What is the Greater Evil, Poverty or Crime?

I recently caught up with an old friend, and we got to talking as though we’d been talking forever. Our conversations are always deep, so I thought to share with her something that had been shared on my family group on Whatsapp. It was something that actually raised some emotions, judging by the strong differences in opinions. I was sure I knew what she would say, because she is one of the strongest Christians I know.

This is the post:

“I have not eaten the whole day because I had no money. Fortunately, I met my pastor and asked him for some money, at least, $1 (N300) for amala and ewedu. The pastor prayed for me instead, and told me God will make a way. He added that he would have given me if he had any money.

“As he removed his handkerchief while he was leaving, his $200 (N60,000) dropped and he didn’t notice. Should I give the money back to the pastor or is it God who made a way for me?”

Okay, I don’t know if you have seen this post before, but my friend actually said it was something that they had discussed at a Bible Study in her Church just the previous Sunday. How uncanny. So what do you think my strong Christian friend’s opinion was on the matter? To give back the money or take it as God’s provision?

She said she would keep it, because she was desperate and poor. And she defended her position by saying that trying to say you will give it back is just kidding yourself, because if you were really starving and desperate, you would thank God and take the money. I was shocked, to say the least. I am not saying that my view point is right here; this is definitely a big puzzle for any spiritual person among us.

My contribution to the debate in our family chat was, “I would call his attention to it, and perhaps God would compel him to hand it over, since he said he would give if he had. If he doesn’t, I would be within my rights to call him a liar.” Was I being overly idealistic? Maybe I have never been so hungry that my spiritual gauge would not be able to function. I already know that when I am madly hungry, my mind doesn’t utilise up to 10% of its potential. When the debate kept up, I submitted my final thought on the matter: “It remains that whatever is not done of faith is sin. Let each man judge for himself and keep his conscience clear before God.”.

That remains my stance today. However, my friend’s position, and the discussion that followed, has caused me to ask the question that is the title of this post, “Which is the greater evil, poverty or crime?”

We really have to be careful how we judge, and especially how we judge those who have been oppressed, victimized and those who are impoverished and destitute. The saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures,” and unless we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we can not make a righteous judgement on their actions, no matter how obvious it is to us.

However, what I see is that society treats crime (actions done against the laws of man) as a greater evil than poverty (which is a social problem caused by greed). The prisons are filled with people who made hard decisions while facing desperate circumstances. Those who sought help legitimately, were turned away, shunned, abused or even further oppressed. For example, the woman that is compelled to sell her body for sex to provide for her children, who is not only judged as immoral, but lazy and wicked for wrecking homes, and treated as if she is less than human.

There are lots and lots of examples that show that we actually think breaking the law, however small it is, is a greater wickedness than refusing to show kindness to someone in need. Although we justify ourselves for not being able to help, we quickly condemn others for the actions they took to ensure their own survival. We do not show that we value their lives at all. If we truly exalt the human life as supreme, then why would we subject people to live daily on the verge of suicide?

I put this question to my friend. If it is okay for you to steal because you are desperately poor, why is it wrong for someone who is desperately poor and no longer wants to continue with the struggle of life to kill themselves? What makes stealing to survive less evil than taking one’s own life, and thus sparing the world of your existence and the crimes you might otherwise commit to stay alive? She stumbled on that one, but she eventually reasoned that suicide was worse because only God can give and take life.

That is the classic Christian defence for the sanctity of life. But if your life is not tortured, and you are not raped everyday by your own father, and you are not battered and oppressed by those who claim to love you, and you are not so sick that every breath hurts, how can you say that the person in that situation is wrong to “steal” their life, if given the chance? What sort of life and existence is that? Why should such be preserved, and why should the person wearing those shoes not have a right to decide whether they should continue to walk in them or not?

What do you think? Which is the greater evil? Why is suicide under desperation worse than stealing or lying under desperation? Is it because you live another day to ask for forgiveness, and then face the crossroads again and live with the guilt and shame of constant failure? Is it because one is a final judgment, and the other is simply a compromise?

I don’t really know the answers here, but I would submit that poverty and oppression are the greater evil. Therefore, it is needful to take this into account when seeking to pass a legal or a righteous judgment against those who commit crimes under such circumstances. The existence of poverty and oppression in our world is a testament and a judgment against all of us. If we would do more to address this great evil, then it won’t be long before crimes cease to be the burden they are on civil society.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. Please use the comment section to drop your two cents. And remember to share, thanks!

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"Youthful humanitarian and passionate change agent with a thirst for love and God..." I run Fair Life Africa Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation working to empower people for a fairer life. Learn more at www.fairlifeafrica.org. I love to write and blog at www.ufuomaee.com, where my posts have been previously published.

Latest posts by Ufuomaee (see all)

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    Hey guys, nice write up
    But I really need help from any good Samaritan. I don’t have much to say to prove this is real but I’m a young man living alone with my Kid brother.
    He was recently diagnosed with Hernia, terrifying.. I don’t have enough funds for his Surgery..
    He is the only one I have left.. .
    Please anything would be okay..
    Let’s save life
    Thanks and God bless
    Account Name – Akraka Daniel
    Account number – 0221702474
    Bank – Guaranty Trust Bank Nigeria

    January 24, 2017
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    I don’t know that any is greater, it all depends on the circumstance. Some people are the cause of their poverty, and some commit crimes unjustly, not out of what can be defined as desperation.

    As for the scenario, i can’t say what i would do. I know i will probably advise the person to return it but i would never judge if he/she decides not to.

    January 25, 2017
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    The poor we shall always have with us… Kind of reminds me of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. He always stayed in front of the rich man’s gate to beg. It is arguable that staying at the gate of the rich man he might have been able to observe the rich man’s habits and maybe he could have found an opportunity to enrich himself. He chose not to though or perhaps was unable to. But this is not to say that everyone should or could act that way. Sometimes we break under the weight of our human fraility and that is it is important that we view people who have committed crime because of poverty with compassion. But as Christians we need to go a step further. We do not excuse their behaviour but we do not ignore their cries for help in the guise of pious prayer. We offer that which we have.

    January 25, 2017
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    Nice write up, Ufuomaee.

    It is easy for me to think, ‘N60,000??? And he says he doesn’t have money?’ But really, I may not know of what purpose that money is for. I mean, I’ve had to keep money (about N250,000) for a friend at a time I was dead broke. My then roommate, back in school, pleaded to have a sum of N10,000 which said he’d return in two days. He thought I owned it. I explained and gave reasons why I could not take the risk. What later ensued would be one of the greatest quarrels I have ever had with a friend.

    That said, I will hand the money back to the pastor. It’s up to him to decide to help me or not.

    On the greater evil between Poverty and Crime, I’d say poverty. The former can be linked to the latter. Leaving out the mentally unstable and those who are just unnecessarily evil, I would say not showing enough love and acts of kindness to the poor can drive them to insane levels. It hurts deeply when I think of how disheartened one has been and how low he/she has to descend, after bringing themselves to accept shame and continuously deal with inferior complex, to walk around the streets to beg, and get shunned by probably 60 – 80% of the people they encounter.

    I know how many child beggars I come across weekly and sometimes I think to myself, ‘God will not forgive me for doing nothing if this young boy or girl develops into a serial robber or prostitute respectively.’ When we neglect peoples cries, and they are pushed to the wall, they are usually left with the option of fighting their way out of that situation…BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!

    You simply hit the nail on the head with this:

    “…and unless we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we can not make a righteous judgement on their actions…no matter how obvious it is to us.”

    January 27, 2017
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    This is another perfect example of why I insist Christianity is a huge joke. Do you have any idea how many bible instructions this Pastor just contravened? MAnd to think that he’s supposed to know better.
    I know many of y’all may try to justify his actions by suggesting that perhaps, the $200 was already budgeted for other “important” stuff; or that it wasn’t even his to spend. Well, the Bible instructs that he has no excuse not to part with the money to help the one in need. In fact, the pastor could as well give him the money and pray to God to provide another just as he prayed for the guy in need.
    I dare say that as far as the Bible is concerned, there really is no true Christian.

    As for the likes of @Ufuomaee, I wonder if they ever carry out such “assessments” and “verifications” if it’s their pastors or church making financial requests or demands of them.
    The guy @Maxy didn’t ask for a fundraiser(not a bad idea though), but he said,”please, anything will be okay”. So I’d expect Ufuomaee to give her widows mite before even considering the fundraiser? Who’s to say that she doesn’t intend to use Maxy’s cause to raise funds for her personal agenda? I wonder why she even asked about the brither’s age. What has his age got to do with anything?
    If you can, go see the movie BELIEVE ME by Will Bakke, and you’ll get a better picture if what I’m talking bout.

    Like I always do, here are scriptures to back my position.
    Jms 2:14-17; Ph2:4; Mat5:42; Gal 6:2; Deut15: 7-8; Deut15:10; Priv 28:27; Heb 6:10; Lk 3:10-11; Lk12:33-34; Lev 25:35; Rom 15:1; Rom12:13; Pro3:27; 1Jn 3:17-18;

    As for the article, picking up money from the ground is not a crime. He should go ahead and use the money to sort himself out. It’s not like he robbed the pastor or anything like that. He had a problem and a solution presented itself. He should seize it. He might never have another chance.

    August 25, 2017
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      Wow take it easy maybe? I’m not a Christian and I’m not here to discuss religion, but take it easy on the author. She has every right to do an assessment considering how people lie for funds these days. Not saying he’s lying. But it seems like the author has an organization that helps to raise funds hence the need for an assessment and involvement of social worker. Don’t come to a hasty conclusion. ????

      I just dislike it when people are unnecessarily mean.

      August 26, 2017
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        I believe you really have no idea about the Author’s history of “being unnecessarily mean” to people who don’t share her views be beliefs on this platform, otherwise you’d understand my reaction.
        I’m sorry if I came off as mean but trust me, that’s the only language she understands.
        And I’m not a Christian either, but I like to call out religious people on their hypocrisy.

        August 27, 2017
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    @bkd Wait, if I get you right, you are saying that even not being the owner of a sum of money which albeit is in my custody is not a reason to not spend it on someone else who needs money? Money that is not mine. Not caring if I even have money of mine to spend? Wawu!

    And come on, you are so reaching with your comments on the fundraiser. How sure are you that the fundraiser she has in mind is not with a few close friends and family? How do you even know what is in her mind? How do you know she did not already send him her widow’s mite? Take it easy sir, that is all I have to say.

    And as for picking money on the floor which you saw fall out of someone’s pocket, teh decent thing to do is to return it to the person.

    On another end, people need to realise that their pastors are not their saviours and should not expect them to whip out magic solutions for their every need. They are only human too. Do you know how many needs they have to carry? Are there bad eggs among folks who claim to be Christians and pastors? Definitely! But are all like that? No. You are first your own responsibility before you are your pastor’s responsibility

    August 28, 2017
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