What would Amos do?

by George L. W. Werner

What would Amos do? from time to time I urge members of the church to return to the Book of Amos. To be more specific: the background to Amos was a country with a newly wealthy merchant class caused, at least in part,by the death of the Assyrian King and weakness of other traditional enemies.

As often is the case, it seems that hubris came along with the new wealth and the idea that they were blessed because God favored them. They apparently crowded the places of worship to express this hubris in a form of thanksgiving. But at the same time, as you read the prophet, they abused those who had not shared in the benefits of the new wealth. Some of Amos’ rebukes to the wealthy are frighteningly close to today’s expressions. For example:

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.” Amos 8:4-6

The problems we face in this moment of history are huge and complex. But each group and individual needs brutal self introspection. Pointing fingers only at others different from us without confessing our own weakness and seeking clarity for our own areas of obliviousness is not hungering and thirsting for God’s truth. As I say often, if this was really about capitalism and socialism, it would be the Reagan Republicans who were furious at the examples of excesses and inappropriate behavior by some leaders of the corporate and financial worlds. It would be the Humphrey Democrats who would decry the excesses and inappropriate behavior by some leaders of the “safety nets” of our society. The fact that the rage is directed at “the other side” tells me that this is less about principle than ideology and selfish interest. What would Amos do? It might be a good question for each of us to use in meditation.

The Very Rev. George Werner, a trustee of Church Pension Group, served as the 31st President of the House of Deputies, is Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh and a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee

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