Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:7–9 (ESV)
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.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The author calls out to God for two things: that he would not be a liar and that God would not give him poverty or riches. The first is obvious enough, but why the second desire? Why not a desire for riches? It sure seems like that would be considered a blessing. Who does not want a blessing?

The last verse gives us the reasoning for why the writer asks to be fed “with the food that is needful for me.” He wants just enough. No more and no less than what is necessary for life. If there is an excess, there is a danger that one might forget God because there is no need for him. If there is a lack, there is the danger of resorting to stealing to obtain food. Such behavior would profane God. So, this is a prayer of one who desires to honor God and wants all obstacles to doing that removed. We should all desire the same thing in our lives. Lord, give us the things we need and withhold those things that would pull us away from you.


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Honor or Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 11:16–17 (ESV)
16 A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Understanding and Applying the Word

At first glance these verses may seem strange. It may seem verse 16 contradicts verse 17. This is the beauty of proverbs. They make us stop and think. We have to consider carefully each word if we are going to understand their message.

In the first verse, we are told that being gracious brings honor while violence brings riches. It may seem that both the gracious and the violent are receiving good things until we read the next verse. In verse 17, we are told that being kind is beneficial, but being cruel will come back to hurt you. How do we make sense of this?

Honor is far better than riches. The gracious person receives honor, which is the respect and love of others, whereas the violent gain only material wealth. They do not receive honor. The one who is kind helps himself because others will like him and help him if need arises. The cruel man hurts himself because no one will come to his aid. He will be on his own. It is far better to live our lives in grace than in pursuit of riches because honor is far more valuable than material wealth.

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The Danger of Riches

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 18:18–30 (ESV)

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, we read Jesus’ teaching on money and possessions. This time, a ruler (i.e. a wealthy person with power) went to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments as recorded in the Old Testament law. Jesus specifically mentioned the commandments not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness, as well as the command to honor father and mother. The young ruler replied that he had done all of those things.

After the rich ruler’s response, Jesus told him there was one thing that he lacked. He needed to sell all of his things and distribute his wealth to the poor. This last statement touched on the last of the commandments traditionally found in the Ten Commandments. It is the commandment concerning coveting. This ruler obviously had a problem with coveting material wealth as he was unable to part with his things. In exposing this sinful problem, it also exposed a problem with the ruler’s relationship with God. Money, wealth, and possessions were far too important to this man. They had taken a place in his life and passions that should be reserved for God alone. Wealth had become an idol. The rich ruler was guilty not only of the last commandment, but also the first four that deal with a proper relationship with God.

Wealth and possessions can easily entangle us. We must be careful not to allow them to become our focus or source of security and happiness. The Lord must be all of those things. He is far better than anything we could ever possess and there is nothing that we could ever give up that will compare to knowing and belonging to the One who gave his life that we might be his.

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