Here is one of the stranger verses in all of Proverbs. Here we see two different people - one pretending to be rich, yet having nothing, and another pretending poverty, yet rich. Are we dealing with hypocrisy in these two individuals, or are we dealing rather with something else?
The word "pretend" here is very important to understand. The actual statement made here is that one is "making himself rich" and it refers to someone who spends all their time pursuing and running after being wealthy. The opposite saying here makes it clear that another pursues poverty - or pursues being poor. The idea is not of hypocrisy, but rather what they are pursuing in life. One pursues riches and the other poverty. Therefore what we have here is a commentary on the true state of these two individuals.
First we have the man who is pursuing riches. What seems to be said here is that he not only pursues wealth, but he is achieiving it as well. He is making himself rich. The problem here is that God's commentary on this man is that this man has nothing. His bank account would militate against this statement, but a man's earthly bank account does not measure true wealth in the sight of God. There are other far more important measurements that truly let us know of a man's worth and value. The New Testament warns against wealth, telling us that when we fix our hearts upon wealth, that it sprouts wings and flies away. We read that those who pursue wealth and love it - will have problems, being pierced through with many a desire. Jesus speaks of the rich farmer as a fool because he focuses only on his wealth and not on the fact that his soul is going to be required of him the very night he thinks he has "made it" in this world. Biblically, a rich man who is centered on his riches has nothing. So, what we learn from this proverb is that it is the fool who is so focused on his riches.
The rest of the proverb is equally as instructive to us. We learn that another man pursues poverty, yet he has great riches. How does a man "pursue poverty"? The answer to that statement is found in the beattitudes of Jesus. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We pursue poverty by pursuing the truth of our own spiritual condition before God. The truth about our condition is that we are bankrupt spiritually. We have nothing of any real value - because we are in our sins and under the wrath of God. When we make ourselves poor - and embrace our spiritual poverty - coming to Jesus Christ for the only true riches - then we do have great riches. We receive that wonderful acrostic of GRACE - God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
A truly wise man does not pursue the riches of this world. He knows that they are only temporary. They are like the grass of the field that is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow. He knows that the grass fades and the flower of this world falls off - but that the Word of our Lord abides forever. The wise man knows that a man's soul is costly, and that the price for it cannot be paid in the currency of this present world. The only currency acceptable in the sight of God is the blood of Christ shed for our sins. Thus the truly wise man seeks after Christ - receives His grace - and lives to be poor in this world's estimation, while pursuing the true riches that last for eternity.