11–17 December 2016.
One of the biggest temptations we face in our faith lives is the idea that our faith has nothing at all to do with the outside world. Even worse is the idea that our faith has nothing to do with how we make our money. It’s easy to tell ourselves that faith is just about what’s in my heart, or about my own private relationship with God. But that’s not true at all. The largest part of our faith life involves our horizontal relationship to others. And as even Jesus reminds us, it’s this relationship to others that God will look at when he judges our behaviour and our faith.
This is something the Israelites had forgotten, which is why Amos condemns them so strongly. Amos looks around him and sees people living in luxury, hoarding money while others struggle to survive. The people have forgotten how to live justly or fairly. Instead they use any way they can to grab more and more money – even if that means using theft and violence. They lead lives of excess and wealth while the poor struggle to live from day to day. In chapters 3 and 4, what troubles Amos so much is that people do all this evil and just don’t care. They lounge around in their fine houses drinking cocktails, and don’t care about justice for the poor. And they don’t care about God’s judgement either. But Amos promises them: God’s judgement is coming.
God will destroy the beautiful homes of the wealthy, and punish those who don’t care for the poor. In 4:12 we hear the frightening words that come to those who have forgotten the poor: “Prepare to meet your God in judgment!”
God’s anger and rage here is nothing unusual. There are over 2,000 Bible verses that talk about money and wealth and the condemnation of economic injustices. There are thousands of Bible verses that demand the end of injustices against the poor; verses that demand care for the poor, the worker, and the weak. It is one of the largest themes in the whole Bible, and a central part of Christ’s gospel.
So why do we rarely talk about this in the church? Why aren’t Christians outside demonstrating against the incredible economic injustices in this country – something God finds so evil? That’s a good question. Maybe it shows us just how powerful the temptation is to keep God’s law away from our financial lives.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis