Amos (cont'd): they/we should know better...
This morning, we talked through the second week of our six week series on Amos (2:6-3:15). For highlights of week 1, click here.)
After ripping Israel's neighbors (six pagan countries and Judah, the southern Kingdom), at this point, Amos turns his sights and his prophesy toward the northern Kingdom-- with its idolatry, oppression, injustice, wealth improperly gained and used, etc.
-In 2:6, Amos says they sell the needy for a pair of sandals. It's one thing to do injustice for big money, but to do it for a pair of old shoes indicates the extent of the depravity.
-In 2:8, Amos points to violations of the Law, abuse of those at the margin, and the appalling connection of such things to the worship of God.
Why does God care so much about how we treat the vulnerable-- in OT categories, the orphan, widow, poor, and alien/stranger? Like Israel, who had once been abused and vulnerable, all of us are in that position-- at least before God. And if we accept God's grace and forgiveness-- as beggars-- why wouldn't we extend the same to the spiritual and material beggars we encounter every day?
Beyond sins of omission, there are sins of commission (the heart of Amos' message)-- as people oppress and otherwise abuse the most vulnerable. One reason this is especially troubling: if we'll mistreat those we can, it indicates we'd like to abuse others-- if we could. (This is similar to Jesus' condemnation of anger and lust in the Sermon on the Mount. If you could kill or commit adultery, you would-- and that's almost equivalent to the actual acts.)
In any case, if God protects the vulnerable-- and if Jesus ministered so much to them in His time on earth-- why is smart to mistreat the same people?
As earlier, it's worth noting that Israel is held to a higher standard-- because they should know better, from historical revelation, personal experience, and the gift of the Law. Of course, the same is true of believers today.
And then there's this from Philip Yancey in the most recent issue of Christianity Today (hat tip: Ruth Tucker, for saving me some typing)...
Paul's confessional description of self-righteousness reminded me of a quirky attempt by M. Scott Peck to identify a new psychiatric disorder called evil. In his book People of the Lie, Peck surveyed the types of evil and concluded, with Paul, that the most dangerous type is the most subtle...Peck came up with these surprising characteristics of evil: scapegoating behavior, intolerance to criticism, pronounced concern with a public image and self image of respectability, and intellectual deviousness."Too often, believers and non-believers sell themselves short with respect to their propensity for engaging in evil. We reduce sin to much more modest categories-- in which we rarely engage. The result is a sparse understanding of sin and God's wrath toward it-- and thus, a limited or absent understanding of God's grace.