A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him. Proverbs 28, verse 11.
“You can’t fix stupid.” I will admit a fondness for the comedy of Ron White. I suppose I’m channeling my inner redneck in admitting that – perhaps even bringing truth to his quote! – but it is what it is. His cynical quote sort of segues off the first part of this verse, doesn’t it? I mean, if I have a lot of money and I think I’m all that AND a bag of Fritos, I’m sort of stupid, aren’t I (as well as arrogant)?
Here’s where I think it’s important, yet again, to note that ‘rich’ need not mean ‘monied.’ College may make you a better person, but it doesn’t make you better than anyone else; a lack of education doesn’t mean you’re stupid either. Experience may mean you’ve been around the block, but it doesn’t mean you’ve been smart about it; we’ve each known many people who lacked experience but were rich in insight. To be fair, it must be said that this verse is, yet again, NOT an endorsement of poverty. A lack of wealth (however you define it) doesn’t mean that the un-wealthy are any wiser. Neither does it say “wealth is always evil.” It simply uses the contrast of rich vs poor to show how even people our opposites can perceive correctly about us.
Whether you’re poor or not, by now you have probably discerned that I don’t have much tolerance for ‘the elites.’ In my own experience (an example of ‘wealth’ that sometimes left me poor), I’ve felt my neck under the boot of those who were better off than me. I’ve felt the insecurity of sensing that I wasn’t cool enough because I hadn’t been around when X, Y or Z happened. I wasn’t smart enough, or didn’t wear the right clothes, or drive the right car, or live in the right neighborhood. Too often, I let what others thought define me.
Notice what’s common about those things? Do you think it’s the attitudes, both of the ‘rich’ oppressor and me, the ‘poor’ object of scorn? Do you think those kinds of attitudes, either the rich person’s arrogance or my corresponding insecurities, are Godly? Do you think they are what God had in mind for us? Me neither. He wants what He thinks of us to define us, and in His eyes, you are just fine the way you are. I’m more than quite ok just the way I am. God doesn’t tolerate our junk (and we shouldn’t either), but He doesn’t let that define us. Think about it: God blesses us with exactly where we are each & every day, and He even stands back to allow the fruit of our choices (even the bad ones or the insecurities) to ripen into what it will: just so we can see the contrast between Him and that fruit, and then understand how much He loves us & why we need Him so much.
Through all that, God loves us right where we are. He was tortured, bled out and died to prove that, then came back to keep His promise to prove it yet again. He did that so that we might know, poor or rich, that He loves us just where we are in life. Sure, He doesn’t want us to let the things of this world blind us – hence, the poor have discernment and see right through the rich – and He doesn’t want us to let things of this world lead us astray. He knows that His love is better than all that and that His love makes the poor man rich (or the rich man richer) in ways that really matter.
Perhaps wealth burdens us with a lack of discernment. If you think about it, that’s more than possible. We acquire money, property, friends, knowledge, experience, emotions, whatever, and it builds up in us first pride, then a false sense of security. The rich man may be blind: blinded by the illusion of security or prominence that his wealth allows. The poor man doesn’t have those things so he doesn’t need the pretenses that put the rich man at risk (because of them). Selfishness is never wisdom but is, instead, bare folly.
And realizing that makes me think again, thanks to Ron White, that you can’t fix stupid. You can’t pull the mote out of someone’s eye if they think it’s just fine to have one there. You can’t make a fool see the error of their thinking, and you can’t make someone who is ‘rich’ see how fleeting that kind of wealth is if they refuse to allow such thinking. But God can. He can cut through all that and help us see how irrelevant it is in the scheme of what’s really important. God can fix stupid. In fact, He already has.