Amos 8 and Romans 12:1-2
Our culture teaches us to be consumers, to ask "What's in it for me?" If something doesn't suit us, we move on.
- brand loyalty is gone
- sound bytes rule the day, trying to catch us with a pithy saying rather than substance (politics)
- even in the workplace, workers are encouraged to view themselves as "free agents" who go to the next best thing
This WIIFM mentality creeps even into the church, creating a breed of spiritual consumers who go "church shopping."
- brand loyalty has disappeared when it comes to churches
- churches are often in a situation where they must compete with bigger, more attractive churches or get used to becoming smaller and smaller
- spirituality and growth and maturity are not seen as signs of health, but bigger buildings, larger attendance, newer ministries and growing budgets are seen as the signs of success
Meanwhile, the result is that no roots are put down by people, no consistency is established, and much time and money is spent in the Kingdom of God not growing or advancing the kingdom, but competing within the kingdom for attendance and budgets.
The greater loss is in the life of the people who claim to follow God but are really using God to benefit themselves. Rather than serving God and others with the giftedness God has given them, they selfishly use other people and other churches for their own use and then discard them when they are done.
Although this spiritual consumerism approach is a major problem for us today, it is not unique to us. If we look all the way back in the Old Testament, in Amos, we see that many operated the same way.
- During Amos' time, the nation of Israel was strong and prosperous. They had every reason to believe they would be successful and that their success was because God was blessing them. This led them to pride...and to sin, because the blessings continued even as small sins crept in, which gave way to more sin, until outright disdain for God became the norm.
- Let us not forget that the path to impurity begins small...then grows, until we are so far gone we don't realize it. And though many of us would say that honoring and worshiping God is important to us, how many of us would find ourselves asking the same questions as the Israelites?
- When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain?
- When will the Sabbath be done so we can market wheat?
- When will Bible study be over so I can return this phone call?
- When will church be over so I can get to lunch?
- When will this sermon be done so I can get to the football game?
- In Israel's case, the people were like ripe fruit, they were ready to be judged (1-2).
- Amos identifies the reason as this: they abused and neglected the poor and needy (4).
- Even worse, they did this for their own benefit, and at God's expense (5-6)--they skimped on the measure, they boosted the price by cheating with dishonest scales, taking advantage of the poor and breaking the law (selling the sweepings; no gleaning possible) to do so.
- As a result, there would be punishment. God promised to bring a famine, but not a famine of food or water. Instead, he would bring a famine of his word. God would be absent to them; there would be no guidance, no leading word from him.
- Do we view worship in a technical and transactional way? 5 acts; focus on attendance; etc., as though when we do these things, God is happy, regardless of how we live our lives, so that we believe our grudges, prejudices, and sinful behaviors and attitudes towards people are okay because we have pleased God?
- Or we view worship more in a way in line with Paul's teaching in Romans 12 about a transformed life, offering ourselves as living sacrifices to God?
- How we treat people matters. How we worship God matters.
- Let us take the "sweepings of our lives," not selling them to the highest bidder to enhance our own lives, but to give back to God, to leave them for others, to offer ourselves to God in our very lives, to make ourselves sacrifices for the sake of others.
- Let us hear the word of judgment this morning and repent, and allow it to become a word of hope. Not hope for ourselves, but hope for others, as we end the God-famine they are experiencing by graciously sharing from God's abundance with them.