If you were able to ask God for two things, what would they be? Proverbs says, “Two things I ask of You, don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God” (Prov. 30:7-9).1 He asked God to help him not to speak dishonestly and to moderate his financial state. It is very thought provoking that he asked God for these particular things.
Let’s unpack the author’s first request: divine enablement to speak truth. This is instructive for us. We know that honesty is addressed in command number nine, “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). As the Lord was communicating the rules of His covenant relationship with Israel, He established the importance of honesty. The Lord wanted his people to be honest in how they did business (Lev. 19:35-36), how they testified in a judicial proceedings (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 19:15-18; Lev. 19:11b; Col. 3:9), and how they spoke (Prov. 12:22; 6:16-19; Eph. 4:25). Therefore, Agur (the author of Proverbs 30) asks the Lord to help him remain honest in his conduct and speech. The importance of honesty to God is clearly demonstrated throughout Scripture. Would it be in our list of requests to God? Do we value honesty and integrity in the same way the Lord does?
The second request relates to financial livelihood. Agur asked God to bless him with a “median” income. He saw the potential within (indwelling sin) to become self-sufficient and self-centered if he became wealthy. He knew that if he had too much materially he might deny the Lord. Agur also requested that God not allow him to be impoverished. He saw the potential in himself that if he was in poverty he might turn to stealing the property of others. Agur equated stealing with profaning the name of God. Therefore, he prays that the Lord will provide him with what he needs (v. 8b). He doesn’t want wealth or poverty because those might lead to sinful attitudes and actions. Agur asks the Lord to keep him from those temptations.
Each one of us face temptations to sin. The Scriptures say, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). So, the temptations we face are not unique to us. But, the Lord promises us that he will provide us a way to escape the temptation, so that we don’t have to commit sin. The Lord desires that we be holy in our conduct, “For it is written, be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). God works in our lives to enable us to do what he wants, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). What an amazing thought! Our God is actively working in the lives of his people to accomplish his purposes. This is powerful encouragement for every follower of Christ!
E.M. Bounds wrote, It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but people great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God—men always speaking holy words, living holy lives. These can mold a generation for God… Their lives and profoundest convictions were born in their [private time] with God… Every Christian who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.”2 Agur sought the Lord in prayer, so he might live in a way pleasing to him. How are we seeking the Lord in prayer, so we might live in a way pleasing to him?
1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).
2 Edward M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).