Give Me Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Have you ever prayed Proverbs 30:7-9? Have you ever studied that text?

“Two things I ask of you, O 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 dishonour the name of my God.”

Riches may be a spiritual deal-breaker, at least they were in the life of the rich young man whom Jesus encountered in Mark 10. This law-abiding, religious citizen was unwilling to loosen his grip on his purse strings and follow Christ. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus knew  what gripped this man’s heart, what gave him security, the foundation of his life in which he trusted.

As this inquirer walked away from this life-changing opportunity, Jesus seized the moment for further instruction.

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?” he said to his disciples.  Not impossible, but hard.  

“The disciples were amazed at his words.” What ever could he mean? Can no rich people ever enter heaven’s gates? Can no wealthy individuals ever humble themselves and receive a gift, the gift of eternal life, which cannot be purchased, or rather has already been purchased for them by the atoning work of Jesus Christ?

Jesus then makes a statement which interpreters have debated for centuries.  A camel – a needle – a rich man – the kingdom.  He pushes the impossibility of entrance for the rich with a radical standard.  

This didn’t clear up the confusion for the disciples–it added more. “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Salvation – that’s what the Messiah brings, isn’t it? But to whom is it given? Can anyone be saved? Are we saved? Truthfully, it is important to ask the right questions.  

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” The penetrating gaze of Jesus drove home this remarkable promise.  He was insistent that they understand spiritual truth and this one in particular.

Peter responds with an attempt to justify his own discipleship.  ‘Surely Master we are saved?’ ‘Riches were not barriers for us.’  In one sense riches are no barrier to poor people.  In fact some false teachers promise riches to those who follow them. I’ve encountered more than one example of ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers who lure converts into their snare with the promise of health, wealth and success while guising their deceptive schemes with biblical verses.

Jesus knew his followers then, as he knows them now.  He has called us all to sacrifice, to deny ourselves, to abandon our own way and follow him, to take up our cross daily and yield ourselves without reservation to His lordship.  Those who have done so will be rewarded in God’s own time and in God’s own way.  Following Jesus is a life worth living and knowing Jesus when you die, having a genuine relationship with Him, actually means a whole new life is just beginning.  The issue in the present is this – Am I a genuine follower of Jesus Christ?  Let’s not be deceived on this eternity-determining question.

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