Give me just enough to satisfy my needs (Proverbs 30:8).

“In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbours and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighbourhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.

It seems a harsh rule of life that the evil and manipulative prey upon the disadvantaged and naive. It seems even harsher that the strong oppress the weak.

A mysterious ancient sage known only as Agur wrote about such predators: “They have teeth like swords and fangs like knives. They devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among humanity” (Proverbs 30:14).

A particularly uncomfortable truth is that the poor as well as the predators come from the ranks of us! Agur surely sensed this hard reality. Perhaps that’s why he preceded his observation about human oppression with a candid admission of his own struggle for balance. He prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

When Jesus walked with the rich and poor on Earth, He invited them all to a radical way of life regardless of their circumstances. His Sermon on the Mount stood conventional religion on its head. Love your enemies. Give lavishly. Forgive excessively. Pray for those who persecute you (see Matthew 5:1–7:29). When we put His radical commands into practice, He helps us bring a small slice of the kingdom of heaven to this often harsh but still wonderful world.

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Devouring the Poor