2018-04-20 / Chaplain's News

Appearances can be deceiving

Chaplain (1st Lt.) Jeffrey Brannen
369 Signal Battalion

“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” Proverbs 13:7 NIV

We compare ourselves to the people around us. We know we probably shouldn’t but we do. We notice the type of car parked in their garage, the brands of clothing they wear, and the places they go on vacation. The visible signs of success or failure seem easy to read. The flashy sports car or the new TV box sitting by the trashcan tell us that our neighbors are enjoying the life we wish we had. Or, conversely, when we see the old minivan, we assume they can’t afford better.

But the old saying rings true – don’t judge a book by its cover. How often have we jumped to conclusions about who has made it? Proverbs 13:7 warns us concerning the insufficiency of such a method. Failure and financial ruin can be masked by credit card debt, living beyond our means, and mortgaging ourselves to the hilt. It may very well be that the people we envy most are struggling with too much month and not enough paycheck. On the other hand, we may assume that those around us with modest homes and without visible means of success must be really struggling financially.

But that’s not the real point of the proverb. The wisdom of the saying is this – you can hide, pretend, and fake either success or failure. It is possible to present a false front of either great wealth (with nothing in the bank to back it up) or of being poor.

Someone once said, “We spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need in order to impress people we don’t like.” That’s the first part of this proverb. Living a lavish lifestyle of superabundance with no substance to back it up is pretending to be rich but having nothing. Ultimately that road leads to financial ruin and the destruction of our families.

But why would someone ever pretend to be poor? What sense would that make?

Dave Ramsey puts it like this: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Pretending to be poor most likely means living without luxury, in a simple, modest, and somewhat uncomfortable manner. It is choosing to forego the impulse buy and the bragging rights of the best vacations and designer labels. It is saving when you could spend and budgeting rather than playing fast and loose with your paycheck.

In short, you cannot, by mere external means, know whether the people around you have financially made it or not. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you know how easy it is to fake success. So don’t trust your eyes.

Beyond that, it’s not our job to assess those around us. Instead, the wise man or woman will choose to pretend to be poor, living within their means, in order to not bring themselves to financial ruin. On the other hand, the foolish man or woman will pretend to be wealthy, spending more than they make, and living the good life now.

So, which will you pretend to be?

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