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Average Ordinary Guy

Wisdom in radical contentment 

Proverbs 30:7-9

7 Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):

Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;

Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.


One of the greatest American rock bands of the 1970’s was “The Eagles.” Formed in 1971, they had hit after hit and sold hundreds of millions of records. Songs like “Desperado,” “Take it Easy,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” were crowd-pleasers that satisfied concert-goers and radio-listeners alike.

Guitarist Joe Walsh replaced departing band member Bernie Leadon in 1975, just in time to be part of the release the band’s iconic hit “Hotel California.” The song topped the charts in 1977, but marked a decline for the group as life on the road took its toll. Walsh added much talent in the group’s remaining years, but went back to releasing solo albums when the band broke up in 1980. None of these new solo efforts were as successful as his earlier works.

In 1991, Walsh released his ninth solo album, “Ordinary Average Guy.” The eponymous title track of that name was something of a hit, but critics noted Walsh’s decline from earlier decades. The song, along with its talented creator, was in danger of becoming just what it declared: ordinary.

In light of Walsh’s indisputable talent and achievement, it is more likely that what seemed “ordinary” in reality appeared to simply be “mediocre.” Nevertheless, the song is quirky and bright, with humorous lyrics that in many ways does reflect the life of an ordinary average guy:

I'm just an ordinary average guy
My friends all are boring
And so am I
We're just ordinary average guys

Is really it so bad to be ordinary and average? 

In Proverbs 30, Solomon records the sayings of the enigmatic prophet Agur. In verses 7-9 he records a prayer that is remarkable in that this is the very literary form that it takes. This is a proverb that is not directed at the reader as a person or a student, but to God.

7 Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):–Proverbs 30:7

His tone of urgency seen in his plea “before I die” is not one of a man on his deathbed, but one who has come to realize what life is all about. As a consequence, he acknowledges that he is in absolute need of the mercy of I AM to supply his needs. 

More than this passage being unique as a prayer among the proverbs, he makes two requests of God, both of which frame well-known themes of Proverbs: honesty and wealth:

Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;–Proverbs 30:8

Here, the sage recognizes the pricelessness of honesty, but also the paradox of wealth. Let’s look at his request for truth. In fact, he is asking that God keep “falsehood and lies” from him. He is not so much as requesting “truth” in some philosophical manner, he is asking to remove the temptation to lie. 

He wants God to keep him faithful to the Ninth Commandment. This means not only does he desire to lose the temptation to lie due to fear, discontentment, or malice, he seeks radical truthfulness. 

The sage’s second petition is for wealth…but not too much. He desires “neither poverty nor riches” but only the necessities of life. The “food allotted” is a metaphor for one’s needs. The image here is of a quota that you receive due to your station in life.

As a westerner, the thought of your benefits and blessings needing an earthly limit or pertaining to your role in life may seem repugnant. But inherent in this is a call to humility not only in regards to your attitude towards others, but also in your possessions. 

God will provide your daily needs, and sets a standard of humility in your expectations. An example of this can be seen in Exodus 16:18 with His provision of quail for His people in the wilderness, for “each of them gathered as much as he could eat.” Exodus 16:18). God does not desire you to take more than you truly require. 

The same principle goes when you are in a position of authority. When Nehemiah is overseeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile he takes measures to protect the poor. He notes that he is more than able to care for his men and the officials of the court and “did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.” (Nehemiah 5:18)

Passages like this, along with Agur’s prayer, even foreshadow Christ’s institution of the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:11. It is possible that the words “give us this day our daily bread” is a reminder that Jesus grew up not only learning the Proverbs—He was author of them as well!  

Agur’s prayer has often been considered the “middle class prayer” of the Bible—serving as proof that God loves the working man. You may have seen this passage posted on social media by your “average, ordinary” friends who are grateful to be able to simply make a living, pay their bills, and manage to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. To them, this seems like a true “prayer of a common man.”

Speaking of the common man, about the time that The Eagles broke up and Joe Walsh went solo, country music songwriter Sammy Johns penned a song titled “Common Man.” Picked up by popular country artist John Conlee, “Common Man” quickly became a blue-collar hit: 

I'm just a common man, drive a common van
My dog ain't got a pedigree
If I have my say, it's gonna stay that way
'Cause high-browed people lose their sanity
And a common man is what I'll be

Is the prayer of Agur in Proverbs 30 an ode to the middle class? No, there is no inherent virtue in poverty, just is there is no inherent evil in wealth. “Middle class” can also be a sliding scale: the middle class in the 21st century lives at a different level of comfort than the middle class of the 20th century—much less anything close to a middle class of 1,000 BC.

This prayer is ultimately far from being a request for financial stability and happiness in his station in life. The glory of God, and not his own needs, motivates Agur’s two requests. This is revealed in verse 9:

Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.–Proverbs 30:9

Just as Agur is seeking radical truthfulness, here he seeks radical contentment. He identifies the enemies of contentment as complacency and jealousy. To be “fat, dumb, and happy” in his wealth brings the temptation to disown God as the source of his blessings. Likewise, to be poor leads to the temptation of becoming indigent and turning to a life of crime. 

He knows that the stakes are eternal and that this is a matter of the heart—and this is why there is no hope in simply being “middle class.” Even there, it is possible to be solidly middle class and still be so satisfied that you have no need of God, or so jealous of others that you embezzle funds or live unethically in order to gain more wealth.

So how does this fit into your average, ordinary life as a common person? You probably have no fear in forsaking God due to wealth—though you would be happy to win the lottery and put this to the test! Likewise, you struggle but make ends meet, but would never think of shoplifting or stealing copper wire from construction sites. 

Agur’s prayer in Proverbs is a reminder of the beauty of God’s ultimate gift of wealth to you: His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ did not die for those wealthy enough to contribute large sums to His church or afford to live comfortably virtuous, politely avoiding public sins. Nor did Jesus die for the poor and downtrodden—the ultimate “class warrior.”

No, Jesus died for ALL of His elect. He chose you from before time began, to save you from your sins, not your average, ordinary life. Matthew Redmond writes about this in his fascinating book “God of the Mundane:” 

We are not redeemed from the mundane. We are redeemed from the slavery of thinking our mundane life is not enough.–Matthew Redmond

Like Agur, you seek to be satisfied in God’s provision. Being satisfied in Christ does not mean that you lose your ambition, creativity, and personal drive to succeed. On the contrary, the radical contentment that comes with following Jesus means that when you rely on Him for your joy, happiness, and confidence, your desire for many other things that you think you need will fade—along with their power as temptations. Just as Paul encourages his young friend Timothy:

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.–I Timothy 6:8-10 

Do you have areas of your life where you feel discontented? Have you reached a point in your career or retirement where you feel you are falling short of dreams or personal goals you set long ago? Or are you very comfortable in life and find yourself less and less concerned with pleasing God and more concerned with keeping up with friends in your own tax bracket? Re-read Agur’s prayer and consider where your heart truly lies.

As Agur’s prayer for radical truth reveals a desire to uphold the Ninth Commandment, his request for radical contentment is a call to live out the Tenth.

(That’s the one about coveting.)

More than simply not desiring the possessions of others, you are called to live generously, giving to others out of your own abundance. Tim Keller explains this well: 

Our homes, clothing, and lifestyle should be modest within our circle and neighborhood so we can be as generous as possible. The Christian community should model to the world a society in which wealth and possessions are seen as tools for serving others and not as means of personal advancement and fulfillment.–Timothy Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life” 

Do you desire to live a life of modesty and generosity? Like with the rich young ruler, Jesus is not really telling you to sell everything you have, He is telling you to love Him more than anything in this world. 

In Christ, your average, ordinary life is filled with and extraordinary, eternal wealth. And Jesus is the greatest gift that you can share with others.



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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