“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.”
This is a deep, heart-driven prayer that asks God for two things: 1) Deliverance from the deceitful lies of the world; and, 2) Wisdom to avoid the seduction of either wealth or poverty.
Both poverty and prosperity have their temptations. Scripture constantly warns against greed and materialism, and it also consistently warns against laziness and indolence. Looking at the big picture, scripture doesn’t encourage poverty, nor does it discourage wealth.
Wealth isn’t bad and poverty isn’t good, or vice versa. No matter where we are on the prosperity/poverty spectrum, what scripture commands is integrity, wisdom, strong work ethic, and service to others. We can do those things whether we are wealthy or poor.
A central message of the book of Proverbs is that in order to live an effective and productive life, wisdom is needed to avoid the extremes of life. That includes our attitude toward money.
· Be wise in your mindset toward money. Don’t let money become an idol. Wealth should never be the goal. The goal is effectiveness and fruitfulness. Don’t be greedy. In the kingdom of God, the purpose for wealth is to serve others, not self. Here is the kingdom mindset about money:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
· Riches do not profit. People have always been tempted by materialism and greed. We can get easily seduced into a pursuit of more money and more things. The desire for more “stuff” is a constant challenge.
“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death … When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.” (Proverbs 11.4, 7)
In this passage in Proverbs, Solomon uses a play on words to issue a warning: When the day of judgment comes, riches will not profit you. In other words, all the work you do to create financial profit during your life means nothing with regard to spiritual profit. Material wealth does not create spiritual wealth.
Jesus gives us a similar warning in Luke 12.15: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The message is not that wealth is bad. The message is that trusting and lusting after wealth is bad. Life is not measured by how much you own. The key is to have a stewardship mindset. If you have been blessed to have wealth, then the Lord calls you to be a wise steward that uses your wealth not just for yourself, but also for others.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13.5)
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5.10)