7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Every time I revisit this passage, it makes me wince. And I am compelled to pray with the author as he does.
Note how the two things our writer is concerned about here merge in being kept back from deception by virtue of his own response to external conditions. This reveals my own heart so much.
Poverty lies to us – in that when we feel deprived, we begin to believe it is a wrong done to us by God and can easily justify profaning Him in theft. We’re sure we “deserve” more, or at least to not be in the situation we are in at that moment. And is gives us leave to do what perhaps we would not ordinarily do. But then…
Riches deceive by our foolish trust in them. We begin to feel at ease when we seem to have enough materially, and fail to guard our hearts carefully. Thinks are OK externally, so God must be pleased with me no matter how cold or indifferent my heart is toward Him at the moment – and so anything goes. Especially lack of diligence in regards to my soul.
It is this tendency toward self-deception our writer sees within himself, and prays that God will not allow him to fall victim to his own perverse inward sinfulness. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
And in this day of the proliferation of the “prosperity Gospel”, who would think to pray this way? In a world obsessed with success (humanly measured), performance, personal achievement and the notion that God seems to exist for me, to make my life what I desire it to be – what a rebuke this is! How it challenges us to examine our desires and priorities. To see if our goal is Christlikeness above comfort; freedom from sin instead of freedom to sin; and self-suspicion above self-confidence. But it seems as though we assume that if we want it, it must be valid and therefore it is God’s mandate to help us secure it. Whatever “it” may be.
Personally, abundance seems to be the more destructive to me. My tendency to take what is abundantly given, and to rest in it apart from the Giver, and to be greedy in it so as to want even more beyond what He has provided is a most pernicious facet of my own soul. But I have also known the sin of self-justifying theft when pinched by circumstances.
Heavenly Father, you know my heart better than I. You know my propensity to grow more stingy when I have abundance, and resentful when in lack. Grant me only what will be most in keeping with recreating the image of Christ within me, and honoring you in my life and decisions. Grant only what is most needful for me in your quest to rid me of sin, and make me like Jesus.