9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
A colleague came to me complaining: he wanted to buy an apartment in Shanghai. After working hard and frugally saving most of his salary for nearly 10 years, thanks to a little help from his parents, he finally had enough for a down payment. However, the stock market had been rising for the last half-year. If the trend continued, he could invest and earn a down payment for another place as well. He invested his down payment money – only for the stock market to fall. His house money was cut in half.
My colleague felt life was a joke, that a decade of work was all for nothing. His hopes hung on the sway of the market: in a bull market, he felt he had a talent for selecting good stocks, and that things would turn around; but in a bear market, he felt good for nothing. The money he bet on the market captured his heart and speech.
Wealth Is Not Our Problem
When we invest, joy comes from a big rise in profits, from seeing hard work pay off in a house, or from being able to own a fancy car that brings dignity before others. Visible wealth is like the ring in Lord of the Rings: it manipulates the hearts of all who touch it. Everything else becomes unimportant.
If you are a Christian, it is easy to rationalize that, in a city like Shanghai with a high level of consumption, we need more money. We think we need it so we can treat brothers and sisters to dinner, or give to the church so it can rent a better space, or buy a bigger home to hold more fellowship meetings and host visitors, or purchase a better car to visit places with Christians in need of help, or to take us to various meetings. We believe we cannot and should not ignore wealth, but should try to earn more so we can use it for God. Is this wrong? Our problem is not with the wealth itself, but in our spiritual priorities.
Psalm 119 is a collection of prayer and meditations on God’s Word. The psalmist works alphabetically through the Hebrew alphabet every eight verses. In v. 9, he says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
The psalmist says he has continually sought God, stored up God’s Word in his heart, and learned, declared, delighted in, and meditated on it. He encountered persecution from rich and powerful people who mock or humiliate his God, but God’s Word strengthened him, becoming his comfort and joy. One must ask: how are we to view joy that comes from earthly riches? Is wealth unimportant? Are Christians to live an ascetic life devoid of desire? Certainly not.
God’s Word Is Most Important
“I delight in the way of your testimonies as much as in all riches.” (v. 14) The psalmist’s world of the ancient Near East was similar to ours: people of that world delighted in wealth, in rich land that clothed and fed them and their families, in gold and silver, and in homes that sheltered them from the weather and made life comfortable. This human delight in wealth crosses generations and races.
As a representative of God’s people, the psalmist says he delights in God’s Word just as the world delights in wealth. Throughout history God promised and provided his people with rich land, manna from heaven, and water from the rock. God made a covenant with his people and promised to be with them. Everything else, including wealth, is no longer important.
When it comes to priorities, the most important thing is not some indefinite amount of money. The most important thing is God’s eternal and unchanging Word. “By guarding it [his way] according to your word,” our lives can be kept pure and our sins can be cleansed. This is true because one man did perfectly obey God’s Word.
The Old Testament psalmist was still waiting for that man, but we already have Jesus. Christ kept God’s Word, fulfilled the law, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed: “Not my will, but yours.” He was crucified, bore our sins, and in his darkest hour, when the Father forsook him, the words that came from his mouth were still God’s words: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?’ The Word of God became the incarnate Christ, and God’s will became alive in him. After three days, Christ rose from the dead, and we sinners were cleansed with the hope of resurrection, the salvation plan of God’s grace.
Rightly Ordered Loves
The gospel is that Jesus, God’s Son, had a flawless sense of priorities. He perfectly obeyed God’s Word, bore the Father’s judgment in the place of sinners, and despised earthly treasures and privileges and pleasure. With such grace we are moved to imitate him: to wholeheartedly seek God (v. 10), to store up his Word in our hearts (v. 11), to receive the teaching of his law (v. 12), to declares the rules of his mouth (v. 13), to delight in his law (vv. 14 and 16), and to meditate on his precepts (v. 15). God’s Word is the source of our joy.
Saint Augustine, the ancient theologian, defined virtue as “rightly ordered love,” loving things that are worthy of love, and placing them in the right order. This means truly loving the Creator, and not replacing him with things. In life, we are always faced with a choice about priorities. Do you believe Jesus Christ is our Savior? That he rose from the dead to give us forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life? If you believe, let us follow Jesus’s example and prioritize God’s Word as it is of the utmost importance. Read his Word, and let it be our joy!
Jacob Zheng was born and raised in a rural area but now lives in a metropolis and works in the financial sector. He and his wife are parents to twin boys.
I will delight in your Word as I delight in all my possessions! You forgive us our sins. We often neglect your words, despise the salvation of Christ, and value only the riches of the earth. We are blind, deaf, and tongue-tied. Help us, O Lord, to become a people who take delight in your Word. Help us to continually seek you and store up your Word in our hearts; help us to learn, declare, delight in, and meditate on the Word of God so that we may obey it. Amen.