Summary: Part 20 (Final) of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 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" (Prov. 30:7-9).
This prayer of a man named, Agur, is a fitting conclusion of this book. It teaches us the right attitude towards poverty and prosperity. Agur’s prayer is fascinating. In our prayers, we usually ask God for more “blessings” (translated, money and material things). We ask God for things that will make our life comfortable. Conversely, we ask God to take away things that make our lives miserable. Seldom do we seek the glory of God, whether in pain or pleasure.
However, Agur asks neither prosperity nor poverty. Rather, he asks just enough to meet his needs, so that he can honor God in his life. His main motivation in his prayer is neither the comforts of life nor the lack of it, but the glory of God.
God will surely answer the prayer that seeks His glory. Jesus tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. God shall then add to us all the things we need (Matt. 6:33).
We ask God for prosperity. Yet God’s Word is generally ambivalent on the issue of prosperity. In Proverbs, prosperity is a blessing from God (Prov. 10:22; 22:4). Nevertheless, God also warns against it. "Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven" (Prov. 23:4-5).
Prosperity pastors preach prosperity as the right of God’s children here and now. But the sage, Jesus, and the apostles teach the opposite. "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it" (Prov. 15:16). Jesus commands that we seek prosperity in heaven, and not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). He warns against coveting more possessions. "For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Lk. 12:15). He exhorts against seeking earthly prosperity at the expense of heavenly riches (Lk. 12:15-21). He urges his disciples to deny themselves, sell everything, and give it to the poor for His sake (Matt. 19:16-30). Paul also warns against the craving for prosperity, leading rich believers into moral devastation (1 Tim. 6:9-10). John warns against “pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16).
Instead of seeking prosperity or shunning poverty, let us pray the prayer of Agur. Let us go up to the next level of spiritual living. Let us align our desires with God’s desires for us which is neither prosperity nor poverty. Rather, His desire is His glory in our lives. His desire is for people to know the Lord—His steadfast love, justice, and righteousness (Jer. 9:22-23). Let us therefore pray, not for prosperity or poverty, but for the glory of God in our lives.
The words “before I die” in Proverbs 30:7 denote “my remaining lifetime.” With Agur, let us desire the following two things for the remainder of our lives—(1) neither poverty nor prosperity and (2) only the food that we need.
As Agur needs neither poverty nor prosperity, so he does not also need “falsehood and lying.” Deceit might soon make him rich. Yet he has found out that such riches are quickly lost, leading to death (Prov. 21:6). Deception is an abomination to the LORD. It will disrupt his effort to live with the divine will. It will soon destroy himself and others (Prov. 6:16-19; 12:22; 26:28).
Yet the words “falsehood and lying” may refer to the falsehood and lying of both prosperity and poverty. What is the falsehood and lying of prosperity? The falsehood of prosperity is that we are self-sufficient, making us forget God or putting Him on the sideline.
An atheist was walking through the woods. He heard a rustling in the bushes, turned, and saw a large lion. He ran away as fast as he could. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the lion was closing in on him. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over but the lion was already on top of him, raising its paw to strike him. At that moment, the atheist cried, “Oh, my God!”
Time stopped. The lion froze. The forest was silent. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don’t exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?”