Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
It is remarkable to consider how much dissatisfaction is in the world, even in our own hearts. If we have a nice house, we want a nicer one. If we have a fine car, we want a finer one. If we have a good salary, we want a larger one. There is nothing wrong with the ambition to do our best, if it is surrendered to God, if we set our hearts first on pleasing Him and being satisfied in Him, if we simply seek to become better in our field of expertise, if we seek to provide for our loved ones, to use our resources to bless others and do the work of God.
But if ambition is born of selfishness and greed, if it comes from jealousy of what others have, if it rises from lust or pride, and if it is based in a lack of faith toward God, then it opens up our hearts to numerous evils. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).
The inspired text from Proverbs 30 expresses two things to avoid in life. First is poverty. Many people in the world live in abject poverty, and to be subjected to a life in which you are not sure where your next meal would come from, where your basic needs are not met, would tempt someone to anger and cursing of God. Poverty in the world is a shameful problem that we should work to eradicate. Christ said that we will always have the poor with us, so this problem will not be completely resolved until Christ returns. Psalm 72:7-14 describes a future reign of the Messiah in which there is abundant prosperity on earth – I believe it is a reference to the Millennial Reign of Christ – but until Christ does return believers should be concerned with helping the poor.”Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
The second, however, is great riches, and this surprises us for all people would love to be fabulously wealthy. Yet there is a danger inherent in wealth and power, that we might think of ourselves as superior over our fellow humans, or even forget our God altogether. It is better to be wise than foolish, but there is a danger with wisdom also. “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). It is better to have money than to have none, but there also comes a danger along with it. Pride is a grievous moral offense to God and He “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Solomon asked, “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3) He continues to lament the things he had searched after in his life – wisdom, pleasure, accomplishments, wealth – and he sees them all as meaningless. His conclusion is: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Eccl. 12:13).
So you and I are very likely living the best kind of life right now in terms of material possessions and life on this earth. If we had enough to eat yesterday, if we went to bed sated, if we have our health and our friends, if we have the opportunities to advance, if we can fulfill our obligations, if we have the respect of our peers and the love of our family, especially if we have the grace of God in Christ Jesus, then we have enough. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
Banish envy of others from your heart and thank God for His provisions!