It is simple to be sold on our own goodness. All we have to do is to compare ourselves to someone near us. In fact, the comparison is better if we can make a comparison to several people. In our comparison, I am better (at least less offensive) than they are. Our comparison is human-to-human, not human-to-God. Thus, I am good because you (in my opinion) are worse than I am. Your awfulness makes me good simply because I am not as awful as you are. So no matter how bad I am, I am okay because I am not as bad as you are.
Many of us (Christian and non-Christian) use this reasoning often. If society is obviously more evil than I am, then I am okay because I am not as bad as society.
One of the frightening but impressive things about Amos and his message to the Kingdom of Israel is this: Compare yourself to Gods expectation, not to those around you. In todays lesson, Amos dealt with self-indulgencean extremely difficult matter! What you do in your lifestyle is self-indulgent! What I do in mine is necessary! It seems common to view what you do as excessive and what I do as reasonable.
It is simple to be excessive when we live in a society filled with excess. I want to define what is excessive for you, but I want everybody to leave me and my lifestyle aloneyour lifestyle is on limits to me, but my lifestyle is off limits to you and everyone else.
All of us see excess differently if we see what we have and use through the eyes of a deprived culture. Just to stimulate our thinking, carpeting looks different to people who live on dirt floors. Or, personal telephones look different to people who live in a town of thousands with few business phones. Or, having multiple cars for one family looks different to people in a city where only the extremely rich have one car.
Yet, we amazingly become accustomed to that which is commonplace. To grandpas or older people carpet, multiple cars in a family, and anything more than a party-line of 4 or more was excessive. To many of today, carpet, multiple cars in a family, and a cell phone are essentials. Carpet is everywhere in our society, and so are multiple cars in a family, and cell phones. Amazingly, if something is common, it quickly becomes essential. Want becomes need, and need becomes must have. Every parent of a teen understands this progression. However, the progression is not limited to teens.
Amos felt sorry for those who deceived themselves into thinking a lifestyle of ease declared the existence of security. He said they should examine other prominent cities near them. Would they say that nation was invincible because the elite had an incredible lifestyle?
In those societies, would the fact that the elite lived well postpone invasion and the violence it brought? If their answer was no, then why did they think an incredible lifestyle for the elite meant something different for them?
Amos described the lifestyle of the eliteivory beds, leisurely furniture, the best of foods, entertaining music (and they had no electricity or technology gadgets), exquisite wines served in exquisite containers, and the latest in skin care. The problem: they were not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. They were so wrapped up in their lifestyle of excess that they did not even notice the suffering of their brothers living in dire poverty. In fact, their excessive lifestyle contributed to the suffering of their brothers. They forgot God had a purpose for all of them, and it was not reflected in their excessive lifestyle.
The result: their excessive lifestyle would be but a dim memory when they were defeated exiles.
How upset was God with their fixation on lifestyle instead of the suffering of their brothers? God swore by Himself (there was none higher to whom He could appeal) the situation would not continue. When their strength disappeared, the best they could hope for was to be unnoticed when they hid. They would be that helpless! All they valued in their excess would be hopelessly destroyed.
It would happen! Exile was certain! Why? They turned justice into poison (no justice existed), righteousness to bitterness (righteousness and their lifestyle could not co-exist), and they trusted in themselves instead of God.
People are never as strong as they think they are. People believe in themselves instead of Gods purpose, and they never realize this is weakness until it is too late.
For Thought and Discussion
1. What is it simple to be sold on? How do people do that?
2. If society is obviously more evil than I, then how do I reason?
3. What is one of the frightening but impressive things about Amos message?
4. In chapter 6, what does Amos address?
5. It is simple to be excessive when what is true?
6. Who looks at what we consider normal differently?
7. What do we become accustomed to?
8. Who did Amos feel sorry for?
9. Would the lifestyle of the elite postpone invasion and the violence it brought?
10. Describe the lifestyle of the elite. What did they not notice?
11. What was the result?
12. How upset with them was God?
13. Why was exile certain?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 9
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