Rich, yet Poor
1. This proverb might be listed as an oxymoron.
b. It is a saying that sounds foolish at first, yet upon reconsideration, its wisdom becomes apparent.
2. There is also a bit of ambiguity in this proverb—one that may well have been intended by the author—in order to give the proverb a second level of meaning… or at least a second level of application.
a. The ambiguity lies in the word behind our English word “maketh rich.”
b. This term has two meanings:
• Become rich (make yourself rich)
• Pretend to be rich (make off like you’re rich)
c. Most of the commentators and the translations understand it in the sense of “pretend” to be rich.
• However, if that is the case, this is the only place in the Bible where it has that meaning.
• In the 16 occurrences, it obviously means to “become rich.”
d. If Solomon had only ONE meaning in mind for this term, then we have no way of knowing for sure WHICH meaning he did have in mind!
• Both make perfect sense—and both are in harmony with other Scripture passages and principles.
• Thus, we are going to look at the proverb from both levels… simply because it is virtually impossible to tell WHICH meaning he had in mind—if he had only one in mind.
e. If Solomon purposely chose an ambiguous term in order to give meaning at each level… then looking at both levels is what he intended.
3. There is also a possible way to harmonize the two thoughts: Either way, Solomon describes a man whose heart is set on riches.
a. A man who pretends to be rich does so because he LONGS to be rich… he wishes he were. He loves the lifestyle and pretends to live it.
b. A man who makes himself rich does so because he too LONGS to be rich.
1. Solomon thus describes a man who pretends to be rich.
2. He is NOT rich, but pretends to be. He is not a Rockefeller or a Bill Gates, but is a wannabe.
3. His reasons?
a. The lust of the flesh (I John 2:16)
• He loves the things of the world.
• He loves that which makes his flesh comfortable.
• He loves to be able to buy luxurious items for the satisfaction of his flesh.
• No man ever yet hateth his own flesh. This man has an inordinate love for his flesh… for himself.
b. The lust of the eyes (I John 2:16)
• He loves the worldly things that attract his eye.
• If he sees something shiny and new, he thinks he needs one.
• His eyes are never satisfied. He is always looking to see what others have… so he can keep up with the Joneses. (Ecc. 4:8)
• He is not content with his lot in life… and thus seeks to pretend to have a better lot in life.
c. The pride of life (I John 2:16)
• He wants men to look up to him.
• He wants men to respect him.
• He wants men to think highly of him.
• He wants men to think that he is smart and successful. (If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?)
• He wants to hob nob with the rich and famous
• He is not satisfied with his lot in life, but out of pride, seeks to pretend to be someone he is not.
• He is out to impress people: Hey! Look at me! Aren’t I something?
4. His methodology?
a. He buys fancy, expensive clothes for himself…
b. He drives a car he cannot afford.
c. He buys a house that is out of his price range.
d. Or if he is unable to do both, he might live in a tiny house, never tell anyone his address, and drive around in a shiny, new Cadillac.
e. He is a name dropper—to make himself sound important… as if he knows all the rich and important people.
f. He’s the guy who has a meagerly job with a low income, but rents a Lexus and buys a new suit and gold jewelry to go to his class reunion—so that his old friends will THINK that he is rich and successful.
g. When he is out with his friends he throws money around like it were nothing but paper… to impress his friends with his wealth… so they will think he is well off… even if he has to go without eating the rest of the week!
h. He’s the big tipper… to impress others.
i. When out to a restaurant, he volunteers to pay for the meal… not out of love or generosity, but to impress.
j. He is constantly wearing a new suit to the office to show off his expensive clothes… to impress coworkers.
k. He takes expensive vacations in order to brag about them.
l. Very often his pretense of great wealth compels him to lie about what he owns, what he makes, where he lives, where he goes, etc.
m. He even tries to talk with that upper crust accent that seems to exist only among the mansion owners in Newport, RI.
n. He goes to expensive places, just to be seen of men.
o. He’s not crazy about skiing, but he loves being seen at Vail. He’s not much of a golfer either, but he loves being seen at the country club.
p. He PRETENDS to be rich.
1. This man pretends to have everything, but has nothing.
2. Because he spends all his money on expensive items he cannot afford, he ends up with nothing.
3. He has saved NOTHING for his future—he lives for today… to show off today.
4. He sometimes forces his family to go without—because he has spent way more than he can afford on luxury items.
5. He pretends that all the rich and famous people are his friends, but they are not. He has nothing.
6. Before too long, living beyond his means will catch up to him…
a. He may have his shiny new Cadillac repossessed.
b. He may lose his big home to the bank.
c. He may lose the hearts of his family members—after years of living with his royal selfishness.
d. He ends up with an empty heart… earthly riches cannot satisfy even if you really did own them. But pretending to own them leaves a man not only empty but ashamed.
7. His love of money which he never possessed became a root of all kinds of evil for him.
8. This is a sad man (or woman!) indeed. What a miserable, phony, shallow, self-absorbed life he leads!
9. There is a man who pretends to be rich—and yet has nothing. Don’t try to be a phony rich man. Be CONTENT with whatever state God has called you to.
1. Here, the term is used in the same sense as the man who makes himself rich.
2. This would thus refer to a man who is actually rich, yet PRETENDS to be poor.
a. He is not a welfare case, but he makes himself out to be one.
b. He has a fortune in the bank, but pretends to be poor.
c. Rehoboam was such a man.
• He inherited the throne of Israel from Solomon, his father.
• Solomon had elevated Israel to its height of glory, fame, and wealth.
• Solomon had depleted the population of their wealth in order to complete his building projects.
• But Solomon finished the work… and left the fruit of his labors in the hands of Rehoboam.
• Young Rehoboam was warned to lighten up on the taxes… but he rejected the wisdom of the older men.
• Instead, he cried poverty… and in spite of his incredible wealth, demanded more taxes from the people than Solomon demanded—even DURING the building projects.
• My father made your yoke heavy; I will add to your yoke.
• My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
• This was pure greed—a man who did not HAVE to drain the people—but out of greed pleaded poverty… when he in fact had great riches.
3. His methodology?
a. This is the millionaire who shops in the second hand store… not because he has to, but because he can’t spend his money. He wants to keep it in the bank… and watch it grow… and covet it… and drool over his increasing savings.
b. This is the man who COULD afford to drive a shiny new Cadillac, but instead drives a beat up old Volkswagen.
c. This is the man who could afford to put $1000.00 in the offering plate every Sunday, but instead puts in $2.00.
d. This is the millionaire lady who buys cheap, fake jewelry because she can’t stand to take money out of her pocketbook.
e. This is the wealthy guy who charges top dollar for goods at the stores he owns, but complains about the price everyone else charges when he has to buy something.
f. This is the wealthy guy who, when on a trip to Mexico, barters with a poor little half starving kid on the side of the road to talk him down from 2 dollars to 50-cents for the basket he wove.
g. This is the man who pretends to be poor in order to muster up sympathy so that he can get a better price.
h. Just like the poor man who ends up lying in order to pretend to be rich—this man ends up lying in order to pretend to be poor.
• He lies on the college application for his son—so that he can qualify for a grant that he doesn’t need.
• He cheats on his taxes, hiding his wealth in order to pay less tax…
• He lies in order to get food stamps or welfare from the government (you’d be surprised how many people are on welfare that don’t need to be!)
• I think we would be shocked to hear some of the unscrupulous things wealthy people have done… feigning to be poor… in order to keep more of their wealth.
• Shame on them! That’s what Solomon is saying here!
4. His reasons?
a. His reason for doing so is not due so much to the pride of life (to be seen of men), but it IS due to his love for the things of the world. (I John 2:15)
b. He loves his money, so he doesn’t spend it. He would rather spend YOUR money and keep his.
c. He is stingy and cheap.
d. What is being described here is not a frugal poor man who uses wisdom to stretch what little resources he has. Rather, Solomon is describing an unscrupulous wealthy man who PRETENDS to be poor in order to prosper even more.
e. His love of money causes him to be dishonest and pretend to be poor in order to keep more of his money.
1. The fact that this man HAS great riches makes his behavior all the more despicable!
2. If someone who really NEEDS welfare or a government loan and gets it, then that’s one thing. But when a wealthy man PRETENDS… and lies to get it—what a disgrace!
3. It is never acceptable, but it IS understandable when a poor man lies or steals in order to feed his family.
• Prov. 6:30 – Men do not despise a thief, if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry…
• But it is despicable when a wealthy man does so. Men DO hate that kind of a thief!
4. Some weeks ago there was some famous Hollywood actress who was arrested for shoplifting.
a. She was probably wealthy enough to buy the store.
b. She didn’t NEED the clothes.
c. But she stole and got caught.
d. This is far worse than the poor man who steals a loaf of bread… yet she will probably get off with a slap on her wrist.
e. What made her crime so loathsome was the fact that she “had great riches.”