Self-absorption and a lack of self-awareness are officially at epidemic level in American culture, in my opinion. I remember a brief friendship during college, with a girl who leaped ahead of her time in this area. Originally, I found myself drawn to her because of her humor and outgoing ways. After a few months though, I realized that I knew all about her dreams to become a professional singer, which guys she crushed on, her hatred of all green vegetables and her favorite makeup brands while she couldn’t seem to remember my last name when she introduced me to people.
I’m not sure my “friend” even noticed when I drifted away until she needed me to accompany her on the piano for an event, and I declined, due to a previous commitment. Momentarily at a loss for words, this clueless sweetie whined, “But I thought you were my frieeeeeeeeeeeeeend?!?” My own courage surprised me when I stood firm and refused to cave, in what turned out to be our last conversation.
As I continue to reflect on and study Amos, I’m wondering if similar cries erupted from the Israelites when the cup of God’s anger finally filled and overflowed. As conquering Assyrians invaded the beautiful promised land and either slaughtered or enslaved the inhabitants, I’ll bet many people couldn’t wrap their minds around it all. “God why aren’t you rescuing us! “We’re your chosen people! WHERE ARE YOU? “
From God’s perspective, he sent numerous warnings through his prophets, but blinded eyes couldn’t see, and stopped-up ears couldn’t hear. Some of the specific grievances he conveyed through Amos centered around Israel’s complacency and pride. As a couple of examples:
They “trampled” on the poor while building gorgeous mansions for themselves. 5:11-12
They oppressed the righteous and accepted bribes. 5:12
They skimped when they measured out quantities of goods for the poor and used rigged scales. Additionally, they boasted about it. 8:5
They removed every kernel of wheat off the threshing floors instead of observing the Hebrew law that said the sweepings are to be left for the poor. 8:6
The self-absorption and lack of self-awareness of these folks rival any selfie prince or princess we might encounter today. God is quite specific about how he will judge the luxurious, exploitive communities of Northern Israel.
He promises to destroy their homes AND their weekend cottages. 3:15
He promises that those who are spending their days agonizing over which marble tile to put on their mansion floor, will never walk on it. 5:11
He assures them there won’t be any more wine parties. 5:11
He declares that as they rise to fight off the conquering army, most of Israel will be slaughtered because of their pride. 6:8-9
He decrees that sons and daughters will die in battle, and everyone else will go into exile, far away from their homeland. 7:17
When most of our resources are channeled back into our own households, we are in danger. When the majority of a church’s ministries are directed inward towards those already in the kingdom, that body is in grave danger. Many in modern Christian culture are swimming along living cottoned lives of abundance, while those who are poor in spirit all around them are drowning.
I’ll state again, as I did in the last post, if we are foolish enough to think that God will deal with these sins less severely because we are on this side of the cross, that’s dangerous thinking and living. Don’t mistake God’s delays in discipline for his stamp of approval on our choices. Throughout scripture, one of the rich threads woven in Biblical teaching is caring for the weak and poor among us. From the Levitical laws through Paul’s instructions to young churches, the directive is repeated. Blatantly ignoring God’s commands is always reckless to our own lives and those around us.
John, the apostle, questions our relationship with God, if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”1 John 3:17
James, Jesus’ brother states it a bit differently but makes the same case, if you consider what the converse of this verse might be.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction… “James 1:27
God expects us to be deliberate about directing some of our resources to those with less. The opportunities are endless, and we must listen to the Holy Spirit’s directions for us, specifically. Individuals cannot save the whole world, but they can support a child’s education in a third-world country, or repair a widow’s roof, or repair a single mother’s car. Many churches take benevolent offerings regularly for these types of needs. Please don’t ignore that little section on your giving envelope and assume that your tithes cover all that. They don’t.
Let’s re-orient our thinking to less selfies and more self-less acts done quietly, without expectations of recognition. Did you know that if you combine all the days of Jesus’ earthy life represented in the gospels, we can only account for 27 of them? According to the apostle John, though, the works and wonders he did here were so numerous “even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
This means we don’t know any specifics about most of his days, filled with wonders and grace. Only the people present and God the Father, know those stories. I want to live like that, more oriented about the narrative my life is creating in heaven, than how many “likes,” I can get for my story here on earth.
Lamp and Sword
****Resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
More verses about caring for the poor and weak. When you are trying to change patterns in your life, it’s good to incorporate several verses on the topic as part of your decision-making process.