A Pack of Gum from 1997

I don’t know why I am constantly surprised to find Scripture that is relevant today, but it happens all the time, and I nod in appreciation and wonder. It’s my own foolishness, of course. I’m handling a living, breathing, two-edged sword and am surprised to find that it has a sharp, pointy end.

The latest jab I’ve come across, that I know I’ve read before:

Better to be lowly and have a servant, than to play the great man and lack bread. (Proverbs 12:9)(ESV)

In an age of easy credit and institutionalized covetousness, this proverb pulls the red carpet out from under a culture of people who like to play at being the “great man” in more ways than one.

Playing the great man (PGM) applies to so many things. I know many people who struggle to put food on the table for a variety of reasons, and all have to do with some form of PGM. Maxed out credit cards on the latest gadgets, leased an expensive car, signed themselves into slavery with a huge mortgage, and various other ways of trying to live a life beyond one’s means.

But over-extension to keep up with the Joneses is the obvious way people can PGM. What are some other ways?

  • Micro fame. Doing everything you can get a few more Youtube views or a few more Twitter followers. In most cases, these are mostly good for bragging rights. 1 million youtube views, 25,000 Twitter followers, and 25 cents will buy you a pack of gum from 1997 (thanks inflation!) But oh, you have some bragging rights.
  • Video gamesMMORPGs, especially World of Warcraft, touch something deep within the human psyche: the desire to grow and complete an epic quest. All in the comfort of our pajamas, sitting in front of a computer monitor. Hours and hours spent building an empire of pixels, which is a worth even less than an empire of dirt. You’ll be famous in Azeroth, though, so that’s something. And then there was the craze of Guitar Hero and Rock Band (which I joyfully took part in myself). Are you able to play Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” on expert mode? Congratulations. Now put that on your resume or bring it up on a first date. What will the response be? How much time have we spent practicing fake guitar, so we can play at being the rock star…or PGM? For me, it was Starcraft 2, and working to have a winning record so I could impress other people who spent hours playing Starcraft 2.

I’m not knocking these things as casual hobbies, just the desire to gain some sense of worth from them. Each tap into that desire to be “great” somehow, to be known, a person of renown. Each offer an easy counterfeit. Dedication to that type of “renown” just leads to poverty, just like trying to keep up the mere appearances of wealth.

Willie Wonka thinks you're so cute

What are some other ways of playing the great man are there, and what other traps can we fall into?

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