Beware of Snobs and Snobbery!

It is not confined to England although it seems to have been cultivated there; it is a universal plague of the worship of greed, materialism, and the lifestyles of the rich, the upper class, and the famous. Proverbs warns against it, Jesus warns against it, the Bible warns against it. True Christians should avoid it. Now for some definitions:

The Online Etymology Dictionary defines this for “Snob”:

1781, “a shoemaker, a shoemaker’s apprentice,” of unknown origin. It came to be used in Cambridge University slang c. 1796, often contemptuously, for “townsman, local merchant,” and passed then into literary use, where by 1831 it was being used for “person of the ordinary or lower classes.” Meaning “person who vulgarly apes his social superiors” is by 1843, popularized 1848 by William Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs. The meaning later broadened to include those who insist on their gentility, in addition to those who merely aspire to it, and by 1911 the word had its main modern sense of “one who despises those considered inferior in rank, attainment, or taste.”

Another definition was formulated for those who overreacted to snobbery. These people were called “inverted snobs,” and after reading it, I can admit that I’ve fallen into this mentality before:

Inverted snob is from 1909. “Then there is that singular anomaly, the Inverted Snob, who balances a chip on his shoulder and thinks that everyone of wealth or social prominence is necessarily to be distrusted; that the rich are always pretentious and worldly, while those who have few material possessions are themselves possessed (like Rose Aylmer) of every virtue, every grace” [Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1922].

It can be easy for some Christians, like St. Francis of Assisi to follow this idea, especially after reading things like this in the Bible:

Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you who are poor! For yours is the kingdom of God.”

Luke 6:24: “Woe to you who are rich! For you have already received your comfort.”

Luke 18:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”

1 Timothy 6:9-10: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Revelation 3:15-20: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

But then there is a moderating Scripture like Proverbs 30:8-9, which says, in a prayer: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 10:15: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.” And finally Christian philanthropy is commanded in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

But these balancing Scriptures show us that the previous commands do not contradict nor overturn the others. The previous warnings against riches are really against an atheistic self-reliance that rejects faith in the providence of God (as in Deut. 8), snobbery or financial pride over those who are poor, materialism or preoccupation with physical commodities that can be bought and sold, and financially motivated crimes that can “plunge men into ruin and destruction.” But it all starts with snobbery. Snobbery can affect all classes of people, both the rich and the poor; although it seems to affect the rich more often. What snobbery is at the base is an obsession with the lifestyles of the rich and famous; and a mentality that makes endless rationalizations and excuses for the off-color elements that might be found in their lives. The rich are idolized so that all others may aspire to such a lifestyle. Scripture says, “The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends…Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man’s friend deserts him” (Proverbs 14:20; 19:4). So the rich will have popularity and “friends” who want to “get in on” the toys and playthings of their lives; but that is the only reason, so that they might use them and their wealth to have fun with their toys (for example, horses, yachts, etc). Gold-digger wives are no different. It is no wonder why these people tend to insult and hate poor people for no other reason than because they are poor; it is because they constantly idolize the rich lifestyle. William Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs, p. 22, says it like this:

Suppose be is a nobleman of a jovial turn, and has a fancy for wrenching off (door) knockers, frequenting gin-shops, and half murdering policemen; the public will sympathize good-naturedly with his amusements, and say he is a hearty, honest fellow. Suppose he is fond of play and the turf, and has a fancy to be a blackleg (a cheating gambler) and occasionally condescends to pluck a pigeon at cards; the public will pardon him, and many honest people will court him, as they would court a house-breaker, if he happened to be a lord. Suppose he is an idiot; yet, by the glorious constitution, he’s good enough to govern us. Suppose he is an honest, high-minded gentleman; so much the better for himself. But he may be an a–, and yet respected; or a rogue, and yet excuses will be found for him. Snobs still will worship him. Male snobs will do him honor, and females will look kindly upon him, however hideous he may be.

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