding are no better than the beasts. So while we may tend to elevate the wealthy, the famous, the powerful, they are simply like every animal of the earth if they only live and lead from a worldly point of view and oppress those around them. This vantage point necessitates the ransom payment of Christ to be otherwise. Fear of the powerful who oppress is vanquished.
The Ransomed Leader calls us to live and lead the ransomed life. Lead well!