“You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground”

Amos 5:7

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Amos 5:7-17

God condemns injustice and encourages equitable treatment for all people, the Prophet Amos says. The leader who allows – or worse, practices – injustice in their sphere of influence violates a principle that is important to God.

Amos was a simple shepherd from Judah who was largely unknown. He challenges people, especially leaders, to repent from their disregard for justice and their fierce materialistic drive. Amos could see how the materialistic culture fostered only greed, injustice, arrogance and impunity. The luxury of a few in power is an insult to the destitute poor, Amos says.

He speaks God’s judgement on those who refuse to change their ways. He warns them that if they trust only in their strength things will end in sorrow and disaster.

Amos is a prophet for our times. He is known as the prophet of social justice. He reveals to us a God who champions the rights of the poor; a defender against those with power who steal from the poor. In strong words, Amos warns those who “trample on the poor and force them to give grain” so that they can build mansions. He says that those who have planted lush vineyards, exploiting the poor to do so, will not drink the wine from the vineyards.

Amos teaches us that justice is not something only carried out in courts of law (or Commissions of Inquiry). He says that leaders need to use the resources at their disposal in an equitable way. In other words, it is at the very heart of leadership to make sure that justice prevails, that resources are shared equally and that all are taken care of. This is not a luxury, but a right: all have what they need.

Anyone who steals will be judged. But, the looting of public coffers by leaders at the expense of the poor will be very harshly judged, Amos says.

In what ways do I need to be more equitable in the use of the resources I have at my disposal? In what ways can I fight for the rights of the poor and speak out against leaders who exploit the destitute to feed their greed for luxury?

Lord God,
Help me to be honest about the resources that I have at my disposal: how might I help those with less from what I have? Give me the courage to confront exploitation when I see it.

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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