30: Justice at work (Amos 8:4–5; 5:24)

Scripture Reading:

Justice in work is not only an individual matter. People have a responsibility to make sure that everyone in society has access to the resources needed to make a living. Amos criticizes Israel for injustice in this respect, most vividly in an allusion to the law of gleaning. Gleaning is the process of picking up the stray heads of grain that remain in a field after the harvesters have passed through. According to God’s covenant with Israel, farmers were not allowed to glean their own fields, but were to allow poor people (literally “widows and orphans”) to glean them as a way of supporting themselves. This created a rudimentary form of social welfare, based on creating an opportunity for the poor to work (by gleaning the fields) rather than having to beg, steal or starve.

Amos complains that this provision is being violated. Farmers are not leaving the stray grain in their fields for the poor to glean. Instead they offer to sell chaff—the waste left after threshing—to the poor at a ruinous price. Amos accuses them of waiting restlessly for the end of Sabbath so they can carry on selling this cheap, adulterated food product to those who have no other choice. Moreover, they are cheating even those who can afford to buy pure grain, as is evident in rigged balances in the marketplace.

This tells us clearly that justice is not only a matter of criminal law and political expression, but also of economic opportunity. God requires his people—as a daily matter of their walk with him—to love kindness and do justice individually and socially, in every aspect of work and economic life.

Prayer: Lord, help me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you, especially at work. Amen.

For Further Exploration: Read God’s Justice Includes Work and Economic Justice (Amos 8:1-6, Micah 6:1-16) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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