The biblical proverbs rarely aim for the fence. They just keep poking singles.
Rarely does the Book of Proverbs open a window to stupendous secrets that were heretofore unknown. Rather, it gradually builds a home out of the cumulative lessons learned by people who pay attention, brick upon brick, one small board after another fixed in just the right place with little fanfare and no shouting.
One man pretends to be rich and has nothing; Another professes to be poor and has much wealth. (Proverbs 13:7 JPS)
Attentive people know that things are often not as they appear.
Nowhere is this more evident—particularly in a society of individual liberties and consumer choice—than in our economic pose.
The naive—the commonest and least dangerous kind of fool—believes that the late-model Camaro in the driveway means the neighbor is doing really well. In reality, he may be sinking in the worst kind of debt.
A modest home and humble tastes appear to speak of incapacity. In fact, they may disguise years of patient wealth-building, the legacy of a debt-free family whose minds are liberated to create, invest, and sleep soundly rather than to worry.
To the degree that the Proverbs make moral judgements beyond simple observation, the man who pretends to be rich but has nothing is almost certainly a fool. Unreliable, deceiving himself and disappointing people around him. The man who professes poverty but is actually rich may be a conniver, but is more likely just modest.
It’s not rocket science. Biblical wisdom has only the slightest taste for rocket science. It traffics in modest wisdom that—brick upon brick, board upon board—creates a space for free people to flourish and live free, no matter the appearances.