When middle ground is best

Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
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.
Proverbs 30:7-9

Generally speaking, the middle ground is something that the Bible doesn’t particularly encourage. You either believe Jesus is the Son of God or you don’t. You either love God and his people or you don’t, and so on. But when it comes to what we request of God regarding money, the Bible does point us to sit neatly in the middle of two opposing positions.

In our Bible study small groups we have been looking at the issue of money. Not only has this been encouraging and challenging in our current economic climate, but it has also been a helpful topic to study in the light of our current financial position as a church.

Last night was the last meeting of this current term. Our group took time to share what one verse or passage from God’s Word we have looked at this term has challenged us or encouraged us the most. For many in the group, it was Proverbs 30:7-9, quoted above.

The proverb is very honest about our hunger for material gratification. In it, we are urged to ask God to keep us from riches which so easily become the centre of our lives at the cost of denying our Creator.

Yet the proverb is also very real about our fear of poverty and the equally serious threat of turning against God for any downturn that may occur.

I suspect that many people find this proverb so helpful because it speaks directly to our attitude toward wealth and poverty in such a down-to-earth way, urging us to sit on the fence of contentment and satisfaction. And so we are to work hard and earn our keep, for that is generally how we keep ourselves from poverty (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Yet we are to be generous with what we do reap from our labour, for that is one way that we can express our hope in God. Besides, being generous with our money will certainly keep us from storing up unhelpful wealth (1 Timothy 6:17-19)!

However, the real kick with this proverb is when we find ourselves falling off the contentment fence. Implicit in this proverb are two serious challenges. If God should bless us with riches, are we going to denying him as the one to whom our wealth belongs, or are we going to humbly thank him and use our wealth for his Kingdom? And if God, for his good purpose, should permit us to fall into poverty, are we going to turn our backs on him and equally deny him as our Sovereign Lord, or are we going to fall on our needs and humbly call on his name?