“Give Me Neither Poverty Nor Riches”


If we were able to make two requests that would help to improve our lives here on the earth, what would those requests be? Agur, the wise man to whom Proverbs 30 is attributed, told us what his two requests were:

Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

The second request – the desire for “neither poverty nor riches” – is what we will focus on in this article.

His words do not imply that God’s people will never be either rich or poor. Nor do they mean that riches or poverty are necessarily the product of sinful or foolish choices. Instead, the wise man was emphasizing the proper attitude we must have and how we must act appropriately according to our particular circumstances. Let us notice briefly why his request was wise.

The Danger of Riches

If man is able to obtain great wealth, there is a danger that he might become “full and deny [God] and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” (Proverbs 30:9). Great wealth can easily become a distraction and a hindrance to faithful service to God. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Of course, it is not impossible for a rich man to obey the Lord; but he must recognize the danger and combat it. This is done by putting God first (Matthew 6:33), recognizing that all blessings come from Him (James 1:17), seeing the opportunity and responsibility to use these blessings for good (1 Timothy 6:17-18; Galatians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 8:12), and recognizing the temporary nature of wealth (Matthew 6:19; 2 Peter 3:10). Riches can be dangerous if we do not have a Biblical understanding of these things and put our trust in riches instead of God (1 Timothy 6:17).

The Danger of Poverty

If riches are spiritually dangerous, some might suppose that poverty would be spiritually advantageous. Yet the wise man did not desire poverty because that also has certain dangers that are associated with it. One who is poor would be tempted to steal in order to feed himself and his family. While many would excuse this behavior under these circumstances, the wise man indicated that poverty is not an excuse to commit the sin of stealing. One who does this profanes the name of God (Proverbs 30:9).

However, one who is poor does not have to succumb to the temptation to steal. The first and most obvious solution is that one would work to provide for himself, and “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10). Of course, not everyone who is “willing to work” is physically able to work or is always able to find a job at a given time. Provided one’s need is not the result of an unwillingness to work, then he is worthy of help. He should not feel guilty for seeking or receiving help from family (1 Timothy 5:4), other individuals (Luke 16:19-21; Ephesians 4:28), and to a limited extent, churches (Acts 11:29-30; Romans 15:26; 1 Timothy 5:16). Poverty can be dangerous if we ignore God’s solution and try to remedy our situation by any means necessary, even to the point of committing sin (stealing).

Desire Your Portion

The wise man said, “Feed me with the food that is my portion” (Proverbs 30:8). He did not desire what belonged to others. He did not have an unhealthy fixation for things he did not need or could not have. He desired what he might receive within the realm of God’s blessings which will generally be somewhere in between poverty and riches.

His statement reflects an attitude of contentment, as Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). We are not to be jealous of others who have more than we do (Galatians 5:20), nor are we to be arrogant towards others who have less than we do (James 2:2-3). We are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Let us be content with our blessings and strive to serve God in every circumstance, seeking the true riches that will be rewarded to the faithful when this life is over.

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  1. Its so easy to want, well, the easy life of riches. And one thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how in a land of such prosperity and convenience, more of us than we tend to realize are in the “rich” category the Bible talks about it being easier to go through the eye of a needle than to make it into the kingdom. We’re just so used to affluence and comfort, you don’t have to be a millionaire to be the “rich man”. So those verses talking about is easier for the rich man to say “Who is the Lord?” – that’s talking about us, so be have to be all the more careful.

  2. April, good point. We are greatly blessed in this country, so we shouldn’t automatically think the passages about the “rich” are addressing someone else. We need to be sure we’re following God as we should and not allow material things to hinder us.