Greek Orthodox icon of the prophet Amos
This morning's Old Testament reading sees the prophet Amos doing what he does best, denouncing the abuse of the poor:
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying,
“When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
The message is quite clear, those who are responsible for the economic exploitation of others are subject to God's judgement, and it is the task of the prophet to proclaim this.
As Christians, with a share in the prophetic work of Christ, we are called to proclaim this message in our own day. Sadly there are plenty of opportunities.
We live in a world where children die hourly from diseases curable at a cost of a few pence. We live in a country where some of the most vulnerable are being made to bear the cost of a recession they did nothing to cause.
People in power are very happy when the churches offer care to the poor. Recently there has been a lot of interest from 'think tanks' in the ability of churches to provide social care. It is easy for Christians to be uncritically flattered by this attention - it's always nice when people notice us!
But there are real dangers here. We are not called to be a cheap alternative to Social Services. We are called to be prophetic: and that involves denouncing the causes of poverty and human suffering. Let's pray today that we don't give in to the temptation to abandon that calling.