Usually when we hear the word greed used today it is in the context of finance. We talk about greedy bankers, greedy executives who are taking huge bonuses and greedy companies that are charging more to their customers while providing the same or less.
Greed, or avarice, is one of the deadly sins. By deadly we mean that if not checked early it can deaden the spirit, isolate us from what life is really all about. It’s a rotten-apple type of vice; eventually it contaminates all of our attitudes and relationships. It turns us into the sort of people that we wouldn’t want to spend much time with.
The prophet Amos in today’s reading could be talking about our present age: employers who pay less than a living wage, or those who offer only zero contracts, merchants who fiddle the weight of their products or simply sell smaller packets, companies that charge more and blame it on the exchange rate, those who lend money at exorbitant rates and those who get people hooked on products that carry with them endless credit agreements.
It was happening in Israel 2,750 years ago!
Implicit in Amos’ preaching is another concept. In Hebrew it is know as the ‘anawim’. The anawim are people who have no clout. They are the poor people, the ones whose faces jump out at us from the TV screen in developing countries, the common mass who are at the mercy of the movers and shakers, those who are easily exploited because they have no one to stand up tor them. It was the anawim that the Virgin Mary sang about in the Magnificat, about pulling princes off their thrones and raising up the lowly.
When we put these two ideas together, greed and the anawim, we are left with one of the mainstream concerts of the prophets, of Judaism, of Christianity and the Church today: the way we treat people who have no come back to us is a major indicator of the type of people that we are and the type of response we are making to God’s demands.
Do we operate different standards in the workplace than in the church? how do we treat those who work ‘under’ us?
Do we live by social values that help us keep up with the Joneses or are we genuinely concerned about the effect the way we live has on less fortunate people? Do we care about where the products we buy have come from and the conditions of those employed to produce them ?
When given the chance to vote, do we vote for those who will make life better for us or for those who will improve the lot of the world’s anawim?
Are we greedy for money or for social justice?
Only one of them can buy true religion.