Gains and Losses

Readings: Isaiah 12:2-6; Amos 8:4-12; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals…’

Amos 8:4-6a, NRSV

[Note: an Ephah is a measure of grain a little more than a bushel; a shekel is the coin paid for a measure of grain. By shrinking the ephah, the poor farmer isn’t credited with the full weight of the grain; by enlarging the shekel, the seller pays less for the grain, cheating the farmer of the full weight of grain and giving over fewer coins in payment for the already diminished return.]

The conservation of mass: in a closed system, mass cannot be created or destroyed. It’s one of the building blocks of chemistry, this truth that while reactions can transform the state and nature of the original elements, nothing can be gained or lost overall.

The poor walk away with less than the crop was worth, the rich with the exact amount more than what it was worth. The overage for the rich equals the deficit of the poor, and the laws which govern free trade and commerce remain unbroken.

Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The wings that drive air downward cause the plane to move upward: lift.

The merchant’s illicit gain is equal to our farmer’s loss, lifting the merchant’s fortunes while driving the farmer down into poverty. 

Law of Love: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. God, self, and neighbor always affect one another. One cannot be known fully in isolation from the other two.

Short-changing a poor neighbor to make a quick buck is the action of the spiritually blind. Only seeing the face of God in the face of a poor neighbor can cure such blindness. Perhaps that’s why God came as a poor neighbor: it was the only way to restore the fortunes and souls of the cheaters and the cheated.

Help me see your face, dear Jesus, in the face of my neighbor. Amen.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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