Amos 8:4-7

Psalm 113

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Luke 16:1-13

Steve Hammer

My brother lives in Florida and has exchanged blizzard readiness for hurricane readiness. He lives in the central part of the state so all he has really seen is a lot of wind and occasionally enough rain to close the golf course. Nonetheless, when the hurricane warnings start to go up there is a corresponding increase in things like flashlights and batteries, bottled water and even gasoline.

You might have noticed a little change at the gas pump here in Arizona too. After Labor Day, gas prices usually drop because the summer vacation season ends, but not this year. Since the attack affecting oil production in Saudi Arabia, gas prices have gone up about 9 cents here in Arizona even though the supply has not yet been affected. It is projected that prices might rise by as much as 25 cents per gallon.

When I lived in Evansville Indiana, there was a prediction of 4-6 inches of snow. That doesn’t sound like much to most of you, but it rarely snowed at all in Evansville and the city had very little snow removal equipment. We walked to the grocery store only to find that there was not a single loaf of bread on the shelf which was okay because the price was about 4 times the usual.

That’s three examples of what some would call the law of supply and demand, but others would call price gouging.

Amos lived in the eighth century before the birth of Jesus when what we now know as Israel was divided into two kingdoms: Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Amos was from Judah but took his prophetic message to Israel. It was a time of relative peace and prosperity, and instead of responding to some sort of shortage, merchants seemed to be grabbing for all the profit they could get. There wasn’t a middle class as we know it today, so the wealth was continuing to rise to the small number at the top while the working poor didn’t experience the prosperity.

The role of the prophet was not predicting the future but instead was speaking truth to power and cautioning about the consequences, which often were not very welcome. This would be a good time to point out that an ephah was a unit of dry measure a little larger than a bushel. Amos decries the practice of shorting the ephah while increasing the price to “trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land.”

In addition to preaching about social and economic justice, Amos was concerned that in their prosperity, some of the people had become so convinced of their own power and superiority that they no longer saw a need for religious practice. He cautioned that abandoning their spiritual roots would lead to rot and ruin. A generation after Amos, Israel fell to the Assyrians.

Here is a quote on economic justice from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”