Daily Proverbial, 14 February 2012

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. Proverbs 30, verse 9.

Finally, the last of the initial prayers from the long-ago man known as Agur who implored God to grant his desperate prayer. Please bear with me while I recall what we’ve said here before. First, Agur prayed earnestly to God, knowing God held the power to listen to or grant Agur’s prayer. Next Agur prayed for something meaningful, praying for peaceful living and contentment instead of simply more possessions. Today, Agur’s verse talks about consequences. He knows God listens to his prayers, and he knows God holds dominion over all that is. He knows God provides, he knows God is supreme, and He knows God simply is. Now he acknowledges something more human. In this, Agur is the man in your mirror.

And face it: you know what I’m talking about. It’s not the usual Christian guilt-trip motivation: this is closer to home because it’s true to you even without the trip. When things are going well, at first you’re probably grateful. If you’re like me, though, the farther you get from that moment of thankfulness the easier it becomes to not be thankful. It isn’t overt resentment: it’s something more insidious that leads to the same slippery slope of which we have been warned since we were little children. When things are rough, we turn to God. When they get better, we give thanks, and I believe that’s usually a genuinely grateful outpouring. The longer things go well, however, the easier it becomes to forget to be thankful. We allow ourselves to get wrapped up in our daily lives, and that moment of initial thankfulness recedes into the past. After not very long, it looks pretty dim in the distance; before much longer, you won’t see it at all.

At that point, is it much of a stretch to say “who is the LORD?” You’re responsible for your life; you’re living the dream. It’s all on your shoulders. What you have is thanks to the sweat of your brow and little else. When you get to that point, who is the Lord that you should take notice of Him?

That’s reality check time: you’re at a turning point. You’re at the point of one more last chance. Whether you know it or not, every day is one of those ‘one more last chances’ but maybe you haven’t recognized that yet. Here’s to hoping you do, maybe even that this moment is when you do. If you allow yourself to get too big for your britches, you won’t ‘need’ God. You’ll have outgrown him like Wynken, Blyken and Nod, night lights in the hallway, and warm cookies when you get home from school. You’re in danger of downgrading God to being a fairy tale, a coping mechanism or psychological fascination. You’re in danger, not Him. He is what He is. You’re in danger.

And you’re in danger because it’s a slippery slope from forgetting about God to debauchery. Yeah, you heard me right: debauchery. Not long ago, maybe you just wanted to get by. You just wanted some peace in your life. It didn’t take much for you to curse God and turn from Him. Job’s wife wanted him to do that; if you read the book of Job, you might wonder why he didn’t! Job knew better. He knew that there was a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning, from taking advantage of God’s goodness to spurning it altogether and putting yourself in God’s place. Self-focus can be a dangerous thing because self-focus is a chink in our armor. It’s a weak place where Satan attacks us, senses our vulnerability.
When you get to that place, make this mantra your daily chant: it’s all about me. It is all about ME, not you, not anyone else, not your kids, your spouse, your girlfriend (or boyfriend), kids, job, neighbor, buddy or dog Spot; certainly it won’t be about God. It is about YOU, my friend. You will have become all that and a bag of Fritos.

Not really.

If you’re happy in that place, my guess is that you won’t be for long. If you aren’t happy, maybe it’s time to ask why. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. That you-thing soon won’t be enough. Putting yourself first is like smoking weed: it’s a gateway to other things. Many drug addicts start with pot and graduate to harder drugs. So it is with sin as well.

Agur said he would become poor and steal. Was he talking about literal poverty and theft? Maybe; those things would certainly dishonor God. But, you know, any sin dishonors God. Any sin is theft from God, theft, indeed, from others. We steal from each other, from God, on a daily basis when we steal from him the honor due to Him in thanks for His mercy and grace. Those who steal are poor. They are poor in spirit, poor in faith, poor in practice.

They, my friends, are you and me. Ouch! That hurts. One poor person to another, I’m glad it still hurts. To me, that means you still have a conscience, that the spark of faith is still in you. The joint is in your hand, but maybe you haven’t lit it. Or maybe you tried and are having second thoughts. That’s good. It’s good because the alternative is scary. The alternative is a hard heart; the alternative is sliding into deeper addiction. Do you really want that? Is that what God put you here for, or could it be that you’re here for bigger and better living?

I think you know the answer.

Thousands of years ago, back in Agur’s time, I’m pretty sure they didn’t say “whatever” but I’m betting there was some term that conveyed a similar meaning. Whatever, my friend. If you’re happy in your sins, then I wish you well. Mine have only made me miserable. I had enough of putting myself first and making it all about me. When I did that, I hurt the people I love, and when I did that I turned away even the new people in my life who valued me. For a time, I even asked “who is the LORD.” I found the place where I asked it to be dark and lonely. I was a thief of love and a thief of things; not someone you would want to be around. To be honest, I’m not sure you’d want to be around me even now because I still get the big head now and then and there’s more that I don’t know than what I do know. I’m nobody’s hero. Thank God for that, I’d say. Thank God for His mercy that lets me ask now “who is the Lord” so that I can anticipate the answer: He is my rock, my strength, my friend and my Savior. Agur knew this too.

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