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Iron Masks & Empty Pockets

March 24th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 13: 7  (NLT)

 7 Some who are poor pretend to be rich;
      others who are rich pretend to be poor.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Passages like these seem to be the inspiration behind a plethora of popular movies in the modern era.  The concept that someone pretends to be rich or poor . . . whichever may be the opposite for them . . . is a common thematic element in literature, as well as on the silver screen.  

I immediately think about The Man in the Iron Mask.  Two twin brothers are separated at an early age.  One becomes the heir apparent to the throne of France and eventually the king while the other is locked away in a prison tower for years and years– his face hidden in an iron mask so that no one will realize that he is also a potential heir to the throne.

Their lives take two divergent paths, but here’s the kicker: the brother who lives in the palace becomes indulgent and completely corrupted by the extravagant wealth of his royal lifestyle.  The brother in prison, though sharing the same face, shares nothing else with his brother.  He is humble. Noble.  Gentle.  Thankful for what he does have.

And so the premise of the movie becomes clear: if the kingdom is to be saved, the brothers must be switched.  Why?  Because the brother who is poverty-stricken has developed through his adversity the necessary attributes to become a great king.  How ironic that the very opposite of royalty is what makes the best “royal” when it comes to what’s really important.

You see, wealth and poverty aren’t solely defined by what fills one’s pockets. Make no mistake, though, what fills one pockets can greatly affect what fills one’s heart.  Scripture is filled with warnings and examples about the potential corruption of the heart that can occur with riches.  Riches in themselves are not evil and the rich can most definitely please God . . . there are plenty of biblical examples of those with money using their resources to positively affect the world.

“Some who are poor pretend to be rich . . . “  This can be viewed every day in our world.  I can tell you that I’ve met a host of “rich” poor people in my travels. Pastors and missionaries who barely make ends meet, yet labor with such intensity for excellence that can be extravagantly showered upon the poor. The way they work, you would think that they were making a fortune; instead, they are making their fortune in other ways . . . through the lives of the people they serve.

” . . . others who are rich pretend to be poor.”  We can see this just by turning on our televisions.  We have created entire shows dedicated to reeling off the opulence of our culture’s wealthiest individuals.  We “ooh” and “ah” over their limos, cottages, and summer homes; but often, we never seek to find out what lives are being changed by the resources in their hands.  They may be rich on the outside, but do their actions and motivations reveal that they are actually pretending to be poor in all the ways that count for eternity?  

The amount of money is not the issue . . . I pray that I can have a significant amount someday soon.  But when I am rich, I don’t want to act poorly with what I’ve been entrusted with.  Likewise, at the present moment when my pockets are less-than-overflowing, I can conduct myself as an administrator of the greatest inheritance in all of creation.  I’m no Leonardo DiCaprio, but I can still ask myself the question: am I serving the world around me as if their needs were the needs of royalty?  

We can be poor and act rich.  Just ask the prison twin.  As his brother accrued great wealth and influence, he accrued internal dividends and at just the right time, his mask was removed and the kingdom benefited from his reign.  (By the way, this story is fictional for all of you non-history buffs out there . . . just an illustration.)

So, don’t sweat the iron mask of your present situation.  Develop real riches. Lavish the wealth of your love and efforts upon the world.  Behave as if your inheritance is incalculable.  

It is, you know.




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