Greed

Greed

Here’s the text of the first Scripture reading for Mass today (from the prophet Amos [8:4-7], with a few footnotes for possibly-unfamiliar words and ideas):

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!

Note that Amos is not railing against wealth in itself, but rather against greed – and the habits and practices that the unscrupulous use in exploiting others.

Amos has not been a lonely voice in our tradition. Here, for example, is Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891):

Finally, the rich must religiously avoid harming in any way the savings of the workers either by coercion, or by fraud, or by the arts of usury; and the more for this reason, that the workers are not sufficiently protected against injustices and violence, and their property, being so meager, ought to be regarded as all the more sacred. (par. 32)

More recently Pope Francis had this to say in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (2013):

The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone:
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. … A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. … To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. (Pars. 55-56)

No further commentary from me necessary. Until next week, Peace.