This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’
Reflection by Duke Yaguchi
I've learned that Amos was written in a time of great divide between the haves and the have-nots. People lived in great wealth or severe poverty. This prophet was telling people that God was going to punish the greedy for not helping those in need. In the late '90's there was a method of taking first-time offending juveniles to prison where prisoners would share their stories of prison life and scare the kids straight. In this chapter of the Bible, prophet Amos is trying to scare the wealthy into kindness, compassion and charity.
So what does this have to do with today? When I went through business school and started working, the guidelines were that the top person in a company should make approximately twenty times what an entry-level employee made. The debate at the time wasn't the multiplier (twenty). The debate was which entry-level employee's wage/salary should be the base. At IBM should it be the custodian? The factory floor worker? The salesperson? It would mean that CEOs should be making money in the $500,000 to $2 million range. But during the past thirty years, their compensation has skyrocketed into the tens of millions.
I recently read a book about the history of IBM. It spoke of the good, the bad and the ugly. One of things that IBM has done to remain profitable is reducing its US workforce from 220,000 employees to 70,000 employees over the past twenty-five years. All of this when our CEOs have been making tens of millions each year. I've been laid-off twice from IBM. The first time was on the very day before IBM announced a multi-million-dollar bonus for the CEO. I later found another job within IBM before my transition period ended. The second time, I wasn't so fortunate.
Generally, I don't relate to most of the Old Testament. When I first read Amos, I thought, why would there be a story about high places being made desolate? Why indeed.
Dear God. Help make the crooked streets straight. Help make the steep climbs flat. Amen.