One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. (Proverbs 13:7)
“Be yourself,” they said. “Don’t follow the crowd, follow your own mind—your own heart,” they said. These are the words we’ve heard throughout our impressionable years, years when our parents, teachers, and mentors encouraged us to live our lives being true to ourselves. So how is it that we have become a generation of great pretenders?
Everyone has a need to belong, to feel accepted, and to feel loved. Unfortunately, many fulfill these needs by acquiring material things. The more money they make or the bigger house they buy, the better they feel. When others look at what they drive, what they wear, and where they live, they feel as if they have arrived. It’s important to them that others “see” their success and know that they are living their best life. The approval and admiration of others validate them. Their pattern of spending becomes more frequent and more intense because they continuously seek validation. They continue “living their best life” while spiraling deep into debt. And that is how they become great pretenders—pretending to be rich, yet they have nothing.
Before you start identifying which of your friends might fit the description of a great pretender, think about your own spending habits. What drives your spending? What needs are you trying to satisfy? From whom are you seeking validation? Who do you seek to impress and at what cost? Are you living the life of a great pretender? And what exactly does that look like?
The great pretender is one who consistently lives above their means. Their rent or mortgage, car payment, credit card payments, and student loan payments consume most of their income. They have no savings, investments, and are not contributing towards their children’s college fund or their own retirement. And yet, they continue to spend money on things for the purpose of impressing others. They are living a pretentious life, empty of the things that are important.
The second part of the principle in Proverbs 13:7 states that some people pretend to be poor yet has great wealth. This doesn’t mean that people who are rich are literally faking as if they are poor. It means they live “as if” they have little resources. They choose to live a simplified lifestyle so they can build “wealth” in areas that truly matter. They don’t care if their slacks or handbag is purchased at Target. They choose to drive a car commensurate with their income. They don’t seek praise or validation from others for what they wear, where they live or what they drive or where they vacation. They don’t post a selfie with every new purchase for the world to see how “blessed” they are.
The primary concern of the “poor” is to meet their needs, enjoy life, and prepare for their family’s future life events. Their lifestyle and spending choices allow them to take advantage of opportunities to help others. They know that unselfishly and willingly serving others is what brings more blessings and true fulfillment. They also know their validation comes from being a child of God which makes them completely acceptable and loved.
Don’t seek validation from others by spending your way into debt. Don’t live to impress others with what you have. Impress them by what you do. Stop pretending to live the good life and start living the good life.