4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
5 saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
6 that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Our conference speaker asked us to take off our shoes and look inside at the label. “What does it say,” he demanded. “Where was it made?” Mine said Viet Nam. “Do you know anything about the man or woman who made those shoes?” he asked us. I had to admit that I knew nothing about them. I did not know what sort of life they lived or whether this shoe had been made in a factory which was safe or healthy for those who toiled within it. This is part of the problem of globalization. It was not that long ago that one would have known who the cobbler was in town. You might only have one or two pairs of shoes, but you probably knew who made them, you might even have known the cow which provided the leather for those shoes.
Such shoes today would seem prohibitively expensive to us. We have grown used to buying inexpensive things only to throw them away and buy new ones a few months later. But we do not know the men and women who made them. Have we, as Amos accused his hearers long ago, sold those people in a far-away land for a pair of sandals, Nikes, Adidas, or another brand we love? How would we know otherwise?
It is good to be mindful about such things. God calls us to spend our money to the blessing of other people. That can certainly mean helping folk, even in distant lands, earn a living and feed their children because we buy things that they make. It does mean, however, that asking a few questions about how this article came to be made is surely in order.
In Amos’ day, the avarice of powerful people resulted in the suffering of many. God saw that and said he would never forget it. The nation of Israel went into a terrible exile and the prophetic witness connects the suffering of the lowly to the suffering which God visited upon His people in the exile.