At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.Proverbs 12:9
There are a number of ways to state this principle. It is better to have beer and no foam than to have foam and no beer. It is better to have cattle and no hat than to have the hat and no cattle. It is better to have steak and no sizzle than to have sizzle and no steak.
In this proverb, actual wealth is enjoyed while not being proclaimed to the world in an ostentatious way, and this is better than to have the ostentatious display and go to bed hungry. But some people prefer the reputation to the thing itself. This seems like a bizarre sin to fall into, particularly when the right choice is obvious (as it is with the extreme example of the hat and the cattle).
But there are situations where we nevertheless need to be disciplined and trained by God’s Word to respond and react in the appropriate way. Here is a pop quiz for your heart. Would you rather be wise and thought a fool, or be a fool and thought wise? Would you rather be a just man who was thought to be a racist, or a racist who was only thought to be just?
Of course, our immediate response is that we would rather have the reality and the reputation to both line up. And so yes, if that is an option, take it. But Scripture reasons with us in this way so that we might learn how to prioritize correctly. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1). We respond to this by saying that we would prefer, if God doesn’t mind very much, to have a good name and great riches. Sure, but that is not how integrity usually comes to us. Solomon was given great wealth because he asked for something else. The wealth was thrown in because he didn’t ask for the wealth to be thrown in.
Abraham came down the mountain with a living Isaac because he went up the mountain willing for it to be otherwise.
Notice finally that this choice of the flashy car over the bills being paid on time is a result of a person who decides to “honor himself.” But when you promote yourself like this, you are asking for God to demote you. You are asking God to do with you what He usually does in this world to such folly (Luke 17:33).