“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me nether 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 dishonour the name of my God.”
Proverbs 30:8-9, NIV
We all like having money to spend, but it takes an unusual degree of spiritual wisdom to pray this prayer – a prayer which is designed to help us maintain godly stability in our lives, with an adequate level of income for the life God has called us to live, but not too much!
This Scripture highlights the dangers at the opposite ends of the scale. If we have too little we may, in desperation, be tempted to use ungodly ways such as dishonesty, cheating or stealing to try and fix things in our way. But having too much could take the focus of our eyes off the pathways of life which the Lord would want us to follow. Both extremes are potentially dangerous, though it’s possible to remain faithful to God, even in the extremes of poverty or the having the privilege of wealth.
Benjamin Franklin once commented on this dilemma by saying that, “Contentment makes poor men rich, and discontent makes rich men poor.” He was taking his cue from Paul’s words to his trainee evangelist, Timothy: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:6-11).
Throughout all of Paul’s early life he had been immersed in the study of the Scriptures and our Scripture for today will have been very familiar to him. No doubt, he had seen the reality of both ends of the spectrum – how poverty and hunger can become an ungodly driving force in a person’s life and of how wealth, and the discontent with what one already has, creates the desire for more and more wealth. That also becomes an insatiable driving force.
And when a person has great wealth, the fact that they can buy whatever they want with their money makes their riches an idol which is worshipped every single day. When God answered Solomon’s prayer as a young man, for wisdom. God gave him the ability to know and to speak out God’s truth. But in the fleshly areas of his life he ceased to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice of wisdom and finished up being led astray by the women in his life and building temples for them to their pagan gods.
If only Solomon had listened to his own teaching. It would have saved him from many things. Many times people have made “If only . . . ” comments to me – especially relating to how they had spent their life. They had not learnt how to be content with living a godly life and then, twenty or thirty years and more later, they reviewed the consequences of the choices they had made.
Perhaps it’s time in your life to learn to be content with God whatever our physical circumstances. To trust Him to be our provider when we are in need and to ask Him for wisdom and courage as to how to use the wealth that we have.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness. Forgive me, Lord, for times when, out of need, I have been tempted to do wrong things. And for times when my desire for more wealth has unleashed a spirit of greed which has driven me away from God. Help me, Lord, to be content in You – knowing that Godly contentment is treasure beyond understanding. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.