Two things I ask of you; 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 the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)
The world we live in is obsessed with money and has a voracious appetite for wealth that can never be satisfied no matter how much is consumed. Despite the fact that greater wealth only seems to bring with it temporary happiness that fades like autumn leaves, we find it difficult to shake off the notion that more money is the solution to all of life’s problems.
But followers of God are never permitted to crave money in this way. Agur in his divine wisdom teaches that there are two great and equally dangerous errors with regards to money.
The danger of having a lack of money is clearly articulated by the Psalmist who declares that he will be tempted to sin and steal. The implication here is that a lack of money leads to him having inadequate food and out of desperation and hunger, he breaks the eighth commandment and dishonors the name of the very God he professes to serve! Therefore, we should never think that abject poverty is the ideal road for the godly to walk.
The danger of having an abundance of money is no less real, yet it is much harder to see, much like a venomous snake camouflaged under some brush. In an affluent culture like ours, many of us have already been poisoned by the insidious cobra of materialism, yet we are wholly unaware. Few of us ever think that a growing bank account is something that we should worry about because we do not understand the danger of having greater wealth. And if we should doubt just how deadly an abundance of material wealth can be, look at how the Psalmist pleads! So desirous is he that he would be neither overly poor or rich, that he earnestly begs God to grant him this wish before he dies. And the reason that the Psalmist is afraid, is that he fears that at the apex of his wealth, he will say, “Who is the LORD?”
We should not think that the Psalmist’s question, “Who is the LORD?” means that an abundance of money has given him a brain injury an caused him to forget that he believes in the existence of God. Rather, we are to understand that increased wealth has become to the Psalmist like a pair of glasses with enormously thick lenses that have distorted his view of reality. No longer can he see properly that it is God who provides him with his daily food, but he believes himself to be his own provider and thus sins against God. The fact that the Psalmist refers to God here as the “LORD” or Yahweh (his covenant, personal name in Hebrew) rather than just “God,” reinforces the idea that what is forgotten is who this covenant-keeping God is to him. How dangerous riches must be, if they can so cause us to forget that God is the one who truly provides for us all our needs!
Christian, is your prayer for daily bread just a perfunctory nod that you give to God before each meal because it’s the “right thing to do?” Or do you look at your plate and say from the bottom of your heart, “I eat today, because my Lord has given me my daily bread!” Is your health so good that you forget that your very strength is a gift from God himself? Do you take for granted that the life you have is a gift from a God who bought you out of spiritual slavery in Egypt?
The great danger of the Christian life with regards to money is not forgetting that God exists, but forgetting who this God is to us. May our hearts never become so enamored with wealth that we forget this God who is our Savior, Redeemer, Master and Friend. And in our remembrance of him, may we answer the Master’s call to “Follow me!” and store up treasures for ourselves in heaven—not on this earth.