What Polar Opposites Have in Common

The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both.

Proverbs 29:13 HCSB

Once again, Solomon masterfully uses comparison and contrast to condense so much wisdom into a single two-line proverb. Reading Proverbs helps renew the sense of wonder at God’s immense wisdom, but also at His immense artistry. What incredible skill it is to say so much in such a pithy little statement!

Here, Solomon uses contrast to set up the “hook” of the proverb, which is the comparison between the two. The contrast is easily understood; it’s hard to think of two more diametrically opposed people than a poor man and an oppressor.

  • The poor man has nothing (hence, poor), and as such doesn’t have resources or connections to get anything. He is weak and generally powerless to change his situation. He is either pitied or forgotten.
  • The oppressor either has all that he needs and wants, or at least has the resources and pull to get them whenever he wills. He is able to do as he pleases, and since he has power and pull, he is the imposer and not the imposed-upon. He is envied and admired–at least feared–but hardly forgotten.

Yet, the proverb uses this stark contrast to drive us to the main point: both the poor and the oppressor have a crucial thing in common: Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both.

It is Yahweh who gives life and breath and all things to everyone (Acts 17:25), and who sends His rain and His sunshine on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). It is Jesus Christ the King who created everything that exists and by the power of His word keeps everything in existence. The poor who barely get by with the nothing they have, live and move and have their being in Yahweh. The oppressor who stomps his bootprints onto anyone and everyone in his path just because, lives and moves and has his being in Yahweh.

The wisdom here is that there is a King over all, and we would do well to trust Him and kneel before Him in humble submission. He “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5 HCSB, citing Proverbs 3:34). Trust Him. Repent before Him. Run to Him for safety and mercy and hope. He will give it.

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