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Ask Chuck: The Bible addresses the ‘fake it till you make it’ lifestyle

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

Someone I care about routinely overspends with the justification it will help “grow his business.” The effort to give an impression of success is causing him significant financial stress: a new car, a Swiss watch, expensive clothes, etc. How would you address the situation?

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Stressed for Success

Dear Stressed for Success,

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Getty Images

I grew up hearing the term that some folks live “high on the hog.” It means a person is living in affluence and luxury or trying to convey an appearance of wealth when they don’t really have it.   

The source of this phrase dates back centuries and is said to come from the fact that the best cuts of meat on a pig come from the back and upper leg. The wealthy ate cuts from “high on the hog,” while the paupers ate pork belly and feet. 

I have a friend who refers to people trying to impress others by buying luxury brands they cannot really afford as “$1,000/Week Millionaires.” In other words, they make a middle-income wage but want others to think they are rich. The problem is the financial stress that accompanies that lifestyle. It reminds me of a saying I grew up with:

“If your OUTgo exceeds your INcome, your UPkeep will be your DOWNfall.”

Advice to escape the ‘fake it till you make it’ lifestyle

While dressing for success may actually help the business grow in some professions, it is a poor way to manage money. If you ever study the financial habits of wealthy people, you will find that they often live with low-consumption lifestyles — think Warren Buffet. He lives in the first house he ever purchased yet is consistently considered one of the richest men in the world. 

Solomon addressed the issue of posturing in Proverbs 13:7: “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (ESV). In other words, don’t live “high on the hog.” Resist the temptation to appear rich. Instead, place your identity in Christ and the peace that comes from resting in His everlasting love, not the world’s temporary appearances. Humbly work, give, spend, save, and invest money with a purpose far greater than self-indulgence.

The Bible repeatedly addresses pride and the importance of keeping an eternal perspective. It’s easy to be deceived by the riches of this world. Jesus knew we would be tempted and said,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21 ESV).

Our identity in God’s Kingdom is not printed on a business card. It’s not related to our income, education, accomplishments, or failures. It’s not based on the color of our skin, the street where we live, the clothes we wear, or the cars we drive. Our true identity is given in John 1:12–13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (NIV).

The things of this world pale in comparison to who we are in Christ. When we truly understand this, we’ll make decisions based on that identity, not the temporary one the world gives us.

So, to be specific, money does not give us our true identity. It doesn’t make me a rich man, a poor man, a successful man, or a bankrupt man. 

My hope is that your friend will come to understand who he is and why he is here. Then he can pursue God’s purpose for his life and flourish without the stress of trying to impress others. Rick Barnes, The University of Tennessee basketball coach, tells his team that we have an audience of One. That One did not send Jesus to die a humiliating, tortuous death on a cross for us to live temporary lives of luxury. He so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that by faith, we could have eternal life. The way we live here and now is in preparation for our future in Heaven.

May our lives be dedicated to living and glorifying Christ in all that we do. Stewarding our talents and treasures wisely not only grants meaning to our days here on Earth but also prepares us for Heaven.

If credit card debt is holding your friend, or anyone else you know, in bondage, a valuable and trusted resource is Christian Credit Counselors. They can help consolidate debt to get on the road to financial freedom.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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