Amos 4, 1-5
Something to read
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to their husbands, 'Bring something to drink!'
The Lord God has sworn by his holiness:
The time is surely coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
even the last of you with fish-hooks.
Through breaches in the wall you shall leave,
each one straight ahead;
and you shall be flung out into Harmon,
says the Lord.
Come to Bethel—and transgress;
to Gilgal—and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three days;
bring a thank-offering of leavened bread,
and proclaim freewill-offerings, publish them;
for so you love to do, O people of Israel!
says the Lord God.
New Revised Standard Version
To read the King James Version, click here.
Something to think about
Have you ever been called a cow? Not too nice, is it? There is no reason to suggest that being called a cow in Amos' day was any less offensive than it is now. And Amos is taking a bit of a risk as he is effectively having a go at the establishment, at those with power.
Mind you, Amos doesn't stop at calling them cows; he alludes to them as fish. Perhaps today's equivalent is to call someone an old trout. Not too nice, is it? So what have the rich women in the market places of Samaria done to deserve this kind of name calling? They have oppressed the poor and crushed the needy.
Amos warns them that they are to be punished for their treatment of the poor and needy. They are to be dragged away by the fish hook in their mouths, but not even out through the city gates but through holes broken through the city walls, as spoils of war. What seems to make it even worse is that these elites have made a show of how good they are, making the required sacrifices, tithing and making offerings at the temple.
Today, most major multinational companies have Corporate Social Responsibility policies and they make their required sacrifices to the tax man. Yet, as the Christian Aid Trace the Tax campaign makes clear, these companies may be doing what is required of them, but some still oppress the poor and crush the needy.
Something to do
Have a look at Trace the Tax and see how you can become involved. Remember that when Amos was speaking, he was trying to attract people's attention. If you write to CEOs or politicians, it is best not to address them as cows or fish! Try 'Dear Sir/Madam' instead...
Something to pray
God of the poor,
Help us to find appropriate ways of speaking to companies and politicians so that we get their attention.
Help us to communicate effectively that policies that perpetuate oppression dehumanise us all.
Thank you, God, for your generosity to us, help us to be generous in our giving.
Today's contributor is Mel Smith, a student training for ministry with the United Reformed Church at Westminster College, Cambridge.