Proverbs 30 is so beautifully balanced. It recognizes the reality that we need money, and it recognizes the danger that money presents. And so the prayer is founded in a sober estimation of oneself – don’t give me too much, and don’t give me too little. Because I might be prone to sin in either case. In the end, this is the prayer of faith when it comes to money. It is a prayer that acknowledges that inasmuch as we don’t know ourselves, God does.
“Just follow your heart.”
It’s the stuff that Disney movies are made of. It’s about actualizing yourself and your potential; it’s about living your dreams; it’s about living happily ever after. It’s also a terrible piece of advice. That’s because I can’t trust my own heart. And neither can you.
If it’s happened once, it’s happened a thousand times to me. I do something, something (dare I say) good for someone else, and then in retrospect find that I didn’t really do that thing for them, but for myself. It was so that others would see me doing it. It was to garner praise from the person I was helping. It was to impressively display my aptitude or compassion for another. It happens all the time. And every time it happens, I’m reminded of that same fact which is in equal parts true and disturbing:
I cannot trust my own heart.
The prophet Jeremiah knew that truth, experienced that truth, and summarized that truth like this:
“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:6).
Can we trust ourselves? Heavens no – we don’t even really know ourselves. And that lack of self-knowledge can go both ways. Sometimes we dramatically underestimate ourselves. We think too little of our faith, courage, resolve, or abilities and therefore never really take a chance or risk. And then sometimes we dramatically overestimate ourselves and end up underdelivering on those same qualities. Somehow, we have to stand in the middle of those things – to not think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. To see ourselves, as Paul tells us, with “sober judgment”: