Proverbs 30:8 - Neither Poverty nor Riches
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” How easy would it be for you to pray like this? To whom do you look for your daily bread? The focus of many on Labour Day is to commemorate and celebrate the advances obtained through labour union activities.
It is regrettable that unfair employment practices contributed to the rising influence of labour unions. They gained strength because of injustices. It is true: “The worker deserves his wages.” That statement, however, was not first promoted in the circles of organized labour. It is a truth expressed in the Bible in various ways. See, for example, Luke 10:7 and James 5:4. Whoever employs people should keep this in mind.
Many impure motives have affected labour unions. They have gone beyond seeking a fair wage for workers. Not satisfied with eliminating poverty and poor working conditions, they have contributed to the cycle of greed. They are engaged in a constant struggle for “more.” This has put them at the same level as unjust employers who were motivated by greed in withholding fair wages from their workers.
Let God Determine your Portion
As Christians, our main concern should not be earthly riches, but the kingdom of God. Within that context, we do our work. Our prayer should not be for material prosperity, but for daily bread. In the book of Proverbs, the petition of Agur is recorded: “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” What does he mean by this? That becomes clear as he continues: “give me only my daily bread.” He does not ask for much: just an allotment of bread, a fixed portion. He leaves it up to the LORD to establish that portion.
The LORD is all-powerful. We are dependent upon Him for our food and we must serve Him. So doesn’t it make sense to ask Him to determine what we need to serve Him?
By praying in this way, you oppose the spirit of the world. You reject the idea that man is self-sufficient. Man might think he is able to take care of himself. He might cherish the illusion that he is in full control of events. But God makes the sun shine and the rain fall. Acknowledge that He supplies us with our daily bread.
By asking God for our daily bread, we confess that He is all-powerful. He is able to give each one of us what we need. We not only express our confidence that He can do this, but also that He will hear our prayer.
Self-Denial and Contentment
The words of our text express a very modest request. There is self-denial involved here. It is a human inclination to desire an abundance of good things. But focussing on the Kingdom of God means limiting our desires for personal gain. It requires a reorientation of our lives. It means realizing that our priority should be to serve God.
If serving God is the most important thing in your life, you can be satisfied with daily bread. But if your life revolves around yourself and your own pleasures, this prayer will be quite difficult. How can you be satisfied with daily bread if your heart is longing for much more than that? How can you pray this prayer if your mind is full of advertisements that stimulate desires for more money, more pleasure and all sorts of luxury items?
The LORD is willing to hear a modest request for our daily needs. As Christians we may be doubly sure of this, because the request is taken up in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” For the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, God answers this petition. He does this as a Father who takes care of his children. The daily bread we ask for is a gift of his grace.
We should not pray for daily bread for our own sake. After all, what we ask for is to be used to serve the LORD. This means that we may ask boldly and then get to work. We may work knowing that He gives us the opportunity to serve Him. Will He not also give us the means we need to continue in this service?
A Liberating Petition
We must do our daily work, using our abilities to the glory of our God. We must also leave it up to Him how He will bless this. The LORD determines the potential and the limits of our abilities. Knowing and acknowledging this can be a liberating experience. Don’t take on too many responsibilities, trying to do more than you can actually handle. Even if you only work hard, keep in mind what your motives are. Are you doing this to serve God, or just to get even further ahead financially? There is more to life than economic gains. Do you have a wife and children? You have more than just financial responsibilities toward them.
We live in a world that is still affected by the fall into sin. That means accepting the fact that there are difficulties which we will have to face. This includes difficulties in our daily work. But we can lay them before the LORD in prayer. That makes a big difference. In the midst of this world we can experience peace. The condition is, however, that we trust in the LORD and ask Him for our daily bread. As long as He has a task for us in this life, He will provide us with what need.