I read Proverbs 13 this morning after seeing the new Gatsby movie on the weekend, and several verses made me think of Jay Gatsby. I wondered just how his quest would’ve been different is he’d heeded just three verses in Proverbs.
Verse 7: “One man pretends to be rich yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor yet has great wealth.” This verse tells us to be whoever we really are. That doesn’t mean we can’t grow and change, but Gatsby changes his name and makes up a whole history in order to impress Daisy. For several scenes, his persona is shrouded in mystery.
If instead, when he fell in love with Daisy as an officer, he would’ve told Daisy the truth, either she would have accepted him as he was and waited for his proposal. Or she would have rejected him, freeing him to pursue an honorable life.
Verse 11: “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Jay Gatsby becomes rich dishonestly. He joins forces with a man known for illegal activity because Gatsby is desperate to get rich fast. This relationship buys him what he thinks he needs to win Daisy, but it also puts a lot of stress on him. When Daisy’s husband reveals Gatsby’s dishonest business dealings, Daisy is upset if not repulsed, setting up the chain of events that result in Gatsby’s end.
If instead, Gatsby had gained his wealth bit by bit in an honest way, Daisy wouldn’t have reacted as she did, and perhaps she’d have even waited for him if he’d dealt with her with integrity.
Verse 12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” After Gatsby falls in love with Daisy, he goes to war. He and Daisy write letters declaring their love for each other, but at the end of the war, Gatsby fears unworthy to claim Daisy. He postpones his hope to marry her until it is too late. Is it his sick heart that fools him to believe Daisy would divorce Tom and leave her daughter to be with Gatsby?
If instead, he would have gone to her – even after the war – and owned up to who he was, even admitting he had no money, maybe she would have waited for him to become financially stable.
Early in his life, Gatsby reached his hand to star light in the Heavens and believed he was a son of God; later, he reached his hand across the bay to Daisy’s green (the color of money) dock light. Maybe he started out on the right path and got diverted or maybe not.
It’s true that Gatsby wasn’t a Christian and perhaps didn’t even know of these principles, but if he had, Jay Gatsby could have gained much more than a fickle woman’s love. Even if she’d spurned him when she found out who he truly was: a man, born poor, but honest and hopeful about life, when Gatsby died, he could have riches in Heaven with a Father who loved him exactly as he was.
That was Gatsby’s biggest mistake.