Apathy Due to Wealth (Amos 3:9-15, 6:1-7)
The prophets criticize those whose wealth leads them to abandon working for the common good and who give up any sense of responsibility for their neighbours. Amos connects indolent wealth with oppression when he accuses the idle rich of wrongdoing, violence and robbery (Amos 3:10). God will bring a swift end to the wealth of such people. God will “tear down the winter house as well as the summer house and the houses of ivory” (Amos 3:15). Amos levels an excoriating blast against the luxuries of “those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). They are first in dissolution, he observes, as they, “lounge on their couches” (Amos 6:4) and “sing idle songs to the sound of the harp” (Amos 6:5). When God punishes Israel, they will be “first to go into exile” (Amos 6:7).
Surprisingly similar complaints can be heard today against those who have wealth, but do not employ it towards any good purpose. This applies to individuals and also to corporations, governments and other institutions that use their wealth to exploit others’ vulnerabilities, rather than to create anything useful in proportion to their wealth. Many Christians—perhaps the majority in the West—have some ability to change these things, at least in their immediate working environments. The prophets’ words serve as a continual challenge and encouragement to care deeply about how work and wealth serve—or fail to serve—the people around us.