“One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.”
Be careful not to allow appearances to deceive. A person may appear wealthy, yet in fact be poor. This is a very real danger in our consumer, image-conscious society. People will buy things (often on credit) in an attempt to create the image of success and prosperity. For these people, it's all about appearance. They work harder at appearing successful than they do at actually being successful.
What is sad about these folks is that they don’t own their stuff; their stuff owns them. They borrow money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t know.
There are also people with outward affluence who are inwardly poor. They have physical prosperity, but spiritual poverty. They have worked hard at acquiring material wealth, but they have neglected the inner work of musar. At some point in their life they will discover the painful truth that outward affluence does not always equate to inward prosperity and peace.
Jesus spoke to this: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.” (Luke 12.15)
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16.24)
No matter what it says on our bank statement, true and lasting riches are found in our relationship Christ. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,” Paul wrote to the Romans,” for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Because they aren’t concerned about appearances, wealthy Christians have neither the need nor the desire to display their affluence. They don’t buy things to show off. Their identity is in Christ, not in their wealth.
They are faithful stewards of the wealth that God has blessed them with. They own their stuff; their stuff doesn’t own them.
“The ransom of a man's life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.”
Wealth has relative but limited value. The scenario is a kidnapping. If a wealthy person is kidnapped (or blackmailed), his or her family can probably pay the ransom. While this seems an argument in favor of the benefits of wealth, the second statement a different perspective. If the person were poor, there would be no chance of kidnapping in the first place. What would be the use?
The point is that even though wealth has benefits, it also has limitations and risks.
“The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”
In scripture, light is a metaphor for truth, righteousness, and goodness. Darkness is a metaphor for evil and sin. When we give our lives to Christ, he takes up residence in our life and imparts his light to us. He gives us life, truth, and righteousness.
This Proverb says that the light of the righteous person is a source of great joy. Understood through the lens of the cross, we rejoice in the righteousness, truth, and light that the Lord has imparted to us through Jesus.
As Jesus said in the gospel of John, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The wicked does not have access to the light of the Lord. Indeed, the wicked reject God’s truth and standards of righteousness. Therefore, they create their own light through their own “lamps.” In other words, they attempt to create their own “truth.”
But it is counterfeit truth. The light from these lamps is a poor, pitiful substitute for the real light/truth that God provides. It is not light that brings joy. It does not provide truth for life. It provides no real guidance for living life successfully. And, the lamp of the wicked does not last. It doesn’t endure. In the Hebrew, the verse literally says “the lamp of the wicked goes out.”
As followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in the light … to walk in the truth and righteousness of God’s saving grace. “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
May it be so.