Amos 8:4-7 - Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, 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, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat? The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds."
When I read this part of the Bible, I remember a hot summer day years ago when I went to help a refugee with some paperwork at her job. She was 70 years old and tiny, with bones like a hummingbird's. She did assembly work in St. Louis; I hope she made minimum wage, but I can't be sure. I am very sure that she had no insurance through her job.
What I remember most was the blast of hot air that came at me when I walked into the building she stood in. "Stood," I say; there were no chairs for the workers, and not even a floor. The building was nothing but a metal hut set up in the middle of the asphalt parking lot near a strip mall. There was no air conditioning and no windows. It must have been 120 degrees in there. I was not surprised when she fainted.
We didn't know how to help her. Oh, we took her to the hospital—which resulted in a bill she could not afford to pay. But she could not afford to quit working in the sweatshop: her family needed the money. And there were no other jobs she was qualified for—none, at least, that didn't have the same impossible working conditions.
What was the value of her life?
To her children and grandchildren, she meant everything. They loved her, and she was their breadwinner. To her bosses, well, she was an easily replaceable worker. There is always another desperate person to do this work. And everybody knows the sweatshop won't get shut down.
And the work itself? Well, it was some sort of plastic toy, I believe. The kind of thing that works for a week and then gets broken and tossed in the trash. The cost of a few dollars. The value of her life.
"That we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals." These things—injustice and danger and deep, deep poverty—they happen in America. They may not be happening to you. They are certainly happening around you, possibly to your children or grandchildren, probably to your neighbors.
And who cares? You, I hope. The Lord Jesus, certainly. Because He is the One who bought every single one of us human beings at infinite cost, at the cost of His own life. You are not a disposable plastic toy in Jesus' eyes; you are cherished and valuable, whether you are rich or poor, comfortable or suffering. And so are your neighbors.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to grasp the value You set on us, and to show that same love and value to my neighbors. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. What is the most valuable thing you own? How do you treat it?
2. What helps you to remember the immense value Jesus set on your life?
3. Do you know anyone who is suffering right now? How can you help?
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