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Written by Jim Jordal   
Sunday, 08 September 2013

THE BLINDNESS OF EXTREME PRIVILEGE

By Jim Jordal

 Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, And to those who are secure on the mountain of Samaria….The notable men of the chief of the nations Those who put far away the evil day, And cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, And stretch themselves on their couches, And eat the lambs out of the flock, And the calves out of the midst of the stall; Who strum on the strings of a harp; Who invent for themselves instruments of music, like David; Who drink wine in bowls, And anoint themselves with the best oils; But they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Amos 6:1-6 WEB

Amos was a God-anointed shepherd-prophet to the separated nations of Israel and Judah during the days when both nations were near their outer limits of territorial expansion and prosperity. Extreme wealth ruled the day as corruption, idolatry, and oppression went unopposed while luxury, indolence, and indifference characterized the upper ruling classes. A prophet was needed to expose and challenge the status quo and to propose the alternatives of reform now, and again in the far distant promised Kingdom of God on Earth. That prophet was the poor shepherd, Amos.

Amos’ description of the indolent luxury enjoyed by those at the top could just as well fit the world of today. Amos said they "cause the seat of violence to come near," as their arrogant greed (can you say sequestered or austerity) carried out in the political arena causes violent reaction almost anywhere it occurs. They lounge amid luxury while eating gourmet food to the sound of instrumental music. They drink the best wine and anoint themselves with the best oils, but they "are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph."

Joseph is the generic name sometimes given to the combined peoples of Israel and Judah due to their common ancestor, Joseph of the coat of many colors, the rise to prominence in Egypt, and the source of their survival in later years. So when Amos says they "are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph" he means that they do not care for the poverty, despair, and tribulations suffered by their fellow citizens.

It’s very similar to this today. One wonders how it is possible for so many people at the top of the world wealth pyramid to so blindly miss or minimize the stirrings of dissatisfaction and even revolt arising all over the earth. How can the sultans, dictators, and other rulers of the Islamic countries blithely continue their many oppressions seemingly with little thought as to what might be the outcome? How can dictators who steal everything their people possess somehow believe that there will be no retribution? And how can some upper class families in America, one of which (the Walton’s of Walmart wealth) owns more wealth than the bottom 50 million Americans, still claim that they deserve their largesse and that nothing is wrong?

At the other end of the economic continuum one is equally surprised at the multitudes living in either financial desperation or on the edges of poverty who forcefully argue in favor of and continue to vote for the very forces doing the most to cause their malaise. Yet you hear the poorest people arguing vociferously that the rich personally earned every dollar of their money without help from anyone (conveniently forgetting the role of publicly supported courts, schools, infrastructure, military) and therefore deserve not to be taxed equitably or asked to shoulder their fair share of the national burden. Many of them also want to downsize government even though their future depends upon government delivering on their promises. Go figure!

Whatever the issues and however strong the entrenched biases and power we can trust one thing: that God will deliver his people and that he will bring conditions of biblical jubilee to reign in the earthly kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ. That’s our hope against the conditions Amos so eloquently described.