riches

A Simple Prayer—Just 2 Things

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 vanitymeaningless, 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?

Reflection—

Integrity of character—inside our heart and mind, as well as how we live in the real world—will always honor the Lord.

Prayer Focus—

If you believe the world needs more truth and less lying, and a sense of contentment that honors God—make this your daily prayer.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Rich and Satisfied

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

One person spends freely and yet grows richer,

while another holds back what he owes and yet grows poorer.

A generous person will be made rich,

and whoever satisfies others will himself be satisfied.

People will curse the one who hoards grain,

but a blessing will be upon the head of the one who sells it. (Proverbs 11:24-26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:20-31 GW)


"It's not about you!" You've likely heard this expression, maybe even said it. It's become a favorite put-down said when a person doesn't want to answer someone or explain something.

The trouble is—we live in a world of "me." It's common for people to ask, "What's in it for me?" Millions of selfies and personal opinions flood various social media daily.

The focus on getting rich and being satisfied is an American obsession. It occupies most every free moment we're awake, including daydreams at work, and perhaps even our dreams at night.

Yet, the idea of growing rich and being satisfied in these few verses of Proverbs is based on unselfishness. It's the opposite of what you might think and is expressed in contrasting and complementary statements.

The first of these three verses make this clear. Here it is from another Bible version—

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. (Prov 11:24 ESV)

As Jesus told His followers when He sent them out for ministry—"Freely you have received; freely give" (Matt 10:8 NIV). 

This is so contrary to a self-centered idea of getting rich. In the wording of Proverbs being rich or prosperous speaks of far more than material wealth (see link below or here — Proverbs Study Guide).

Many Americans who travel to poorer nations see the generosity and hospitality of people living in poverty and marvel at it. Why? The concept of contentment and happiness is often tied to material possessions.

Can a person be generous and still become prosperous? Yes, especially in God's economy. If the focus is on wealth and prosperity, it's a setup for disappointment and discontent.

Many wealthy people give away great amounts of their wealth for the benefit of others. It's called philanthropy. Of course, there are plenty of wealthy people who hold on to all to their wealth and possessions tightly and whose lives are empty and lacking satisfaction.

The obvious focus in these verses is on others, not self. This is the point. It's not a formula or scheme. It's an attitude of the heart.

Want to be rich and satisfied? First, figure out what is motivating you. Also, are you thinking short-term or long-term?

If you run after personal riches and satisfaction, you might find it in the short-run but you'll end up poor and dissatisfied in the end. But if your concern is for others, God will honor it. 

The Lord values those who care and value others. And His blessing isn't restricted by time—the present and future are all the same to Him. He often honors us with temporary wealth and satisfaction when we don't hold on to it too tightly in this life.

The key to richness and satisfaction that honors God and is a lasting blessing to us personally is unselfishness—when we are considerate of others not just ourselves.

Reflection—

Running after personal riches and satisfaction in the short-run leads to a personal poverty and dissatisfaction in the end. But concern for others honors God who in turn will honor us for our unselfishness.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for a heart that seeks what honors God and for an unselfish attitude of heart daily. As you seek God for this, look for the opportunities God brings into your life where you can give freely and to enjoy what satisfies in the truest sense.

 

©Word-Strong_2018


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