I am spending some personal time in the Proverbs. Today, I read these words from Agur, son of Jakeh:
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)
These verses are incredible! If we think of our freedom in Jesus not as a freedom to do whatever we want to (Romans 6:1-14), but rather as a freedom to live in the righteousness of Jesus and walk on his pathway for this life (Romans 8:1-17), then these verses have a great deal to say to us. As we look at each part, we see that sometimes true blessing from God and real faith from us to ask for less, not more.
First, notice Agur’s desire for all falsehood and lying to be removed far from him. While it is true by implication that he is praying for more truth to be present, he is explicitly asking for something to be taken away from him. In what ways could the driving away of falsehood and lying be accomplished for Agur? One way would be for him to talk less and another would be for him to be around fewer people who regularly practice falsehood and lying. Certainly, Agur could replace his own falsehood with truth and could surround himself with truthful people, but a general principle in the Proverbs is that the fewer the words, the better (Proverbs 10:19; 17:28) and the fewer fools you are around, the better (Proverbs 13:20). Let us embrace what the text actually states, rather than what it implies: Agur wanted less in his life: less falsehood and lying from himself, and less companionship with deceivers and liars.
Second, consider Agur’s request for the right amount of wealth and food. He didn’t want so much money and so much food that he began to trust his wealth and the fulness of his stomach (cf. Isaiah 2:7-11; 3:1-5). Paul warns in his letter to the Philippians that as we walk in the path God has given us in Jesus, we should be careful not to be like the “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” I personally appreciate how Agur didn’t specifically ask for less money and food; he asked for the right amount of money and food. He asked for his needs to be met (cf. Matthew 6:11). We are not called to lives of poverty and asceticism; nor are we called to lives of excess and gluttony. We are called to lives of graciously given boundaries: a “straight and narrow way that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). If you are like me, however, you have more than you need when it comes to wealth and food. So, what am I doing with the abundance I have? Am I hoarding it? Squandering it? Over-indulging in it? Or am I living in Christ-honoring boundaries with it?
Perhaps I should pray for less: one less word spoken, so as not to lie. One less “acquaintance” to have, so as not to expose myself to the foolish falsehood of others. One less trinket to buy, and therefore one more chance to be gracious to another. One less bite taken, so as to be satisfied with God’s provision, but not to be lulled into self-contentment and self-fulfillment. Maybe, just maybe, we should pray for less of some things and a “breaking even” in others. Perhaps the greater display of faith would not be in asking God for more of something we don’t have, but in the removal of the things of which we have too much.