First Reading:  Amos 8:4-7

The Responsibility of Riches

4 Hear this, you who desire to swallow up the needy,
and cause the poor of the land to fail,
5 Saying, 'When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath, that we may market wheat,
making the ephah small, and the shekel large,
and dealing falsely with balances of deceit;
6 that we may buy the poor for silver,
and the needy for a pair of shoes,
and sell the sweepings with the wheat?'"
7 YHWH has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
"Surely I will never forget any of their works.

World English Bible

Strange things happen when people suddenly become rich. People with money want more money. Material possession becomes a higher value, even an obsession.

The prophet Amos preached on this weakness. From a village in southern Judah, Amos traveled to the northern kingdom of Israel to condemn the rich land gentry. As a shepherd from the desert, Amos could not believe his eyes; here poor people were starving in a rich agricultural land, a land that "flowed with milk and honey." Amos considered dire poverty in the midst of such prosperity an outrage.

The passage began with a condemnation to what God overheard in the thoughts of the rich. The rich plot to cheat the populace by manipulating the currency and fixing measuring scales. [8:5] Then, with their ill-gotten gain, the rich would force the poor into slavery and to eat the refuse of the field. [8:6] But, God would have none of their greed. The rich have abused the poor [8:4] and for this they will be condemned. [8:7]

Riches bring privilege and responsibility. Money's privilege means freedom from material want. But riches also bring the responsibility to help others in need. The pursuit of money can blind some to this responsibility; obsession with money leaves some incapable of compassion.

Unlike the distance between the rich and the poor in the time of Jesus, we live in society with a middle class majority. We enjoy many more luxuries than suffer from material needs. The temptations for riches are with us. Let us pray that our pursuit of a good life may not blind us to the needs of others.

Put your wealth in prayer before the Lord. Ask him to guide you in its use.