A few years ago, a movie came out entitled, "The Bucket List." Since then, this has become a household term. The phrase refers to the list of things a person would like to do or experience or see before he dies. Though I have not seen the movie, I have heard several people use the expression. For most it seems, the bucket list consists of things such as go to the Grand Canyon; go to Niagara Falls; go to Hawaii; go to Alaska; go to Europe; go skydiving; go bungee jumping; go to New England in the fall; etc. Such is the mindset of worldly people who have minimal hopes for a glorious eternal life. The Christian looks at life much differently. As he ponders his life, he sees many tokens of God's goodness to him and has a fond remembrance of much of his past. But he does not consider that his good times are coming to an end. He does not dread death and privately fear that it will bring an end to all pleasure. On the contrary, he expects death to bring him into the presence of his beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Death will bring about the fulfillment of his long cherished dreams. Death will bring an end to his transgressions. Death will bring perfect holiness. Death will bring about an introduction to all the departed saints he has known or read about. Death will mean Paradise. Consequently, the Christian feels no need to cram his retirement years with various trips and experiences before it's too late. With respect to the beauty of the earth, the Christian knows he will have all eternity to explore a new earth that will far exceed the current one in beauty and majesty. A Christian’s bucket list does not consist of worldly pleasures. It looks something like what we see in Proverbs 30:7-9:
“Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9)
These are the words of Agur (see Prov. 30:1). What he wanted before he died was quite different than what most people today want before they die. He was focused on spiritual realities and priorities. He was concerned about his own heart and his own sinful nature. He put two things on his bucket list.
1. Keep deception and lies far from me.
He knew that deep within him there was a tendency to lie, to be false, to be a hypocrite and a pretender. He understood how tempting it is to pretend to be something you are not, and thus be a liar. He understood the dangers of self deception and of convincing himself that he was righteous and that he didn't need a Savior. He understood the dangers of not being able to admit faults, thereby pretending he was never wrong. He knew the danger of deluding oneself by insisting that “it” is always someone else’s fault. He knew the danger of deluding himself by merely being a hearer of the Word and not a doer of the Word (James 1:22-27). And so his bucket list included deliverance from a lying heart. To him, being delivered from his lying nature was far more valuable than a dream cruise on the Mediterranean.
2. Give me neither poverty nor riches.
It is not hard to imagine someone praying to be delivered from poverty, but it is surely rare to hear of someone praying to be delivered from riches. Most believe you can serve both God and mammon. Most believe that money is a sure sign of God's blessing. Most believe that it is easy and quite common for the rich to get into heaven. Most do not believe that riches are a snare. Most are not worried that having a lot of money will tempt them to forget God and see no need for Him. The truth is that the rich rarely call on God. They rarely see the need to. If they want something, they buy it. In their mind, money is the answer to everything. “A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination” (Prov. 18:11). But Agur believes that if he were to be rich, he might very well “fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” He also believes that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). And since he believes these things, he prays, "Give me not riches.”
He also prays, "Give me not poverty.” Poverty is also a danger to his soul. He does not pray for this because he envies the middle or upper class and feels he deserves the same comforts and pleasures that they enjoy. On the contrary, he worries that poverty will expose him to another temptation. He sees within him a covetous monster and worries that if he has too little, he will be tempted to steal. He is not worried that being poor will bring dishonor to his name; he is worried that being poor will tempt him to steal and dishonor God's name. And so he prays to be delivered from poverty for a very different reason than most people utter this prayer. Salvation from the snares of poverty and wealth are far more worthy of the bucket list than a fishing trip to the Nile River, a camping trip to the forest of Lebanon, or any other adventure an Old Testament Israelite might dream about.