I’ve asked you for two things.
Don’t keep them from me before I die:
Keep vanity and lies far away from me.
Don’t give me either poverty or riches.
Feed me ⌊only⌋ the food I need,
or I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
or I may become poor and steal
and give the name of my God a bad reputation. (Proverbs 30:7-9 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 30:1-9 GW)
A futile pursuit
We want everything. But we can’t have it all. It’s not humanly possible. It also leads to self-destruction and emptiness.
Scores and scores of people in every generation find this out the hard way. Either they lose everyone of real value in their life or lose what they pursued, or both.
This is the primary message of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He literally had it all—wealth, women (way too many), wisdom, and worldwide fame. But the theme throughout Ecclesiastes is—
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (Eccl 1:2)
Other Bible versions use a different word for vanity—meaningless, futile, absolutely pointless—to describe the pursuit of everything this world has to offer.
The book of Proverbs, as with other books in the Bible, is written in a memorable way—so people can memorize and retain general truths. This was vital for people who didn’t have the privilege to read and write. They were oral learners.
This is why numbering and lists are prominent along with repetitive phrases. Contrasts and comparisons are used to make helpful distinctions. And, of course, lots of figurative language is used to describe conceptual and spiritual truths in more familiar images and pictures.
[For more insight on this, download my free Study Guide for Proverbs]
Just 2 things
These three verses are expressed as a prayer requesting two things—the first request is related to character and the second concerns day to day life.
Integrity of character is at the heart of the first request–the removal of what’s not true.
When the writer says keep vanity…far away from me, it speaks of self-deception—the fertile soil where arrogance and foolishness grow.
The request isn’t restricted to the lies we believe or tell ourselves, it’s an appeal for protection from the lies and deception of others. If we want integrity of character, we need to guard our hearts from what is not true—whatever its source.
The second request of this prayer focuses on contentment in daily life—something most everyone longs for but is so often elusive.
The author asks for God’s provision somewhere between two extremes—poverty or riches—then explains why.
The concern is that having too much in the way of riches may lead to ignoring the Lord—I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Another way to put it is, “I’ve got all I need and more. Who needs the Lord?”
Keep in mind—the intended audience for these proverbs were people whose identity was tied to their relationship with God.
The concern with being poor and not having enough is it may lead to stealing, which would dishonor God.
The author realizes how our life example—how we act and what we do in daily life—reflects on the Lord, too.
It’s a simple prayer, just two things are requested. The question is—Is it your and my prayer?
Integrity of character—inside our heart and mind, as well as how we live in the real world—will always honor the Lord.
If you believe the world needs more truth and less lying, and a sense of contentment that honors God—make this your daily prayer.
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