How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth! You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them. Though you plant lush vineyards, you will never drink wine from them. For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. So those who are smart keep their mouths shut, for it is an evil time
Like the prophet Jeremiah, Amos sang a lament over the sins of his people. Their grievous sins meant that they were considered “dead”—spiritually dead. In order to return to life, they needed to repent of their oppression of those in need.
Why does God put so much emphasis on the way the poor and needy are treated? How we treat the rich, or those of equal standing, often reflects what we hope to get from them. But because the poor can give us nothing, how we treat them reflects our true character. Do we, like Christ, give without thought of gain? We should treat the poor as we would like God to treat us.
Here are eight common excuses people give for not helping the poor and needy: (1) They don’t deserve help. They got themselves into poverty; let them get themselves out. (2) God’s call to help the poor applies to another time. (3) We don’t know any people like this. (4) I have my own needs. (5) Any money I give will be wasted, stolen, or spent. The poor will never see it. (6) I may become a victim myself. (7) I don’t know where to start, and I don’t have time. (8) My little bit won’t make any difference. But as this passage in Amos shows, any excuse is really no excuse.
Instead of making excuses, ask what can be done to help. Does your church have programs to help the needy? Could you volunteer to work with a community group that fights poverty? As one individual, you may not be able to accomplish much, but join up with similarly motivated people and watch mountains begin to move.