“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” – Proverbs 30:8
It never occurred to me as a kid that my maternal grandmother was poor, nor did she think of herself as poor for that matter. Yet, to judge by her worldly possessions one would certainly think she was poor. The home she lived in was but a small frame structure that she and my grandfather had managed to purchase years before; her entire wardrobe consisted of no more than three simple dresses; and over the course of her life she never drove an automobile.
Poor perhaps by the standards of Western society, but if you asked her she would be quick to say how blessed she was. Her house may have been small, but it was a bright and happy place where my mother and her three siblings were raised, and where a drop-in guest might experience hospitality fit for high-tea at Buckingham Palace. As to her wardrobe, usually given to her by my mother or aunt, it may have been sparce, but she was always elegant, her white hair permed and coiffed, and her simple dresses adorned with a colorful scarf and a piece or two of inexpensive jewelry. And although she did not drive, thus depending on others to take her to church, the grocery store, or any place beyond walking distance, she was never without a ride wherever she needed to go.
Steve, my best friend since childhood, shared with me recently some sage advice his father had offered him years ago as he was heading out into the world. “You need to have enough,” he said, “but you don’t need to have too much,” paraphrasing the prayer from Proverbs, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”
“For over 80 years researchers at Harvard have studied what makes for a good life,” according to this weekend’s edition of the New York Times. “They found one surefire, scientifically proven predictor of happiness: developing warmer relationships.” And that, I believe may be at the heart of the message my friend Steve heard from his father, as well as the wisdom of the Proverb. The message is not that we should strive to be neither poor nor rich, rather that our financial circumstances – rich, poor, or otherwise – not cause us to lose sight of what leads to a truly abundant life; that is, loving God and trusting Him as the provider of our daily needs, and loving others with caring and compassion. . . That is not unlike how my grandmother lived.