By Alex Florez
We often come to Scripture looking for something specific. We thumb through the Pauline Epistles to be inspired by the unthinkable mercy displayed by Jesus on the cross. We love a good Psalm for its heart-rending honesty and reassurance that God remains good even though we’re so miserable. On our worst days, we might dig through one of the Gospels or perhaps the Torah, hoping to find something that will unequivocally condemn someone else’s behavior. (How we love it when Scripture proves that “the other guy” is in the wrong and that Scripture affirms our present convictions!) But there’s one section of Scripture we manage to either miss or flat-out avoid: self-reflection in light of the Minor Prophets.
As Amos, the shepherd-prophet, rails against certain behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns, it makes me uncomfortable because it illuminates much of what is askew in my own heart.
The people the prophet warns seem to be leading cozy, pleasant little lives. They are “at ease,” “sprawled” on comfy furniture, and feast on choice foods. They enjoy carefree entertainment, have more than their fill of adult beverages, and indulge in a nice self-care routine using the “finest oils”
(Amos 6:1–7). This passage constitutes a direct indictment of how “the house of Jacob” is living. Sound familiar? It does to me.
I don’t think God disapproves of comfort, holds music in contempt, or disdains fine dining. I believe God questions our lifestyle choices in light of what’s happening around us. “I loathe Jacob’s pride,” says the Lord (v.8). God’s people seem to be living without a care in the world while crops are failing, the poor are victimized, and plagues ravish the population. It’s not their thriving itself that incites His wrath; it’s that they lived in their comfort and security while others suffered.
This is not God’s judgment on the kingdoms of Israel and Judah two and half millennia ago; it’s for every generation which ignores the desolation of the earth itself, carries on unperturbed as society is coming undone, and remains unfazed by the conspicuous contrast between people’s plight and their prosperity.
I feel like my personal way of life is smack in the middle of the crosshairs of God’s judgment. I’m just an elementary school teacher, but I live like a king compared to most humans who have ever lived on this planet. I am utterly addicted to my climate-controlled house in a safe neighborhood, and the closest I come to privation is when my Wi-Fi is being weird and Netflix won’t work.
I don’t think it’s inherently wrong that I’m comfortable and that my refrigerator is full. But passages like this remind me that my life is not my own. Perhaps I need to take a long, hard look at how I live. And if this passage convicts me so deeply, what is God saying? Where might He be leading me?