First Reading: Amos 6:1a, 4-7

Vision and Action

1 Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
4 Who lie on beds of ivory,
and stretch themselves on their couches,
and eat the lambs out of the flock,
and the calves out of the midst of the stall;
5 who strum on the strings of a harp;
who invent for themselves instruments of music, like David;
6 who drink wine in bowls,
and anoint themselves with the best oils;
but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
7 Therefore they will now go captive with the first who go captive;
and the feasting and lounging will end.

World English Bible

Ouch! As a middle class American, I feel the sting of the words from Amos. Could my comfortable lifestyle take the food and energy from someone less fortunate?

According to the prologue in Amos 1:1, the prophet was a shepherd from Tekoa (a village in Judah), but preached to the rich in the northern kingdom of Israel. The time frame of the kings’ reigns, he preached about 750 BC when Uzziah and Jeroboam ruled. His message was simple. The rich were arrogant about their place in society and smug about their place before God. They stole from the poor and even cheated these lowly out of the land that was their birthright. They also worshiped as a mere convenience and as a show. There was no spiritual commitment. So they would be swept away through military conquest and forced exile. This did happen in 722 BC, when the Assyrians conquered the area.

In these verses, Amos condemned the glory of the kingdom. The rich lived lavishly and even improvised hymns like psalms (a reference to the worship they modified?). Yet, the rich were not concerned with the poor who sold themselves into slavery to feed their families (“the collapse of Joseph,” a reference to the imprisonment of the patriarch by his brothers before they sold him into slavery). Because of their selfishness and myopic world view, they would taste loss and exile.

Notice Amos condemned extravagance and the blind eye. Both of these themes come to bear as we apply the reading to our present situation. The question I asked in the first paragraph was not just the oversensitive introspection that many would call “liberal.” It is a question of vision and action. Are we too concerned with our own wants that we ignore others? The American middle class lifestyle is cursed with that temptation. If we are to overcome that temptation, we must a deliberate effort to see and serve those less fortunate.

What are your daily concerns? Do they get in the way of your concern for others? How do you take time to address the needs of those less fortunate?