Working Unjustly (Hosea 4:1-10; Joel 2:28-29)
When the prophets speak of prostitution they are seldom concerned merely with that particular line of work. Typically they are also using it as a metaphor of injustice, which by definition is unfaithfulness to God’s covenant (Hosea 4:7-10). In a broad reminder that wages may be unjustly earned, Amos indicts the merchants who use inferior products, false weights, and other deceptions to reap a profit at the expense of vulnerable consumers. They say to themselves, “We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat” (Amos 8:5–6).
Many otherwise-legitimate ways of making a living may become unjust by the way they are performed. Should a photographer take pictures of anything a client asks, without regard for its effect on its subject and viewers? Should a surgeon perform any kind of elective surgery a patient might be willing to pay for? Is a mortgage broker responsible to ensure the ability of a borrower to repay the loan without undue hardship? If our work is a form of service under God, we cannot ignore such questions. We need to be careful not to imagine a hierarchy of work, however. The prophets’ claim is not that some types of work are more godly than others, but that all types of work must be done as contributions to God’s work in the world. “Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit,” God promises (Joel 2:29).