If work were easy, most of us would have no problem with it. We’d gladly punch the clock, work with diligence and leave after a fulfilling day.
Sadly, too many workers don’t identify with this picture. They labor in unsafe conditions. They report to a domineering employer. They sit beside manipulative co-workers. They toil under unrealistic expectations placed upon them. And they receive minimal wages.
What does God’s word have to say to the faithful worker suffering in workplace injustice?
A Prophet for Justice (Amos)
The context in which Amos prophesied was characterized by injustice in the workplace: He paints a disturbing picture of a wealthy merchant class that enjoyed winter and summer homes adorned with ivory (Amos 3:15) at the expense of the poor.
Amos laments that the oppressed were denied justice due to the heavy taxes on grain (5:11), corruption in the judicial system (5:12), distortion of prices from the use of inaccurate weights (8:5) and a host of other matters that grieved the heart of God. Amos prophesied to warn Israel that their covenant violations would result in judgment.
In an effort to reform the injustices of the merchant class, Amos often refers to the Creator (4:13; 5:8; 9:6) to expose their actions as sins against him as well as against the neighbors they cheated. The people should have known better; God has inscribed creation with his wisdom and justice, and living against the grain of God’s intent wounds both oppressor and oppressed.
Abusing the lowly is not exercising autonomy in a free-market economy — it’s sin.
The Israelites became so sly in their own minds that they tried to manipulate God just as they manipulated the poor. The merchants sought to use spiritual acts of worship in an effort to obligate God to bless them while neglecting the public and social implications of such acts. God lamented that he took no delight in their assemblies (5:21); he did not accept their grain offerings (5:22); and he did not look upon their sacrifices (5:22) or listen to their songs of worship (5:23). Instead he called for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (5:24).
In thriving economies, God’s stern response to injustice is especially important for the wealthy and powerful. In corporations that are not seeking to be like Christ, managers and executives tend to look after their own interests at the expense of their workers. Amos reminds us that abusing the lowly is not exercising autonomy in a free-market economy — it’s sin.
If you’re suffering workplace injustice, you may be tempted wonder whether God notices your predicament — or if he cares.
Know that you are not alone. God does care about workplace injustice — so much so that he sent a prophet to address it. More importantly, he sent a Savior to redeem all of the broken parts of our world (and our work) so that one day you will be able to labor in a kingdom that knows only justice and peace.