Give me just enough

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

Man PrayingThis chapter in the book of Proverbs begins by explaining that Agur, son of Jakeh, is the author of these sayings. He is also known as Agur ben Jakeh. Many Bible scholars conclude that because his name, Agur, actually means “gatherer” or “collector,” he may only have compiled these verses from other sources.

Agur’s prayer asks the Lord to help him strike a delicate balance in life: He wants integrity. And he wants just enough: Not too little, and not too much. Interestingly, he worries that having too much could lead him to deny God’s true role in his life.

Agur isn’t so concerned that having too little would put him in a bad position. Having too little might lead him to steal, which could have a negative effect on how others see the Lord.

Reflect on the lesson of Agur’s example today. It may cause you to re-examine your priorities. As you spend time in the word today and pray, what are you asking the Lord to do in your life? Are you asking for too much? Too little? Let the Holy Spirit reveal to you the life balance he desires for you.

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There is no rest

When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest. ~Proverbs 29:9 NASB

ArgueFamed American author Mark Twain once remarked, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

Who is a foolish person, according to the scriptures? In the book of Proverbs, fools are described as those who:

  • despise wisdom and instruction (1:7)
  • hate knowledge (1:22)
  • are complacent (1:32)
  • display dishonor (3:35)
  • bring grief to their mother (10:1)
  • spread slander (10:18)
  • die for lack of understanding (10:21)
  • think of wickedness as a sport (10:23)
  • will serve the wise (11:29)
  • can’t conceal their anger (12:16)
  • proclaim and display folly (12:23, 13:16)
  • bring harm to their companions (13:20)
  • tear down their own household (14:1)
  • mock at sin (14:9)
  • are arrogant and careless (14:16)
  • are quick-tempered (14:17)
  • reject their father’s discipline (15:5)
  • despise their mother (15:20)

Proverbs 29:9 correctly predicts that a fool will either rage or laugh when his inferior knowledge or intellect are exposed. He cannot win on the merits of his position, and he knows it. He resorts to deflection by way of an angry tirade or laughing, as if his opponent’s position is completely absurd.

Arguing with a fool is a complete waste of your time. Fools lack integrity. There can be no constructive conversation with them until they repent of their folly. Indeed, there is no rest.

Have you ever been the fool? Ponder today whether or not the Lord ever looks at you as displaying the character flaws listed above. Give thanks to your heavenly father for his forgiveness and mercy as you seek godly wisdom today.

Discerning or deluded?

The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are. ~Proverbs 28:11 NIV

WealthNowhere does the Bible condemn wealth. In fact, many people mentioned in the Old and New Testaments are described as rich or having an abundance of possessions. Some of them were godly and used their personal wealth for great good. Others were rebellious and evil, hoarding only for themselves. But there are many scriptures like Proverbs 28:11 that offer a glimpse into the troubles rich people must endure.

Wealthy people can fall into the trap of believing that their financial situation came about because of their own wisdom, hard word, business acumen or intelligence. This is rooted in sinful  pride. Deuteronomy 8:16-18 explains that God is the one who gives you the power to create wealth:

In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

If you possess material wealth, do so with humility. God has, indeed, blessed you. But remember that material wealth does not automatically mean you’re smarter than someone who has less.

In fact, this verse teaches that a person of lesser means who has discernment can easily see through the charade. Although many wealthy people have incredible intelligence and an amazing work ethic, a discerning person understands full well that some became rich by birth, and others by simple luck. Many wealthy people aren’t wise at all, in spiritual terms.

As you seek the Lord today, pray for godly wisdom and discernment, and ask the Lord to grant you humility. This problem isn’t limited to the rich; poor people can also be “wise in their own eyes.” The question today is whether or not you have discernment to tell the difference in your own life.

A promised reward

Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored. ~Proverbs 27:18 ESV

Fig TreeThis scripture makes an interesting comparison between caring for a fig tree and looking after the interests of one’s master (or employer, in some translations).

It isn’t easy to raise fig trees successfully. Experts recommend that you start with saplings, and avoid trying to grow them from seed. The fig tree relies on a substantial root system, so digging a large hole and planting it in nutritious soil is key to a good start. As the tree grows, it must be watered constantly — but not over-watered, as soggy soil will soon ruin the fruit. Fig trees must be pruned when the plant is dormant in cold weather, so as to allow light and air to circulate between the leaves. The trees should be fertilized every spring. In wintry conditions, the trees must be wrapped from top to bottom to protect them from cold and frost.

Overwhelmed yet?

The verse promises that the one who works hard, caring for the tree with a lot of attention and labor, will eventually enjoy its fruit. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the reward is worth the effort. Since fig trees and figs have been popular for millenia, many people must have thought the time and energy was well invested!

If you go to all the trouble to grow figs, you can look forward to a tasty, albeit temporary, reward. The second half of this verse compares this to what you earn by looking out for the interests of others — specifically, those to whom you are responsible.

If you are employed, your boss, or manager, or company owner will be blessed if you work hard for them. Colossians 3:23-24 explains that your work ethic actually has eternal significance:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Working diligently, as if you are employed by Jesus himself, will also bring a reward. So how can you “guard your master” or employer? In studying this verse, Matthew Henry applied this to your relationship with the Lord. He remarked, “God is a Master who has engaged to honour those who serve him faithfully.”

Choose today to serve your heavenly father faithfully. He promises you a great reward.

What to remove?

Take away the dross from silver, And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry. Take away the wicked from before the king, And his throne will be established in righteousness. ~Proverbs 25:4-5 NKJV

DrossThe word “dross” derives from the Old English word “dros,” used to describe the scum produced when smelting metals, including silver. By the 15th century the term was commonly used to refer to rubbish in general. Dross is typically seen as a mass of solid impurities floating on top of molten metal.

These two verses give examples of situations where something must be removed before the desired result can be achieved. In the case of silver, it must be smelted and the dross removed before the silversmith can use it to make something valuable. With respect to a leader, only when wicked influences are removed can his/her leadership can be righteous and effective.

You cannot have a pure silver vessel till you have purified the silver; and no nation can have a king a public blessing till the wicked — all bad counsellors, wicked and interested ministers, and sycophants — are banished from the court and cabinet. When the wise and good only are the king‘s ministers and advisers, then the throne will be established in righteousness, and his administration be a universal blessing.
~Adam Clarke

What needs to be removed from your life to make you useful for service in God’s kingdom? As you spend time with the Lord in prayer and studying his word, ask your heavenly father to reveal to you things that should be taken away: sinful habits, disobedient thoughts or actions, unhealthy relationships. Determine to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Take the long view

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. ~Proverbs 24:19-20 ESV

Prayer SilouhetteHave you ever wondered why immoral, greedy, self-centered, egotistical, law-breaking people who do truly bad things sometimes experience great worldly success? This passage encourages you to stop concerning yourself with what wicked people do and have.

In 2 Timothy 4:7-9 the apostle Paul explains the hope of every Jesus follower:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

A Christian has God’s promise of eternal life. Evildoers have no such hope. There is nothing — nothing — for a believer to envy about wicked people. While they may appear to prosper for a time, in the long run, they will not.

So when this passage assures you that the wicked have no future, that should be all you need to know. Not only is there nothing for them in the future, God himself promises to extinguish the lamps of those who fail to repent of their rebellion against Jesus Christ.

Rather than waste your time today musing about why some bad people have a good life, think about a person you know who does not believe Jesus Christ is God. Pray for their salvation. Ask the Lord to reveal himself in his great mercy to that person. Jesus would do no less.

To drink, or not to drink?

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” ~Proverbs 23:29-35 NIV

Drinking AlcoholTo drink, or not to drink? That is an age-old question in some Christian circles. While some have decided to abstain completely, others embrace wine and other forms of alcohol as just another beverage.

The Bible does not specifically prohibit the drinking of alcohol. But there do appear passages such as this in Proverbs 23:29-35, which warn of the disastrous effects of too much alcohol. But can you tell how much is too much?

At some point, too much alcohol leads to woe, sorrow, strife and complaints. When it gets to the point of causing bloodshot eyes and needless bruises, the alcohol is winning and the drinker is losing. It’s very difficult for the drinker to do anything about their alcohol addiction at that point without getting help.

A little alcohol is permissible, according to the scriptures. It may even have health benefits, although scientific studies on this are conflicting and inconclusive. You may decide to abstain because you don’t want weaker brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.

Whatever your decision about whether or not to drink alcohol, pray for those who do drink too much. They are caught in a hopeless cycle of drinking, sleeping, and then waking — only to look for their next drink.