Beware of  Rich People's Values!

Beware of Rich People's Values!

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion! " (Amos 6:1) God summoned Amos to call Israel (Samaria) to repentance. Samaria became wealthy during the reign of Jeroboam II. God sent Amos to wake them up to the judgment awaiting them. "Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches." (6:2ff.) How many of us are at ease and need a wake-up call?

My first wake-up call came when preaching in Russia. I learned clean water and reliable energy are a luxury. The water was shut off for several hours daily, and the electricity was shut off regularly. Except for this stranger from the first world, no one expected different. Russia's leaders were protected from this "inconvenience." My second came when living on the south side of Chicago. We lived a couple of blocks north of one of the poorest areas. Single mothers headed many homes. Schools were in deplorable condition. I realized I was fortunate to grow up in a traditional family with a father who set the example for me. The expectation was I would attend college, work as my father worked, and provide for my family. When I looked at the situation, I was at a loss as to what could change the neighborhood. I never considered that rich people's values contributed to the problems I observed.

How do rich people's values oppress the poor? Celebrities and cultural elites revile traditional sexual values and promote sexual freedom. They can afford to flaunt traditional values because if they become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease, they have the means to mitigate the consequences of their choice. The poor and disadvantaged woman who follows their lead is without the resources to avoid the consequences. Since they do not have the resources to overcome their choice, they end up unable to afford choices that could help them escape poverty. In this case, the rich person's values misled the poor.

Another way rich people's values oppress the poor is by insisting everyone support their romantic ideals. Goals such as net-zero emissions sound fantastic. What is the effect of that goal on third-world nations? Many people in the poorest countries use carbon-based fuels such as dung or wood to cook food. Everyone in the home breathes the smoke from these fuels. Smoke and fumes from the fires negatively impact the family's health. Why don't they stop using these fuels? People in subsistence-level living are only concerned about today's needs. Net zero is a luxury for those with the wealth to plan for the future. When wealthy nations refuse to let underdeveloped nations develop as they have, they doom people to poverty. Wealthy nations rob the poor of the means to improve their situation. Is it right to doom others to poverty because we have the luxury to consider the alternatives?

What does God think of values that ignore the poor? “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.” (Amos 4:1-2 ESV) We might say to ourselves, I am not like that. God sent Amos to a people who viewed themselves as religious and superior to the surrounding nations. God said, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21 ESV) Why does he hate their worship? “...because you trample on the poor...For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (Amos 5:11-12 ESV) I must ask myself, are my values oppressing the poor?

What does God want from his people? Amos tells us, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24 ESV) Micah said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV) We must be considerate of the poor when we evaluate any of our culture's values.

"Prepare to meet your God, O Israel! " (Amos 4:12)