The Danger of Having too Much or too Little

Friday is For Heart Songs

Proverbs 30

5 Every word of God proves true;
        he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6 Do not add to his words,
        lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
7 Two things I ask of you;
        deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
        give me neither poverty nor riches;
        feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you and say,
        “Who is the Lord?”
    or lest I be poor and steal
        and profane the name of my God.

God’s word is flawless in its revelation of reality. Every word of it proves true and is therefore a protection (“a shield”) to those who take its Speaker to heart. The aim of God’s word is to point us not only to the truth, but also, to trust in the One whose word we read—that we would take our refuge in Him. There is a reminder here of David’s words in Psalm 20:7:

7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses,
        But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.

The human author, in this case, Agur the son of Jakeh (v. 1), speaks for all of us in our common need. Since His word and He are perfectly trustworthy, we do not add to His words (v. 6), nor do we neglect His word (v. 7ff). For this reason, the believer asks two things of God (v. 7). The first is that falsehood and lying would be removed far from his life. “Keep me from lying and keep liars from me.”

The second thing that we should seek to be free of is mentioned in the second line of verse 8, “… give me neither poverty nor riches;”

“Keep me from having either too much or too little.” Why? Verse 9 is going to give us that answer, but look at the last third of verse 8.

… feed me with the food that is needful for me,

Jesus taught the same thing in the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Give me the bread, the sustenance that I need today. Jesus and the writer of Proverbs are telling us to seek what we need from God today and trust that same God for tomorrow when it comes. Why live this way? Why live a life of frugal dependence, (neither rich nor poor), upon God? Verse 9 gives the answer.

9 lest I be full and deny you and say,
       “Who is the Lord?”
    or lest I be poor and steal
        and profane the name of my God.

This is our perennial problem. When people have too much, they move in patterns of independence from God and pride in their achievements rather than thankfulness for God’s provision. They say, “who is the Lord?” (v. 9) not only with forgetfulness but with disdain. And when people have too little, the pattern for many is to steal and profane the name of God with wickedness.

A just society works for a balance between these two alternating tendencies in the heart of man. To paraphrase Derek Kidner, the two requests converge on one goal. First, a concern for character (8a); and second, a concern for the circumstances that endanger character (8b,c, 9).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that a society that could tolerate unemployment of masses of people was a society that was post-Christian. I think Bonhoeffer is basically right. We should be concerned about the plight of those in our society who are marginalized through an abusive heritage, tragedy, death, divorce, abandonment or racial discrimination.

Electing men and women to the high and difficult task of encouraging our nation to this delicate balance—of creating an environment that allows the best and restrains the worst in our character, is our responsibility and privilege. Enter into every election season with a prayerful heart. It is the will of God that you do so.

Excerpt from my 2012 book based in the book of Proverbs, titled, Picking a President: Or Any Other Elected Official.


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