The Danger of Both Wealth and Poverty
1. In this section, Agur asked the Lord for two things:
a. To remove from him vanities and lies
b. To preserve him from two extremes: great riches or great poverty.
c. Instead he asked the Lord to give him “just enough” – food convenient for him.
2. In verse nine Agur states his reasons why he wants to avoid either riches or poverty.
The Danger of Wealth
1. Agur realized the danger of riches. The danger was that once he had riches, he would no longer see his need for God.
2. “Lest I be full”
a. Agur did NOT want to have an abundance: to be full of possessions, property, food, money, etc.
b. It wasn’t because it is sinful or evil to be rich.
c. Many of God’s saints have been wealthy – Adam, Abraham, King David, King Solomon, etc.
d. Agur was not saying that wealth is evil; but he did acknowledge that it came with temptations.
e. He was also aware of his own sinful nature and how easily he could succumb to temptation.
3. “Lest I deny thee.”
a. Deny can mean to “no longer be in association with; to be unfaithful to.”
b. The fear of riches is that it causes even believers to live like unbelievers… even denying their need for God… denying their association with Him.
4. “Who is the Lord?”
a. Associated with the thought of denying God comes this kind of arrogance: “Who is the Lord?”
b. It sounds like Pharaoh saying, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?
c. In other words, WHY should I obey God? I don’t need Him any more. I have everything I need.
d. What a pitiful concept of God that is! God is much more than a Provider. He ought to be our all in all.
e. Riches tend to emphasize the importance of the temporal “things that are seen” and deemphasize eternal and invisible things—even God Himself.
f. It is a miserable blindness.
g. The Laodiceans were afflicted with this kind of blindness.
h. Rev. 3:17 – “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
i. Riches cause the believer to think that he has no need for God—and therefore does nothing for God. He becomes self centered.
5. Deut. 6:10-12 – This is exactly what God warned the children of Israel about when they went into the Promised Land.
a. Vs. 10-11 – The stage is set: riches in the Promised Land!
b. Vs. 12 – The warning is that our nature is to forget the Lord who delivered us from bondage and provided us with material goods.
6. Deut. 8:10-14 – And extended warning is given—again!
a. Vs. 11 – Beware lest you forget God and disobey His Word.
b. Vs. 14 – Pride sets in.
c. Vs. 17b – “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.”
d. Vs. 19 – The tendency is to walk after other gods. In other words, our affection is no longer given to the Lord, but to other “entities” – vanities… idols… material things… entertaining things… They become our gods.
7. History tells us that that is exactly what DID happen to Israel when they went into the land and experienced its wealth.
a. Hosea 13:6 – “According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.”
b. Deut.32:15 – “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.”
• Jeshurun is used here as a name for Israel. It means “the upright one.” (irony)
• They became fat (rich) and kicked (became rebellious against God.)
8. Agur’s fear of riches was not that he would have so much that he would become burdened with anxiety and fear and lose his friends.
a. His concern was not for himself and all the problems and trouble wealth might bring to him and his family.
b. His fear was that he might sin against God.
c. His fear was that riches would ruin his relationship with God.
d. These are the concerns of a very godly man.
e. This should be our fear too. We have so much in this country—compared to most people in the world.
f. It is harder to trust God for our daily bread when we have a refrigerator full of food and a paycheck coming every week.
g. It’s not impossible—but it is harder. May God teach us all to learn to be content… and to trust God for our daily needs.
h. Godly men fear God. Part of fearing God involves fearing displeasing Him through sin.
i. The believer who is sensitive to spiritual things and who is aware of his own heart will fear sinning because he knows it is a very real possibility in his own life.
The Danger of Poverty
1. The other danger Agur feared was poverty. Like riches, poverty also comes with its own unique set of temptations.
2. “Lest I be poor and steal”
a. The first temptation associated with poverty is the temptation to steal.
b. Agur is acknowledging that this is something that could become a problem for him. He was aware of the vileness of his own fallen nature.
c. Pride would lead a man to believe that stealing is “beneath” him. That is something he would never do… especially if he is saved.
d. I Cor. 10:12 – “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
e. Agur was wise enough and humble enough to know that the potential for stealing resided in his old nature. (And it resides in ours too!)
f. We noted last time that Agur had a problem with lying and admitted it. So did the psalmist.
g. He was not too proud to acknowledge that stealing could also be a real temptation under certain circumstances—like poverty!
h. Prov. 6:30 – Men do not hate a man who steals because he and his family are hungry.
• Solomon is speaking about a man who steals just enough to eat and cause the hunger pains to go away… and perhaps some for his family to eat.
• Men do not despise such a person.
» His actions are understandable…
» We can easily forgive such a man…
» A judge in court would probably be quite lenient on such a man.
» This is not the kind of crime that would cause a public outcry of rage against the man.
» People might despise a bank robber who steals their hard earned money… but most people wouldn’t despise a hungry man who stole a loaf of bread.
• However, Solomon is not condoning such behavior! (vs.31)
» It is still sin. This is not a matter of situational ethics. Stealing a loaf of bread is sin whether we are hungry or not.
» There is no such thing as a set of circumstances in which it is OK to sin… to break God’s commandment.
» Solomon states that this man is to restore sevenfold.
» Ex.22:1, 3, 4 – The law was quite strict about such crimes. If the man had nothing to restore, he could be sold into slavery.
• Prov. 6:32-33 – Solomon was not being lenient with respect to the sin of stealing a loaf of bread by stating that men will not hate such a man. His real point was to discuss the sin of adultery: men WILL hate a person who commits adultery, ruins a marriage and breaks up a family. His reproach will NOT be wiped away.
i. It is understandable how a man could be reduced to begging for bread or even stealing bread.
j. This is what Agur feared. He knew that given the right set of circumstances (hungry, crying children) he might be tempted to steal bread. He feared it.
k. Again notice the integrity of Agur. His concern was not that he would steal and get caught… and be sent to prison or sold into slavery. His fear was not for himself.
l. His fear was that he might sin against God.
m. Pray: Lead us not into temptation!
3. “Lest I take the name of my God in vain”
a. A man who was so poor he felt he had to steal in order to feed his crying, hungry children could easily grow angry and bitter against God and curse Him.
• When Job fell into hard times Satan’s temptation through his wife was to encourage him to “curse God and die!”
b. It is also possible that taking the name of the Lord in vain in this context may refer to swearing in a court of law.
• If he stole and was caught, he would have to go to a court of law.
• In other words, the sin of stealing may lead to the sin of using God’s name in court in a vain (empty) manner.
• Sin often spirals downward… one leads to another.
c. Either way, Agur was concerned about God’s name. He did not want to be poor – because he feared using God’s name in an inappropriate manner. He feared that.
d. Agur’s fear of poverty was not that he would get caught stealing. It was that he feared the temptation of poverty that might lead him to offend his Lord. That attitude is commendable.