“Slipping into a pair of designer jeans or designer anythings can raise the insecure from the doldrums of nothingness to the fantasy level of ‘I’m somebody, and if you don’t believe me, just look at my label!’”—Psychologist Chaytor D. Mason.
IN ORDER to be admired, some people flaunt their designerwear or other fancy belongings. In one Asian land, for example, the “newly rich love luxury products—imported French handbags, Italian sports cars—and even more, they love to show off [their wealth],” says an article in The Washington Post.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruitage of one’s labor. The Bible says: “Every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13) But is it wise to flaunt, or parade, our possessions? What does the Bible say?
“The Rich Have Many Friends”
When the rich or those who pretend to be rich flaunt their belongings, what kind of friends might they attract? The Bible gives us a clue in this wise saying about human nature: “No one likes the poor, not even their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.”—Proverbs 14:20, Good News Translation.
The implication is this: The “many friends” of the rich are friends, not so much of the people themselves, but of their wealth. Their so-called friendship is rooted in self-interest, as is their flattering speech. The Bible calls such speech “a false front for covetousness,” or greed.—1 Thessalonians 2:5.
So ask yourself, ‘What kind of friends do I want? Friends who love me for what I have or true friends who love me for what I am?’ The Bible shows that our behavior can contribute to the kind of friends we attract.
“Wisdom Is With the Modest Ones”
Another problem associated with showing off wealth is well illustrated in the Bible account of King Hezekiah, who lived in ancient Jerusalem. On one occasion Hezekiah showed “all that was to be found in his treasures” to dignitaries from Babylon. Evidently, his great wealth impressed the visitors. However, it may also have excited their greed. After they left, God’s prophet Isaiah bravely told Hezekiah that one day all his treasure would “actually be carried to Babylon.” Nothing would be left. Those words came true! Years later the Babylonians returned and hauled off all the riches that belonged to Hezekiah’s family.—2 Kings 20:12-17; 24:12, 13.
Likewise today, people who flaunt their wealth may risk losing it, or at least some of it. A report on crime and safety in Mexico stated: “Ostentatious displays of wealth are magnets for thieves in Mexico City. Wearing expensive jewelry, watches, and displays of large amounts of cash draw unwanted attention.” How much better to heed the Bible’s advice not to “brag about” one’s riches. (Jeremiah 9:23) “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” says Proverbs 11:2.
See the Good Qualities in Others
Instead of having an egotistical ‘look-at-me’ attitude, a modest and humble person delights in the good qualities and strengths of others. Philippians 2:3 states: “There must be no room for rivalry and personal vanity among you, but you must humbly reckon others better than yourselves.” (The New English Bible) At Galatians 5:26, we read: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”
Do you want friends who love you for what you have or friends who love you for what you are?
Similarly, people with godly wisdom know that unselfishness and mutual respect are the pillars of true friendship and that such friendship does not fail when wealth fails. Instead, it grows stronger with time. “A true companion is loving all the time,” states Proverbs 17:17. Above all, a wise person strives to please God. He knows that God is not impressed with outward appearance but looks at “the secret person of the heart”—what we are on the inside. (1 Peter 3:4) Hence, he works hard to cultivate the appealing qualities that characterize what the Bible calls “the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:24) Some of those qualities are mentioned at Micah 6:8: “What is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?”
True, in today’s world modesty is anything but acclaimed, which is no surprise to Bible students. How so? When discussing “the last days,” the Bible foretold that humans, by and large, would be “greedy, boastful, . . . conceited . . . , and swollen with pride.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, GNT) In that social setting, people who flaunt their goods should feel perfectly at home. God, however, encourages us to “keep away from such people,” lest we become like them.