When I was a kid my older brothers unrelentingly teased me. Today I don’t remember what they teased me about. I was a pretty normal kid. Maybe a little wimpy, but I couldn’t say I made a natural target for teasing, except that I was the youngest. I would retaliate by tattling about anything and everything.

When I would complain about my brothers’ teasing, my mother’s reply was always the same, “Just ignore them.” Which I never understood as a kid. How could I ignore them? How could I pretend their words didn’t hurt? And why was my mother so uncaring that she would allow them to treat me so?

Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)
Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.

My brothers’ teasing was pretty innocent, nothing too severe, so I don’t want you to think I still suffer the injuries their careless words caused at the time. How am I insulted today? Even as I sit here right now, I am having to think hard when the last time someone really insulted me. Maybe that time in the last days of Christmas shopping when I discovered a fantastic parking place at the mall only to be called a d*** by a young woman apparently having already claimed it. Thankfully, my family hadn’t been with me. You know, I might have conceded the spot had she not been so harsh.

I may not have to deal with insults, but criticism in my line of work is common — and not everyone in the church speaks the truth in love. I have been learning to receive criticism no matter its source and no matter its delivery. There is nearly always something to be gained. Instead of being annoyed, I must ignore certain aspects and receive the rest. Ignoring my brothers when I was a kid didn’t work, but these days I’m seeing the wisdom in my mother’s counsel.

Rent-to-Own Shops

Proverbs 13:7 (ESV)
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

I recall the one and only time I went into one of those rent-to-own stores. It was several years ago when I’d needed to send in my laptop for some warranty repair. I stopped at one of those stores to rent a laptop for a couple weeks, since I couldn’t very well take a vacation while my computer was gone. As soon as I walked in, it hit me, an oppression. The air was thick and I strained to breathe. I would later realize it was the god of money and possesions that took up residence in stores like those.

(I don’t know if I’ve written about this here at SWYW. It’s getting to a point that I don’t recall where I’ve shared certain things, whether here, preaching, a class, etc.)

Rent-to-own store owners prey on the poor who desire to be rich, or at least to appear so. They charge exorbitant interest that foolish people are willing to pay. Not all of their patrons desire to appear rich; for some it’s the only way they can afford a washer that they need today. I’ve known some people over the years who have pretended to be rich only to have the repo man show up every few months to expose their charade.

Pretending to Be Poor

So while one pretends to be rich, another pretends to be poor. What does this mean? This doesn’t refer to one who fraudently takes handouts, but rather, I think, to one who has set his living standard and both gives and saves any income over that amount. That person’s wealth is in their generosity and savings. It is not tied up in their possessions but in their ability to serve others with their money.

How many times have you received a raise in salary and months later wondered where you’ve been spending it all? The truth is, we tend to spend what we earn, whether it’s a little or a lot. I have a friend who has at times made a lot of money in his businesses. He told me that he and his wife had never saved as much money in all those years of high income than when he served for a year or so at a church, where his salary was likely pretty low. Typically as our income goes up so does our spending.

This is a wonderful verse for us to reflect on; this paradox is worthy of further meditation. As with much of Scripture, God just might have something to say specifically to us through it.

Join me next week as I tell about playing tennis with a square racket.