There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth
An actual literal rendering of this verse is very instructive. It reads in both the Hebrew and the Septuagint: There is one who enriches himself but holds nothing. And there is one who humbles himself in the midst of many riches. The translators have chosen to translate it in the direction of pretends to be rich, but it actually could mean the person who works hard at becoming rich but never has anything to show for it versus the person who humbles himself while having lots of wealth and riches.
Clearly Solomon is speaking of the virtue of humility and using riches and success as a means to talk about it. It is the person who does not brag about his success but instead remains grounded and grateful in the midst of blessings and wealth that catches the eye of the wise.
Unfortunately we have become a society full of braggarts and show-offs who have a hard time having success without making everyone aware of it. This is not a wise road.
Let’s look at this proverb more deeply…
This is a very interesting proverb on a number of levels. It describes the various forms of riches, and it discusses the various forms of poverty. Solomon could be describing the person who puts on a show of having great wealth while he is deeply in debt and barely making it. He could also be describing the person who has lots of material wealth but has no real riches in terms of relationships and love. It is clear that most people want to be seen as rich and having become successful. It would seem that one can fake it or have it for real.
there is one who pretends to be rich
In any way of looking at this phrase, it is a bad thing. Our society seems to be drowning in this mistake. Many people live above their means to show off to others that they have made it when they cannot sustain that level of lifestyle. If you are living paycheck to paycheck and falling further behind each month or deeply in debt, then you are pretending to be richer than you are. It would be very helpful for you to sit down with your spouse and look at how much you actually bring in per month and set down a plan to live on 80% of that amount so that you can tithe and have money for emergencies. If you cannot accomplish this by yourself, then seek out the guidance of a financial planner or someone who is good with their finances to help you with the process.
This could also be the person who may have great wealth in terms of finances but has not developed deep lasting relationships. Do not forget that in the Bible and in this particular book, real riches are your relationships. That is why God gives two great commandments – both of them are about relationships. Remember if you get to the end of your life with a pile of money but no people who really love you, you lost at the game of life. But if you are rich in relationships – God and others – then you win no matter how much money you have amassed. Lots of money can be a lonely experience. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be.
another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth
Remember the literal translation of this Hebrew wording is one who humbles himself or impoverishes himself while having much. The idea here is that the person does not keep self-promoting. There is a willingness to fit in rather than to brag. It may also carry the idea that they are willing to give away significant portions of their wealth.
What is clear is that pride does not come as the necessary partner with riches and blessings. Becoming a braggart about all the good that is happening to you or showing off all you have is not a wise quality.
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.