Neither Rich nor Poor
The fear of God wonderfully transforms our outlook on all things, including our money and material possessions. We see this in the prayer of Proverbs 30:7–9. Solomon wrote much of the book of Proverbs, yet we notice that it is not Solomon but Agur who shares these words.
The exact identity of Agur is unknown, but one thing is almost certain: he was not as wealthy as Solomon! So Agur is probably in a good position to write this,
Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
In this prayer, Agur makes an unthinkable request: he asks not to be rich. When you’re young, you might sometimes daydream, “Now, if I had a million dollars, what would I spend it on? Where would my shopping-spree take me?” And when you get older, the world still promotes such dreams with lotteries and schemes to get rich, and a constant pressure to acquire and indulge.
But Agur knows that riches can be a real danger to the wellbeing of our spirit. He understands that when you’re rich, it is natural to have the audacious thought, “Who is the LORD, that I need his grace or his help? Obviously, I can manage well enough on my own. If I run stuck, I’ve always got my back-up plan and security.”
Too often, the more we receive from God, the less he receives from us. This is why Agur prays: “Don’t make me rich. Don’t test me with great wealth.”
What a challenging prayer! I wonder if you have ever asked that of God. I know that I haven’t prayed it, which is probably an indication that I should.
Agur is realistic, however, for he knows that poverty can also be a danger. There can be a draining stress and worry, a constant concern over unforeseen expenses and unpaid bills. The desire for more money can be so strong that there arises the temptation to steal or to lie. “So keep me from poverty,” he prays to God.
Neither too much, nor too little.
Neither a desperate scarcity, nor a deceptive surplus.
Because of Agur’s fear of God, this is his chief concern: that whatever his earthly position, he still honors the LORD. And the best place to do that, says Agur, is when he has enough: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” He prays that God would give what is necessary, so that he can enjoy life, so that he can be thankful and faithful. This is a liberating thing to pray because God knows exactly what we need, and he cares deeply for us, his dear children in Christ.
What Agur says can be compared with what Christ teaches in the Lord’s prayer. Jesus says that receiving any material thing must begin with folding our hands in prayer. This expresses our real dependence on God, and it’s the humble faith underlying the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). We ask God to provide, to bless, and we ask God to help us trust in him. For this is the core issue: trusting in God and in him alone.
Maybe it has pleased the LORD to make us stewards of significant riches and to refine us through the temptations of wealth. Or maybe God has given less and he has seen fit to test us with trials around our work and income.
But in whatever state he has put us, he wants us to glorify him and trust in him. In times of blessing and times of hardship, let God in Christ be your portion and treasure. Love God and honor God as your real joy and sure confidence.
And if you trust in him—this is his promise—the LORD will never leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5).