We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.
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 are merely moving shadows” in that “all our busy rushing ends in nothing” (39:6). This verse is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, which reflects upon the vanity of life. In fact, the word hebel, translated as “vanity” or “emptiness” and used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, is the word behind “nothing” in Psalm 39:6.
David points to one prime example of how our busyness leads to vanity. “We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it” (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. 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. Perhaps we feel as if we’ve been rushing about as moving shadows, 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?
Jesus deserves to have the last word here: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matt. 6:19-21).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you sometimes live as a “moving shadow”? When? What helps you to live with greater meaning and purpose? Are there areas or habits of your life that are distracting you from what matters most?
PRAYER: O Lord, 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 moving shadow.
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 your kingdom.
In particular, may I store up treasures in heaven. By your Spirit, help me not to worry about my finances, but to trust you with them. May I invest more of my life in the work of your kingdom. Amen.