Neither Poverty nor Riches
O God, I beg two favors from you;
let me have them before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say,
"Who is the Lord?"
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus
insult God's holy name.
I love this passage of Scripture! I think it presents a balanced perspective that a Christian should have toward money. We are all familiar with that oft-quoted statement of the Apostle Paul that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). I sometimes wonder if there is a converse relationship between wealth and worship. Some of the most dedicated servants of the Lord are some of those with more limited resources as compared to some Christians I know who have greater means. It is not true in every instance, but it is more true than not that the Christians who have more money spend less time in ministry.
The Lord who gives them the opportunities to get wealth is the One Who ends up at the bottom of the prioritized daily task list. We say no to serving in the church even in temporary capacities because we've got other things to which we have already committed ourselves.
The wise man says, don't give me riches. They may make me forget about the Lord. Riches come with responsibility. If you have money, you have to study how to keep it. You have to watch those dollars. (And watch those you hire to watch your dollars!) Riches can become a person's security, a place that the Lord alone should hold in the human heart.
The reason I love this passage is because of the balance that it presents. He says also, if I am too poor I may steal and thus insult God's holy name. Let's face it -- there is no piety in poverty! Those thieves at the heads of many of the large mortgage companies that instigated this economic downturn are the more privileged cousins of the thieves who broke into my car and stole the faceplate on my radio and my camera equipment earlier this year in North Philly.
Being poor doesn't make the character of a person. I know some low-down, mean and nasty poor people!
Extreme poverty intersects with human need in a combination that is actually bad for a community. When you have children that need to eat and lack the financial wherewithal to go to the store and make a legitimate purchase, you consider options that are not appropriate.
So the wise man hit the nail on the head when he says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches!" I like what he asks for: "Give me just enough to satisfy my needs."
Hebrews 13:5 says, "Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you."