Year C – Proper 20 – Amos 8:4-7

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.

Summary— In the Prophecy of Amos, Yahweh spends only 1:3 through 2:3 judging various pagan peoples.  By 2:4, He begins leveling judgement against the house of Israel, and in chapter 8, He’s still going strong!  In this section, He targets those who compartmentalize business and friendship, so that the “needy” wind up trampled on (v.4).  These businessmen are litigious about holy days, but even then look forward to the next day’s opportunity to turn a buck (v.5a).  They offer less product for more money (v.5b).  In verse 6, “silver” is probably a loan made to “the poor,” in hopes that the poor will default and thereby give himself up as a slave.  Similarly, “a pair of sandals” in this context is probably the product sold on credit, in hopes that “the needy” will be unable to pay even for those, and have to pay by his slavery (a pair of sandals is a small price for a businessman to pay for a valuable slave!).  In verse 7, Yahweh swears that He will never forget this evil.

Insight— Oaths are typically made on the basis of something solid—something constant and dependable.  People swear by God’s Name (Deut. 6:13), or by Baal (Jer. 12:16), or by the temple or by heaven (Matt. 23:16-22), or by one greater than themselves (Heb. 6:16).  Well, in verse 7, Yahweh makes a jab at these greedy businessmen: He swears by the most trustworthy element in this situation: Jacob’s pride.

Child Catechism—
Why should we be generous to a needy person?
A: Because generosity to a needy person honors that needy person’s Maker (Prov. 14:31).

Discussion— What are some good reasons to pursue financial profit?

Prayer— O God, to love money too much is to love You and neighbor too little. Save us from our greed, and help us to pursue profit ordinately, not to consume it on our lusts, but to love others by it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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