The biblical Proverbs know the corrosive effect of things. No naivete lingers in these lines, only the most intelligent realism.
Throughout this biblical book, scarcity with honor has been recognized as an almost distinguished condition, or at least a circumstance that is preferable to familiar alternatives. Wealth, too, has been appraised as a worthy blessing so long as the heart and the conduct of the one blessed by it are well tended.
Yet the passage before us turns to assess the real danger that both poverty and riches bear within themselves. Suggestively, these economic conditions of apparent woe and weal, respectively, are placed alongside ‘falsehood and lies’ on a short list of things worth avoiding.
Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
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.
Although the Proverbs underscore the capacity of the wise man or woman to shape life and even to mold a desired future, this articulated fear reckons with forces that are not so easily wrestled into blessing. Finding themselves in such a place, the Proverbs loose a rare prayer to the God who can manage invisible threat.