I have spent a fair amount of time in the Minor Prophets lately and have been trying to process the implications of what I have been reading. This blog is part of my reflection. I would be happy to receive your feedback on what the implications/application of this are.
The prophet Amos is writing to the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, and is condemning them not for their religious practices but mostly for their neglect of justice and righteousness. This was a nation where the wealthy elite were oppressing the poor in many ways all the while believing that they had God’s favour. But this was not the case. God states plainly that he hates their worship because they have neglected to do justice (5:21-24). They were worshipping God while oppressing the poor and seeking after their own gain. Amos condemns them for human trafficking (2:6), oppression of the poor (Amos 2:7, 4:1, 5:11, 5:12, 8:4), denying justice or perverting justice (Amos 2:7, 5:7, 5:10, 5:13), dishonest business practices that result in cheating the poor (8:5-6), not to mention idolatry and pagan worship practices (2:7-8). These charges of sin against other people are also proclaimed by other prophets (see: Micah 2:1-2, Habakkuk 2:9-17, Hosea 4:1-2,12:7, and Zephaniah 3:1-4).
I think that these passages should remind us of something that is close to the heart of God. God really cares about his human creation, particularly those who are vulnerable. The reality is that God has created humanity in his image and he is jealous to protect that image. Human beings are created to live in community with God and with one another, not to be used as a means to get rich or viewed as a burden. They have been given great value as God’s image-bearers and as such, God desires that humanity be treated with the dignity and value that God gave. Indeed the way we take care of each other, particularly those in need, speaks to our understanding of God and the worship that he demands. In Micah 6:8, God says that he does not want ritual worship but that instead he requires that they act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
I know that as I have pondered this that I have found myself wondering if I am a person who thinks that my faith and worship is fine but have been ignoring how I am a part of the problem of injustice. I can honestly saying that I do not believe I am contributing to the trafficking of human beings but I do wonder how my life as a middle class Canadian may be contributing to injustice. What can I do to alleviate the suffering that exists in our world and help affirm the dignity of the Divine Image? In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus speaks about caring for those who are in need (the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner). In James 1:27 the true religion that is acceptable to God is caring for the widow and the orphan. What should this look like in real life? Is it more than just making monetary donations? Might it actually mean making due with less, or leaving our comfort zone, for the sake of another?
In closing, please do not think that I am advocating for a faith that is solely based on social action/justice. Rather, I am just thinking out loud about how our knowledge of God and our relationship with Christ should look like in real life.
I look forward to any feedback you may have.