Seeking neither riches nor poverty
“Two things I ask of you [God]; 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 [Yahweh]?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9, English Standard Version [ESV]).
The Book of Proverbs contains many passages offering advice on right living. In contrast, this passage is a prayer. In this prayer Agur, son of Jakeh (30:1), recognizes that money is not a moral problem he can master. It is a spiritual problem which God must master for him.
If we grow rich, Pluto will sorely tempt us to find satisfaction in what we have and to neglect the words which Jesus speaks to us today. We will not want anything from anyone. Nor will we want to be bothered by anyone: notably the poor, but especially Jesus.
Yet if we grow poor, Pluto will sorely tempt us to steal. We will bring shame upon the name of Jesus with every loaf of bread we take by justifying the evil of our actions and by blaming Jesus for our condition.
If we are able to avoid bondage to Pluto, it will be because God graciously places us in the best material position to do so by giving us neither too much nor too little but just enough. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are to ask Father for just what we need to live as witnesses to him, neither more nor less.
Facing both riches and poverty with equanimity
“I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-14, ESV).
Following the victory of Christ over Pluto, Paul affirms that our material circumstances are no longer the decisive aspect of our lives. Now contentment may be ours, because Jesus Christ is ours, regardless of our wealth or lack of it. We need not devote ourselves to Pluto if we lack it and we may freely give it away if we have it.
(Today’s reflections were guided by Jacques Ellul’s book, Money and Power (trans. LaVonne Neff, Inter-Varsity Press, 1984).
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