Are you content?

O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. ~Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT

In this interesting prayer, the writer pleads with God for two very particular things. First, that he would not tell lies. This is a Biblically-supported request. In Exodus 20:16 and again in Deuteronomy 5:20, the Lord makes it clear that he expects you to tell the truth:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Secondly, this petition asks God to provide contentment, rather than poverty or great material blessing. He predicts that great wealth could cause him to deny God’s involvement in his success, or perhaps even deny that God exists.

Americans are awash in material wealth, compared to the rest of the world. Worldly riches may, in fact, be the biggest factor in our culture that undermines authentic Christianity.

What if he has too little? He fears he might be tempted to steal, which is also a behavior condemned by the Lord in Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19:

You shall not steal.

The answer, according to this passage, is contentment. Consider 1 Timothy 6:2-10:

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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.

Money is neutral: it isn’t good or evil. It is the love of money that is wrong and causes so many troubles.

Are you content to be neither poor nor rich? If you have been seeking riches rather than the kingdom of God, repent! Tell the Lord you’re sorry, and change your mind on the subject. Ask him to give you contentment today about financial matters, and allow him to free you from the chains of selfish ambition.

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Are you open-handed?

The [consistently] righteous man knows and cares for the rights of the poor, but the wicked man has no interest in such knowledge. ~Proverbs 29:7 AMP

According to this verse, a person who is consistently righteous – one who continually takes care to be in a good relationship with the Lord – is more than just aware of disadvantaged people. A Christian is expected to be actively involved in caring for “the poor,” helping less fortunate people find dignity in this life and hope in the next.

In Deuteronomy 15:11, God makes clear his expectation for you regarding how you treat the poor:

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

The book of Proverbs comments several times on what your attitude toward less fortunate should be.

  • Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. ~Proverbs 14:31
  • Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. ~Proverbs 19:17
  • Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor. ~Proverbs 28:8

The wicked man – one who isn’t at all interested in pleasing God – has no interest in caring for others less fortunate than himself.

How aware are you of people who really struggle financially? Have you ever volunteered at a local homeless shelter or food pantry? Is it your habit to write checks to a reliable ministry that helps the poor?

Ask the Lord to reveal to you ways in which you can actively embrace his instructions regarding poor people. Be intentionally open-handed today.

Are you running?

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. ~Proverbs 28:1 KJV

This verse is a simple commentary on human nature. People who do bad things feel guilty for having done them. Proverbs 28:1 explains that wicked people run away from their evil deeds, in an effort to elude capture – even when no one is chasing them.

The righteous, by contrast, don’t run away. What does it mean to be as bold as a lion?

Lions are often referred to as “King of the Beasts.” They fear no other animals, and walk with confidence. A lion’s roar can be heard by humans nearly 6 miles away. It’s a warning before the evening hunt, after a successful hunt, and again in the morning. When they roar, lions are not worried that other animals will find and attack them.

Consider these examples of how the Bible describes lions:

  • You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? ~Genesis 49:9
  • There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; ~ Proverbs 30:29-30
  • The lion has roared – who will not fear? ~Amos 3:8
  • Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” ~Revelation 5:5

So while those who do evil run and hide, hoping to avoid discovery, those who serve God and do good works aren’t afraid of being caught or punished for anything. So are you running away from something? Or is your conscience clear? If not, get right with the Lord by confessing any disobedience.

Psalm 51:7 reassures you that sincere repentance is always accepted by the Lord:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

And once you’re reconciled again with the Lord, you can stand boldly, without fear.

Can you pass the test?

Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised. ~Proverbs 27:21 NLT

Great work! Good job! Way to go! I love the way you sing! You handled that really well!You’re really talented! You did it! Outstanding performance! No one could have done better!

It feels good when you hear complimentary words of praise and encouragement, doesn’t it?

In Luke 17:7-10, Jesus tells a sobering parable that offers a little perspective on what our attitude should be when we receive praise:

Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’

Jesus also told a story in Matthew 25:14-30 to explain the kingdom of God. One day, you will hear the Lord speak directly to you about the good works you have done as a result of your faith in him:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

It will be praise of the highest kind coming from the Lord, but are you expecting to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” someday?

Of course, you aren’t saved by doing good things. Rather, the good things you do are an outward expression of the love you have for God and other people. So what will you do today to make sure you deflect praise and consistently display an attitude of authentic humility?

Plotting revenge?

Whoever digs a pit [for another man’s feet] shall fall into it himself, and he who rolls a stone [up a height to do mischief], it will return upon him. ~Proverbs 26:27 AMP

“What goes around, comes around,” some say. In cultures influenced by western, rational thought, we also hear expressions like:

  • You reap what you sow.
  • He got what was coming to him.
  • Live by the sword, die by the sword.
  • My karma ran over your dogma.

The first thought in this list actually is Biblical, although incomplete. In Galatians 6:7-10 we read:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Some call it karma, but that word has distinctly different meanings for the Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions. Despite popular use of the term among 20th century westerners who consider themselves to be “spiritual” people, karma is not a Biblical concept.

Repeatedly in the scriptures, God describes himself as active in the affairs of men. And he speaks in many places of repaying individuals or groups of people for their evil deeds:

  • It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. ~Deuteronomy 32:35
  • I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. ~Deuteronomy 32:40-41
  • I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols. ~Jeremiah 16:18
  • The end is now upon you, and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity; I will not spare you. I will surely repay you for your conduct and for the detestable practices among you. “‘Then you will know that I am the LORD. ~Ezekiel 7:3-4
  • Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. ~Romans 12:19
  • For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” ~Hebrews 10:30

These verses – and many others like them – help us understand Proverbs 26:27: People do all kinds of mischievous or even evil acts. But God doesn’t overlook this fact. And on more occasions than you may realize, the person with wicked intentions falls into the pit they dug for someone else.

Have you ever tried to take revenge into your own hands? Or maybe you were the mischief-maker, laying a trap for someone else. If that was – or is – you, seeking God’s forgiveness and determining not to behave that way again might be what the Lord would have you consider today.

Wise words have value

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold. ~Proverbs 25:11-12 HCSB

Have you ever thought of words as having great value? This passage from the book of Proverbs compares certain words to valuable jewelry.

What is “a word spoken at the right time?” Some translations render this phrase as “a word aptly spoken,” or “a word fitly spoken.” We might use the synonym “appropriate” to describe such a word.

What makes words like these so valuable? They hold special meaning to the hearer, because they are spoken with timeliness, sensitivity, and care.

Such a valuable word isn’t necessarily a correction, but it can be. Notice, however, that for the formula to work, the advice offered must be wise – based on God’s wisdom. And, it must also be presented to a receptive ear for it to have value. Perhaps you know someone who offered wonderful advice, but the recipient’s ears weren’t really receptive. Such a transaction just doesn’t work.

Or it could be that the counsel offered isn’t based on godly wisdom. If the words themselves don’t contain wisdom, they are cheap costumer jewelry, rather than precious metal like gold and silver. Even when the hearer’s ears are receptive, poor advice is ultimately of little value.

What kind of words do your family and friends hear from you? Is your counsel based on the wisdom of God’s word? If not, ask the Lord to help you develop a greater hunger for th scriptures.

Can’t say you didn’t know

If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? ~Proverbs 24:10-12 NIV

Some Christians are surprised to learn that the Old Testament contains passages like this that speak to the subject of evangelism. But in John 1:45, it’s clear that the disciples understood that the Old Testament (often referred to by first-century Jews as “the Law and the Prophets) was written about Jesus:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Jesus himself says in Luke 24:44 that the Old Testament is about him:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Acts 28:23-24 tells of Paul trying to evangelize Jews living in Rome. Note that Paul uses the Old Testament scriptures to explain Jesus to them:

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.

So what does this passage in Proverbs mean? It’s a command to rescue people who are in big trouble. They are “staggering toward slaughter,” the passage says. The truth is that people who die without a relationship with Jesus Christ really are staggering toward slaughter – an eternal death and separation from God.

All Christians have a responsibility to tell others about Jesus. Determine today to be an obedient Christ-follower. Ask God to help you tell others about him. Pray for wisdom and opportunity.

This passage takes away all your excuses, too. When you give an account of your life to the Lord – and you will, one day – you can try to protest that you didn’t know anything about all this eternal separation from God stuff. But you know better, and so does God.