Hear this word, you . . . who oppress the poor, who crush the needy . . . Amos 4:1
In my drug use, I neglected the concerns of those around me. I did what I wanted without considering the consequences for others. Frankly, my needs and desires were more important than the needs and desires of anyone else.
This is drug addiction, but it is also the root cause of the social injustices decried by the prophet Amos in today’s passage. Amos lived during a time of relative prosperity for his people, but that prosperity led them, not to follow God, but to follow themselves above all. In their destructive pursuits, they neglected justice and did whatever they wanted to enrich themselves. In their selfishness, the Israelites engaged in prostitution, human trafficking, and oppression of the poor.
We may not be guilty of human trafficking or prostitution, but do we live only for ourselves, caring nothing about the social injustices done to those around us? Do we concern ourselves only with providing the good life for our own families, while caring nothing about the poverty and suffering going on outside our homes?
Amos condemned not just those who were directly involved in oppression, but also those who stood by and tolerated it. When we provide only for ourselves without loving our neighbor, we engage in a similar behavior as the addict, putting our own desires above all. When we tolerate evil because it advances our political, professional, or personal interests, Amos says we too have the blood of the oppressed on our hands.
Frankly, I didn’t want to address today’s passage because I’m terrible at this. I honestly find it easier to support an orphanage in India than I do to concern myself with the needy in my own community. I may live in recovery from drug addiction, but if I’m truthful, I must admit that I still live for me and mine.
If we want to follow God, and if we don’t want to live like the addict, then we must choose to love not just ourselves, but those around us. We must concern ourselves not only with our own needs, but the needs of others. Those who truly follow Christ will love their neighbors as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39).