Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
Both prosperity and poverty are dangerous. Riches lead to self-confidence and security, which cause a man to forget the LORD. Destitution leads to desperation, which causes a man to consider stealing and reproaching God’s name. A wise man will ask for a moderate portion of success to avoid both of these dangers. Lord, give such wisdom!
This verse explains Agur’s prayer for two things in life (Pr 30:7-9). He asked first for salvation from sin – vanity and lies; then he asked for convenient food – neither poverty nor riches. Here is a wise man’s careful reflection on what he needs in life. He begged God for them. He had learned the spiritual wisdom that moderate success is just right.
He feared only one thing – sin! He did not fear the troubles of riches, or the difficulty and shame of poverty. Consider this well. He feared them both for temptations to sin. Here is practical holiness that should convict and provoke your spirit. The name and service of God was his primary concern to be delivered from both extremes. His relationship with God was of much greater concern than any economic condition. Lord, let it be so!
Only fools think riches would help them serve God. All the evidence refutes it. Pharaoh was the richest man of his generation, but he literally said, “Who is the LORD?” When God blessed Israel, they rebelled and forgot Him. “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deut 32:15).
Riches are a horrible temptation and often a curse to men who fear God and love holiness (Deut 6:10-12; 8:10-14; 31:20; Neh 9:25-26; Job 31:24-28). Jesus plainly warned about the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choking out the word (Matt 13:22).
The rich young ruler turned away from Jesus, when faced with choosing his money or the Lord (Matt 19:16-22). What a horrible exchange! Jesus said a camel could go through the eye of a needle before a rich man could enter His kingdom (Matt 19:23-24). Ask God to teach you fear of success and riches, to love and follow Jesus Christ without temptations.
You have an economic life. But when you transact business, treat it as if you had nothing; when you must use the financial world, soberly limit the use (I Cor 7:29-31). Your goal is to be without carefulness to better please the Lord (I Cor 7:32). You cannot serve two masters, so the goal of being a rich Christian is folly (Matt 6:24; I Tim 6:6-10).
True success is godliness with contentment (I Tim 6:6). Learn it! A contented man is always happier than a rich man. And he does not have the rich man’s worries. The Lord promised to be with you, so you should be content with anything (Heb 13:5). With Him as your Portion forever, there is nothing else in earth or heaven that matters (Ps 73:25-26). It was this contentment Paul learned by Christ’s strength for his life (Phil 4:11-13).
Are you content with necessities? Jacob prayed for food and raiment (Gen 28:20-22). Jesus taught you to pray for daily bread (Matt 6:11). And Paul encouraged Timothy to be content with food and raiment (I Tim 6:8). It is the wise man that does not seek riches that may be blessed with them (I Kgs 3:10-13). Set your goals right; let God do the rest.
Do not think for a moment you have given up much, as Peter once did, by forsaking the world’s things to be a committed Christian. Jesus promised to give 10,000% in this world and eternal life in the world to come (Mark 10:28-31). Now that is an exchange and reward for which to live and die. The rich young ruler was a loser. You can be a winner.
Poverty is hardly a fear in America. But you also want God to save you from that side of the economic coin, lest you are tempted to sin to provide your needs. What a disgrace to be known as a professing Christian and end up stealing or committing other financial crimes to survive. There is also the fear implied of being charged with stealing and forswearing yourself when under oath (Pr 29:24; Ex 22:10-12; Lev 5:1; I Kgs 8:31-32).
With sufficient means for subsistence, there are fewer temptations to steal, covet, deny the poor, neglect giving, or other financial sins that reproach God’s name. It is wisdom to pray for a minimum of mercy to keep the righteous from temptation (Ps 125:3). Food and raiment and other basic necessities are all we truly need in order to avoid financial sin.
Dear reader, consider the spiritual weight of Agur’s prayer. Many pray against poverty. But few pray against prosperity. Is it possible in an age of greed and covetousness for a man to pray against poverty and prosperity? Is your affection on things above (Col 3:2)? Or do you mind earthly things (Phil 3:18-19)? Can your soul make the prayer sincerely?
A wise man will sell all that He has to buy the spiritual treasures of Christ (Matt 13:44-46). He perceives the exchange is entirely in His favor. The world loses, by taking the cursed riches off his hands. He gains his soul in the trade (Matt 16:26). He wins, by obtaining the true riches of glory, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).