Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 30:2
Surely I am more stupid than any man,
and I do not have the understanding of a man.
The writer, Agur, is trying to get people to understand the immensity of God. This verse is either a display of humility before God or a desire to draw in those who are proud and think they know a thing or two.
The word translated stupid in the NASB is the Hebrew word baar which is "brutish person or dull." The word is used five times in the Psalms and Proverbs. In Psalm 73:22, it is used of the person who refuses the grace of God and acts like a beast, not realizing the value of God's favor.
Agur is being humble as he draws up five questions whose only answer is God. This is potentially a formalized humility that allows other people to listen to him. It is true that when a person claims to be an expert, it is hard to listen to them. When they approach their area of expertise with a level of humility though, it is easier to listen to them.
Remember that pride was the first sin of both Lucifer and Adam, "I will be as God." So do not be in the position of trumpeting yourself. Let another sing your praises.
There is also the idea that Agur here is declaring that he does not have formalized schooling and has just sought after God as a common layman. He does not have degrees and years in school that would cause people to listen to him. This idea is more clearly developed in verse 3 when he says that he has not learned wisdom or, in other words, has not been in formal training in the learning of wisdom. He tells us that he has been scratching around like a beast or a brute. He has not even made the connections of a normal man.
Don't you feel like that at times as you look back at your life that you missed so many connections that you should have seen? If I had only known then what I know now, right? If I had not been so blind to what was happening all around me things would be different. This is what Agur is saying beyond the stylized humility. He is saying, “I have missed so much of what God was trying to tell me, but I wasn't paying attention... but I am paying attention now. And God is the answer,” he declares.
Every one of us needs to declare that we don't have the understanding of a man. We have missed so much. It is in this process of admitting that we should have seen the clues that were all around us. I just talked to a friend of mine who is brilliant and energetic and very successful, and he told me that if he had just done some things differently during one semester of college, he would have been able to realize his dreams; but instead, he got the one bad grade that changed the trajectory of his life.
I believe that right now there are opportunities and connections to which we need to be alert to. Pray that God will give you eyes to see these. Sometimes we want to spend time on a useless and unimportant assignment and ignore the more significant assignment. It is understanding that tells us which one is the difference maker.
One of the things that I recommend that people do is to look at their life and notice the places where they have made bad decisions or missed opportunities. Often these form a pattern. We may have a blind spot or an area where we tend to always make the wrong decision. All of us have these areas. If we can identify these, then we can get extra measures of counsel in these areas. I watch in amazement as people who know they make bad relationship decisions trust themselves to make relationship decisions. I watch in horror as people who know that they make impulsive and foolish decisions with money refuse to get counsel when presented with another decision about money. I have seen people with self-confidence issues consistently not push themselves to their full potential and settle for a safe but boring job. They ignore the advice, counsel, and encouragement of those who have their best interest at heart. I have watched people who know that they parent poorly and yet do not follow the advice of those who parent well. They just hope that their kids come out okay in spite of how they like to parent. All of us have internal guides that move us in the direction of things we like that will destroy us, or damage us, or diminish us in some way. Get counsel and follow it in spite of what you feel.
Our present culture is full of the idea that a person should be able to do what they want even if it will destroy them. This is faulty thinking and it will continue to allow people to destroy themselves because they do not have understanding. A moral society erects boundaries so that even if you want to do something, you may not be able to, because it will destroy you or others.
Again, let me say that it is helpful to know and look at the places where you are not full of understanding. Admit it, and be like Agur here: I do not have the understanding of a man. Surround yourself with trusted people who have wisdom in the areas where your internal understanding is faulty, and do what they say even if at first it does not sound right to you.
Pastoral note: One of the hardest things to do as a pastor is to watch as people destroy themselves in the very areas that you have counseled them. People have come to see me for counseling and then done the exact opposite of what we talked about. If your marriage is in trouble and you seek counsel, then follow the counsel and don't reject what is said before you try it. Admit that you have a problem because you don't have understanding. Too often people come to counseling to have the counselor tell them that the other people need to change, and they are just a helpless victim of the people and circumstances around them. There is a passage in Hebrews that says that congregation members should allow church leaders to shepherd them with joy and not with grief. This is one of the most grief-producing things a pastor can go through. If you go in for counseling for your marriage or for parenting or for personal growth, decide beforehand that you will do what he tells you to do. If you don't know that you can trust him, don't go in the first place.