Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
The wisdom and goodness of God have so ordered it that those proportions of the good things of this life which are most consistent with the interests of the soul are also most conducive to our present felicity.
I. THE IMPORT OF AGUR'S WISH
1. Poverty and riches are relative terms; the idea of them varies as they are applied to persons of different condition, education, birth, or figure of life. This wish cannot be understood to propose one certain size and measure of fortune as the proper standard of all men's desires, but in a sense accommodated to the various ranks, conditions, and characters of men. Unless we exclude temporal blessings from being the subject of human petitions, thus much we may reasonably and lawfully ask of God. This petition is sometimes explained as requesting a middle station in life, within reach of those conveniences which the lower orders of mankind must necessarily want, and yet without embarrassment of greatness. This limitation cannot, however, be allowed, seeing that society cannot subsist without a diversity of stations and offices. Both extremes above and below the proportion of our character are equally dangerous to our virtue and happiness, and it is hard to determine which is most ineligible.
II. THE FORCE OF THOSE REASONS HERE SUGGESTED FOR THIS WISH, The danger apprehended from poverty is the temptation to supply wants by fraud and violence, theft or robbery, lying or perjury. The temptation to these crimes is very strong in a state of distress. A crowd of unfortunate passions surround the man, and will not suffer him to attend to the remonstrances of justice or the precepts of religion. On the other hand, riches multiplied beyond the proportion of our character, and the wants appendant to it, naturally dispose men to forget God. They are apt in such circumstances to think themselves secure and independent, out of the reach of Providence, and no longer concerned to solicit His favour. A superfluous abundance tempts us to forget God. If, then, both poverty and riches are thus dangerous to our virtue and religion, the proper subject of our petitions to God, with regard to temporals, must be a state between these, that medium of convenience proportioned to the several conditions of life which the example in the text recommends to our choice and prayers. This wise supplicant was contented with his present situation, and though he prayed for the condition he thought most desirable, yet left the event to God, and was prepared to submit to His will, though either of the extremes should be his portion.
1. If we would avoid the dangers and temptations of poverty, it concerns us not to overrate the conveniences of our station, and to fix the proportion fit for us rather too low than too high.
2. It is a great security to use ourselves to live within the restraints of a lower condition than that we are placed in.
3. To guard against temptations from the other extreme, remember the advice of the psalmist, "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." No condition of life is necessarily sinful or necessarily virtuous. We may pass with innocence through want and through abundance. Christian prudence will advise us to request a situation least exposed, the safe portion of a moderate adjusted convenience.
Parallel VersesKJV: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: