“May all your heads be bald and your wardrobe turned to sackcloth!” This curse has been brought to you by the prophet Amos. It’s mid-summer and everyone is heading out on vacation. There are parties on the beach and gas being guzzled by ATVs. It is also the last day. The end will come soon. Judgement. The vision that God gives to Amos is stark. Our summer fruit is rotten. The festival music will end. The wailing will begin. As mentioned last week (see Amos 1), many pastors are afraid to preach from Amos because he has mostly bad news.
But, the message that God has given Amos is very relevant to today’s world. In Amos 8, two seemingly unrelated sins are linked. Judgement is now upon God’s people for their failure to deal with these two wrong-doings. What are they? Are they on Hilary or Trump's radar? No. They are: First, the willingness of society to trample on the poor on their race to be rich. Greedy capitalists say, “Let’s make the box of cereal small and the price great” and “Let’s falsely label our products and practice deceit in our testing results” (Amos 8:5b). Remember Volkswagen’s rigging of their emission results? It is hard to find an industry or workplace where similar deception isn’t being practice.
The second great sin in Amos’ prophesy is… drum roll please: the failure to observe the sabbath. In particular, Amos is calling the boss who emails you while you are on vacation an evil person. The workplace that regularly expects its employees to work 50 hour plus weeks is to be condemned (and this includes the church). Those who want holiday time to be cut short, sleep to be broken, and the work to be done on our day off, are speaking the same words that we find in Amos 8:5a: "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?”
Amos speaks about a judgement that is coming upon everyone. The reason our employers, merchants, and corporations are so bad, is because we permit these two sins to take root in our own lives: 1) We deny ourselves a full vacation with our family, we skip weekly sabbath worship, we short our daily sleep, and we seldom pause throughout our days for moments of reflection and prayer. How many of us practice disconnect time: putting our phones to charge in another room, turning them off at the table, and not answering work email on our day off? We pay a price in our relationships and our in physical body for this choice. Add it up. Is it worth it? (If you are an employer you might want to read Arianna Huffington’s book: Thrive) 2) As individuals we short change the poor and deny them real generosity because we don’t consider these people to be members of our “inner circle.” Similarly, our politicians and merchants don’t pay attention to the needs of the poor because they don’t consider them to be their supporters.
Now pause and reflect on how these two sins are linked in our present day society. How are they causing a perfect storm in your own family? What specifically should you do?