They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time. Amos 5:10-13 ESV
The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:10-13 ESV
After the American Civil War, African American slaves were freed from their slavery, but that didn’t end the hard times they faced. A system of farming in the American South called sharecropping was started. White people who owned land rented small shares of land to black farmers. These farmers grew crops on their share of land and paid a portion of these crops to the owner of the land as their rent. The problem with sharecropping was that sometimes the farmers renting the land had to also rent tools and supplies for working the land, and because they were poor and sometimes also because the landowners used threats and violence against them, they had to pay large and very unfair amounts of money to stay on the land. They sometimes ended up with huge debts that they could never hope to repay.
In Israel when Amos was a prophet similar kinds of things were happening. Poor people were forced to pay unfair taxes, and when people spoke up for justice no one would listen to them. Poor people who needed help were turned away, and when they went to court rich people were able to pay the judges to get cases turned their way. Rich people were able to have beautiful stone houses and lovely vineyards, but the Lord spoke through Amos telling the people that he would judge them for the injustice and unkindness they were showing the poor of the land. Even though many people had wealth and good lives, Amos said that it was an evil time, and that God’s punishment was coming.
Greediness and selfishness causes us to sin and to show unkindness to others, especially those who need help. We don’t want to bother with the needs of the poor or the weak. If we are stronger or have more money than others, we might start to think that we deserve it. We don’t realize that everything we have is a gift from God, and we stop feeling thankful for all of God’s blessings to us. This often makes us not willing to help and share with others. Jesus died on the cross for these sins, too. We might work and put in some effort for the blessings God gives us on this earth, but there’s nothing at all we could ever do to earn the blessings of God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus gives it all to us as a free gift, and he sends his Holy Spirit to help us be thankful to him for all his blessings and to give us hearts ready to share and to help.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the love and forgiveness you give us every day. Please help us be willing to share all the blessings you give us with others. Amen.